What Are We Doing?: Some Thoughts about Remote Learning Slice of Life #sol20

Remote learning began officially this week for the children of many of my parent friends across the country. And as they report on how it’s going, I can only wonder: what are we doing?

So many children in tears. So many parents in tears! Fifth graders who have to access six different online platforms to find all of their assignments and activities. School buses showing up with bagged lunches–and massive worksheet packets due by Friday. IEPs entirely discarded. Lesson plans for parents to follow that are as detailed and specific and demanding as lesson plans left for substitute teachers–7 different ones! 5 days a week! Draconian Zoom rules: make eye contact with the camera at all times! no eating or drinking on Zoom!

Parents who also still have full-time jobs that they are expected to do plus full-time child care plus pandemic survival are now also somehow trying to squeeze in a third full-time job as their child’s teacher–and in the absence of meaningful, authentic, joyful, and appropriate learning tasks, their children necessarily, appropriately, understandably resist.

If children are crying because of school, we are doing it wrong.

I wonder why it is so hard to hold onto what we know about how children and humans learn. Sometimes I wonder if what we think we know about teaching gets in the way of what we once knew about learning.

Teaching is not a delivery system.

Teaching is not a list of tasks.

Teaching is not a suite of online tools.

Teaching is not a set of rules.


Learning is play–driven by curiosity.

Learning is wonder–driven by curiosity.

Learning is exploration–driven by curiosity.

Learning is an invitation–nurtured by relationships.

Children want to learn–if we will let them.






13 responses to “What Are We Doing?: Some Thoughts about Remote Learning Slice of Life #sol20”

  1. mschiubookawrites Avatar

    I so agree with you on many fronts, especially this line “Learning is an invitation–nurtured by relationships.” There should be no tears; worksheets are not a substitute for teachers. When I checked in with my middle schoolers last week on Microsoft Teams, I was so grateful for the ones who accepted the invitation to meet virtually. Others who did not join participated on discussion boards or submitted pics of their books. All invitations to engage, no grades attached. I know all (teachers, parents, students) are trying their best to keep it together while the world is falling apart. We have to accept that school is not the most important thing right now. Your lines about teaching verses learning really made me reflect. Thank you for this thoughtful slice.

  2. margaretsmn Avatar

    I’ve found a new mantra: “Learning is play–driven by curiosity.

    Learning is wonder–driven by curiosity.

    Learning is exploration–driven by curiosity.

    Learning is an invitation–nurtured by relationships.

    Children want to learn–if we will let them.”

    I will keep this pinned up to remind me as I proceed with providing “learning opportunities” for my students.

  3. Terje Avatar

    The schools have approached things differently. I know of many schools that understood that distance learning requires rethinking of regular school days and tasks. For some it may take longer. Trying to keep the regular schedule and regular amount of work is not sustainable. The well-being of children and parents and teachers rises to the focus. I hope the schools take the time to think through what really matterr and they can adjust accordingly.

  4. jaclynfre Avatar

    This is a challenging time for all. Thanks for expressing that we are not only delivering instruction virtually, we are coaching children (and families) through a traumatic pandemic. Spaces that were once used for eating or sleeping or playing with the dog, are now being repurposed for study. We must give students and their families time to grieve meaningfully together.

  5. sallydonnelly11 Avatar

    As soon as I am reconnected to a printer, I plan to print out this Slice and hang it up. (I guess I could be an old-fashion scribe and copy it down!!) So much we need to remember as we teach online. As I plan for my 4th quarter online, I am planning a Passion Project Unit – sure, book clubs (the unit I had planned to teach if in school) can be an option. But I want lots of options connected to what a middleschooler is curious about and wants to spend time at home learning. I want them to have time to explore and I’ll call it Reading 6 for them. Their wonders and exploration need to drive them to show-up to learn from a distance. Thanks for the reminder in your Slice today.

  6. arjeha Avatar

    I really like your distinctions between teaching and learning. This is such a new experience for so many. Learning should not bring about tears, unless they are tears of joy because we have discovered something new. Parents and students are bound to be frustrated at times because this is unfamiliar territory. I am also sure that there are many teachers also shedding tears because this is not the kind of teaching they had in mind when they entered the education field. Thanks for your valuable reminder of what learning is and our need to spike that curiousity.

  7. Teachingnest87 Avatar

    This has been so hard for everyone, kids, parents and teachers. I can’t imagine how hard it must be on families. I am thankful my children are grown and I only have to focus on my teaching. I hope we have been keeping the learning fun for our elementary students but they are still telling me they miss school. Sadly, they have stopped asking when we are going back.

  8. Melanie White Avatar

    Yes! I have been wrestling and thinking about all of this and worrying about the teachers who are trying to do what they have always done, just now it’s online. sigh. I’m going to quote you and see if this changes minds. Thank you for such a wonderful post.

  9. jarhartz Avatar

    This: “If children are crying because of school, we are doing it wrong.”

    I feel for all concerned. I hope that districts will see the error of their ways and focus on simplicity and humanity. I have this week off and prior to that three-weeks of distance learning. Most of what we did was connect and do things we were familiar with. The actual teaching moments of content were few. Mostly it was checking in and chatting. If we can get students to read a bit and stay healthy, we’re good.

  10. mrsouellette Avatar

    Oh, this….. yes. This week my district has begun distance learning and I’m so worried about the stress it will add to my families. I’m trying very hard to take it slow and easy, provide learning opportunities that will mesh with daily living, and encourage joy, exploration, and fun. This is so hard…. can we just go back to “before”, please?

  11. glenda funk Avatar
    glenda funk

    This: “If children are crying because of school, we are doing it wrong.”

    There seems to be a loss of empathy among many teachers. I don’t know one teacher who isn’t overwhelmed right now, so what on earth are they thinking?

    BTW: Have you seen the show “100 Humans” on Netflix? Episode six (I think) featured Daniel Pink talking about learning and much of what you point out.

  12. […] to poems, I curated six must-read articles of the week from my copious Internet reading and shared concerns about how some schools are presenting remote […]

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