Most recently I know with virtual learning the debate around cameras on or off has been a very hot topic. I understand the enourmous pressure that teachers are under to rethink, reevaluate and reflect on what does school look like in an online environment and I also understand how much effort and stress it is to recreate lessons for this world. Not to mention the stress of a pandemic and your own family and mental health. It is a huge balance and in no way is this post to bash the efforts that are being done but to maybe help us as a profession reflect on what we do.
Many of our efforts in education has been about compliance. Students walk in hallways in a straightline, they line up outside before coming in, certain classes go first and this is all in the name of order and saftey. Though saftey is always a concern and one in which we should be aware of how much of what we do in school is for the actual benefit of the students and how much of it is for our needs as educators for control or our own self regulation. We are all creatures of habit, we all like things a certain way and we all like to have our classrooms and lessons to go the ways in which we planned. Going off script is scary. But I will suggest that the more we let go of the compliance and need for order the happier and more engaged our students will be.
Let us revist the camera off and on issue. Besides understanding the inequity issues that go with internet issues and bandwidth to envading personal spaces (even with virtual backgrounds), the whole notion of asking to see a childs face is about compliance. We want to see if they are doing the work, we want to see a reaction and read emotions on their face, we want to see how our lesson is going because that is what we are use to. When in class our students have to show up in person. They have to show their face, even if they don’t want to but online they are the ones in control of turning on and off that space. For the first time, the students have some control and they in a way want to use it.
So the question comes what do we do as educators? How do I still meet my needs and my own self regulation. Well there is no easy answer but to me it comes down to the relationships that we form and thw culture in which we create. In august I wrote about my learning experiences going online, you can read them here. But the culture we create is the number one thing.
I have always been a fan/ fanboy of Matthew Morris. After hearing him talk at TedX Kitchener I was forever in his corner. In January he tweeted this:
Now I loved this because it showed Matthew reaching out to each child and talking to them as individuals. He spent the time to understand them and my guess also talk to them about his problems. I don’t want to put words in his mouth and Matthew if you are reading this please correct me but what I can guess is that Matthew created a relationship in which his he could communicate his frustrations and they theirs. It was a mutal agreement and not one based on compliance but one based on how can we find ways to meet our needs together. As I was scrolling for this tweet I came across a couple more from Matthew.
I am also reminded about Pamala’s words because I feel this is how we can start to move away from compliance.
School is changing, heck the world is changing and our system needs to move to meet those needs. I understand the struggle and the need to hold on to things that our comfortable or that we have always done. We also don’t have a lot of time to recreate but I will argue that if you don’t spend the time to create that culture of learning you will forever be frustrated in in a power struggle with your students. Students just want to be heard, loved and know that they are valued and understood. When those needs are met they will turn on their cameras, they will speak up and they will do whatever you ask because they know you want what is best for them and not what you need to be done.
So as we go about our day whether inperson or online let us rethink how much of our tasks are compliance based, how many times we ask questions just to make sure they got what we lectured about or what our assessments are truly getting our students to do. It isn’t about reinventing the wheel but rethinking our needs above the students.
As always happy to talk and hear what you have to say. Please comment or tweet me any time.