So much news, so little information. That’s how I feel about the current situation we’re all dealing with right now. My day is filled with text messages, emails, phone calls, video calls, meetings and the news is playing 24/7 from somewhere all talking about the Coronavirus. Heck, even my personalized podcast now has a brief Coronavirus snippet somewhere during the podcast. It’s emotionally and now physically consuming.
Those emotions and anxiety jumped exponentially this week when the Superintendent of Public Education in Oklahoma, Mrs Joy Hofmister and the State Board of Education officially closed all public school structures for the remainder of the year and unanimously approved an order that implements a Distance Learning Plan to complete the 2019-2020 school year. You can read the official order at https://sde.ok.gov/newsblog/2020-03-25/state-board-approves-distance-learning-remainder-school-year We as traditional educators have been tasked with still providing a quality education that deepens knowledge, provides rigorous and essential concepts and utilizes creative ideas to fill the gaps. I can promise you, we’re up for the challenge.
I truly believe that this is an opportunity for us to connect with students on an entirely new level. We are now in their comfort zone for once and the students will respect us even more for it. I read a book one time called Millennials Are Not Aliens by Gui Cosgtin. Now, this book is geared more towards the business world and not education but the concepts still apply. In fact, we’re beyond millennials now and dealing with Gen Z or what is also known as the Gen Tech, iGeneration and Gen Y-Fi generation. We’re in their wheelhouse now people.
To get to know this generation a little better, I did a research project on my agriculture students a couple of years ago. Each day I would have them come in and write down the total amount of time they used their cell phone on a daily basis. You would be shocked, I had students who had over 8 hours of screen time in a given day. We even had students install certain apps that would monitor exactly what they were doing the entire time they were on their phones. This comes standard now on most cell phones if you want to check parents. The exciting thing is, I now get to be an important part of that screen time.
Would I rather be engaging with my students while they were physically sitting in my classroom? You bet. You learn so much more about an individual student while personally interacting with them. Are they having a bad day? How are things at home? It gives me a true reading on how a student is doing. I particularly feel that this is a huge part of being an active and engaged educator in a student’s life. Plus, I just like people watching. Moving forward, I can still accomplish these things while providing a real life education. I’ll just have to work harder and seek a new avenue of connecting with a student.
Education moving forward will be forever changed because of the COVID-19 outbreak of 2020. Some of these changes are going to be difficult for everyone involved; the student, the parent, the teacher and the community but we’ll be better for it. Technology based education is nothing new in Oklahoma. I have good friends who teach, attend or have children that attend an online institution. Is it perfect though? I don’t believe so. I can tell you for a fact, I wouldn’t have had the self-discipline and self-direction to complete an online based curriculum. Plus, I’m a major hands on type of learner. Hence, that’s why I teach agriculture.
So in the coming days, I will figure out how to teach Introduction to Metal Fabrication (welding), Introduction to Plant, Food & Fiber and many other agriculture based courses while utilizing a computer screen. For this to work though, the student and parent must do their part as well. Like I said, we’re all in this together and “I can’t” is not a word in my curriculum. My students will tell you repeatedly that they are not allowed to use that word in my presence or even within my normal agriculture facility. I love my students, I love what I do and we as educators are doing our absolute best moving forward no matter the circumstances. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “do what you can, with what you have, where your are.” Oklahoma educators are definitely doing that.
To sum up all my emotions right now, I revert back to a movie that my children and I recently watched over the actual spring break. It comes from Big Hero 6. If you have small children then you’ve probably seen it. There is a scene in the movie where Hiro (that’s me) and the rest of his crew; Go Go Tamago, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, Fred and of course Baymax (this is all my students, especially since I give many of them nicknames or call them by something different) are about to be crushed by the evil Professor Callaghan (all the naysayers and I can’t type of people right now). When faced with what seemed like inevitable death and insurmountable odds, Hiro tells his crew use those big brains of yours and think your way around the problem. Look for a new angle! So welcome to my super hero team everyone. It’s time for all of us to use those big brains of ours and look for a new angle. Until next week, make sure you tell someone I love you today! MB