This is the latest in a series of blogs by a partnering cohort teacher.
By Jody Wade
Teaching, as a noun, defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary, means “the act, practice, or profession of a teacher”. It’s such a simplistic definition for a word so close to my heart. Perhaps it is because to define it in the amount of words needed to appropriately do it justice would take up too many pages. Or maybe, it is because teaching has taken on so many abstract meanings that it cannot be adequately defined.
Whatever the reason, I think we can all agree that teaching in 2020 looks different than it did just a couple of decades ago. Teaching today goes beyond the scripted lessons of a teacher’s manual, beyond the rote memorization of assigned skills, and well beyond the confinement of the four walls of a classroom. Simply put, teaching is so much more than “the act, practice, or profession of a teacher”.
If I were to define teaching in today’s classroom, it would look something like this. Teaching, as a verb, means expecting the challenges of the unexpected and running wildly in the direction of those challenges to meet the needs, whatever they may be, of every student that has been placed in our care. What I am trying to say is teaching, and consequently learning, does not look the same for every student. This, my friends, is where equity comes into play. Sometimes, teaching is sitting with a student that is having a bad day because Mom and Dad are getting divorced and they just need a calm presence. Sometimes, teaching is changing seating options two… or three… or four times because a student has movement needs and learns best when their little body is not confined to a conventional chair. Other times, teaching is spending a little time getting out of our comfort zone and learning how to present lessons in a new way because “they just aren’t getting it”. This could be easily summed up by saying that teaching is so much more than simply delivering information. It is getting to know our students. It is communicating, making connections, and creating relationships that provide an environment of compassion and trust so that learning can take place.
Sometimes, however, teaching throws us a curveball that we could never expect. Enter March 13th, 2020… the last day I saw my students face to face in a classroom setting. This was the day our teaching lives were turned upside down. I must admit, at first, I wondered how it could ever be done. If you are reading this, I am sure many of you felt the same way. How was I going to continue to teach, make those ever-important connections, and ensure that their needs were adequately being met?
Here is what I am learning as we are still in the thick of this new way of teaching. Teaching and learning can still happen, student needs are still being met… and those connections I talked about, they may be stronger than ever! In all of the chaos, what brings calm is that I am connecting with families and students in ways I could have never imagined. I’m not only getting to know students, but I am getting to know families. I am talking to siblings, parents, grandparents… and even the occasional pet. I have learned things about my students that I may have never known… through, of all things, communication and making connections. For instance, one of my students learned to ride a bike. Another student has learned gardening. Some of my students have amazing relationships with grandparents and they are getting extra spoiled during this time. My point is… they are still learning and growing and the way that it is happening is less important than the fact that IT IS STILL HAPPENING.
In closing, I think it is important for all of us to just breathe during this time. “School” is not going to look normal for us right now. It just can’t. One thing that hasn’t changed though, is our resilience and the love we have for each and every one of our students. Focus on the positive, find ways to make those connections, and enjoy the unique bonds that are being made with our students this year. This too shall pass, and we will emerge better than ever before. You see friends, we know the real truth about teaching our students has very little to do with what comes from a teacher’s manual and so much more to do with exposing our teacher hearts and meeting them right where they are…even if that means talking through a computer screen to someone’s beloved pet hamster.
Jody Wade graduated from West Liberty University in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education (K-8 Multi-Subject). She began her career as a substitute and then became a full–time teacher at Moundsville Christian School in West Virginia where she taught K-2. She currently teaches 2nd grade at Steenrod Elementary School in Wheeling, WV. Jody is a member Cohort 4 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Outside of school, Jody enjoys spending time with family, getting outdoors, and researching new ideas for both personal and professional growth.
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” ~ C.S Lewis