Teaching during COVID

I’ve been inspired during my quarantine time to track my ideas about the education system more formally. One way to hold me to this task is to blog more frequently. As a little bit of context, it might be important to note that I believe our current education system is completely defunct. Over time, I’ll get into why I think so more and more. But just recognize that I work IN the education system as a teacher even though I don’t believe it is working (Admin, teachers, and instructional assistants are holding it together the best they can!). I’m also newer to the profession and I don’t want to get lost in the system, bogged down by all the work and unable to see my vision anymore. I’ll keep learning and growing as a teacher, and I hope I can make a difference beyond the classroom eventually.

Currently the COVID-19 outbreak is making it really clear where some of our shortcomings are:

  • Not all students have their basic needs met–how does a student learn if they are hungry?
  • Not all students have access to internet and technology at home
  • Not all curriculum is related to the 21st century
  • Not all curriculum feels relevant to students at this time
  • We cannot use the main currency that motivates students: social media

As a teacher, the bullet-points I can tackle are about curriculum. It’s important to note that many teachers DO NOT have much of a say in curriculum development. This is especially true for more linear subjects like math. As a high school English teacher, I have a lot of freedom in curriculum development.

One thing I’ve had to face since school shut down is the relevancy and authenticity of what I’m teaching. Do the skills and ideas we’ve been working on matter during this very real life situation? Are they interesting enough that students actually want to learn them? How do we engage students when we cannot be face-to-face with them? The material has to be authentic. What I mean by that is: the material must be something they would normally come into contact with on their day-to-day. I’m not suggesting that students shouldn’t be pushed to read texts they don’t normally encounter (like novels! they just don’t read novels anymore). However, the skills they use to discuss literary texts should be skills they can use when reading everyday texts, too!

So, in response to the shutdown, I created a list of texts for students to view, listen to, read or create that are texts they would likely come into contact with without my assistance–news articles, shows on Netflix, podcasts, PSAs. But, the skills they use when reading these texts are the same ones they use for reading a literary poem. Students have to be able to connect their in-class skills and materials without out of class, real-life incidents.

The current school shutdown and subsequent lack of student engagement is proof that school happens at school and not in the real world. If your curriculum doesn’t matter or engage students at this time, why would it during normal times? That is a big question I am asking myself at this time.

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