After our schools closed mid-March because of the virus, one of the assignments that I gave my students was creating their own blogs. Even though participation was not required, many students chose to try it out. It was interesting to notice what was similar and what was different in the choices they made. And it helped me to stay in touch with them and see how they were doing when I couldn’t actually see them every day.
The assignment was very open-ended; I provided a link to an article that discussed different blogging platforms, but I allowed students to choose which ones they wanted to use. Likewise, while I gave a list of possible topics and encouraged them to write about their experiences during the closure, I didn’t assign specific topics. This gave students a lot of freedom, but also provided some challenges.
We had professional development about Angela Duckworth’s Grit. Duckworth refers to “grit” as the combination of passion and perseverance, and claims that this combination is what leads to success. Based on her story about the West Point survey, it seems that she is defining ‘success’ as being able to achieve goals that you’ve set for yourself.
The discussion did not really examine this definition of success, which was a shame, as the ability to set appropriate goals is a skill in and of itself. A goal that’s too difficult to reach creates discouragement and frustration, while one that’s too easy doesn’t provide a sense of accomplishment.
Likewise, it would also be helpful to explore passion. Why are different people passionate about different things? What creates passion? Understanding that might help us identify and develop passion, not only in our students, but in ourselves as well.
We did, however, start looking at perseverance. Why do some students give up while others keep trying? We discussed motivation (intrinsic/extrinsic) as well as locus of control, and that brought us to the concepts of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets that Carol Dweck discusses. Students with a fixed mindset view success or failure as based on inherent ability, while those with a growth mindset see it as more connected to the effort they put in or the strategies they used.
And we also noticed that there’s often a correlation between the mindset a student demonstrates and what we hear from parents.
I finally finished The God of Small Things. Spoiler alert: I did NOT like it. I tried to be very gentle in what is a strongly negative review, because apparently, a lot of people really, really like this book.
Since I’m an English teacher, there’s often this assumption that I like books and I like reading. Well… it’s kind of like music. I like some music. I would guess that I might even like most music. But there’s some that’s repetitive or dissonant and I just don’t like it.
And that’s okay.
I try to remember to update the websites for each of the classes that I teach first thing each weekday. Even more than Google classroom, phone, or email, those sites are what I rely on to communicate with my students, because that way everyone gets the same information.
Also, they’re publicly accessible. If someone has to borrow a computer and can’t remember their password (or doesn’t want to use it on someone else’s device) they can still get to the site. Parents can view the site without having to be members.
And the edit icon was missing.
There is definitely a part of me that threw an internal temper tantrum when we were asked to develop strategies for online instruction. I already have a course outline, thankyouverymuch. I knew what we were doing before spring break (research) and had new ideas I wanted to try out for the unit.
Then the plan was to punt that until after spring break and drop the mini-unit on Machiavelli’s The Prince, as that would give us the time we’d need to focus on research before moving into the memoir.
And then we found out we wouldn’t be going back at all.
So, I want to preface this by saying that I’m safe. We’re all safe at my house. While it stormed badly last night, we didn’t get hit by any of the tornadoes.
My husband woke me up late last night and we sat in the hallway that connects the bedroom in our house, because it’s the only place that doesn’t have windows. (We don’t have a basement.) We waited, listening to the wind roar through the trees outside.
Teaching remotely has been challenging. That sounds like a bad thing, but challenges are opportunities, despite often being unpleasant to go through. Some of that opportunity is the freedom to explore what I think should be accomplished in the courses I teach and why I think those things matter.
But at the same time, there’s a bit of resentment that comes with that, because I know that freedom isn’t going to last. A lot of the online programs that I’m getting to try out are offering access only for this school year. After that it’ll be proposals and purchase orders and budgets. It’s exhausting. Just thinking about all of the hoops teachers have to jump through to get to do something new or different is discouraging. I understand that it’s important to consider decisions like that carefully; I definitely support wanting to make informed decisions. But it’s also an awful lot of work for something that may not even happen.
And that then chips away at my sense of purpose. Why should I bust my tail developing plans and activities for something that’s so temporary? I have curricular materials that work well; anything new that I develop will have to take the place of something else. Moreover, the learning environment will be different, so I’ll need to adjust the plans for that as well.
So tonight we picked up dinner from Bob’s Brick Oven! He’s opened a temporary location in conjunction with some of the food trucks in Rock Spring. It was really nice to get out of the house, although I felt a little guilty because we didn’t really need to go get pizza. But we followed the guidelines, plus it’s important to support local businesses. I really hope that they’re able to open up again more permanently.
We were going to go to the battlefield to eat, but the road was closed. We didn’t go up close to look at the signs, but according to the Facebook page for Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, it’s completely closed. I’d heard that they’d closed the visitor center, but was unaware that the entire area had been shut down. They do have rangers patrolling the area to keep an eye on things.
I hate half-knowing things. I know that this can’t last forever. But I hate not knowing how long it’s going to be. I hate hoping that my students are okay, but not actually knowing that they are. It makes me anxious to think that there’s a good chance we’ll go back to school as usual in the fall, but not to know for certain.
Blogging every day is a LOT. I feel like this gets repetitive. And I’m feeling a lack of motivation that I think stems from a lack of purpose. I started blogging every day as a way to stay in touch with my students. I’d asked them to blog daily, so it seemed reasonable to do it myself. It served as an example so they’d know what I was looking for in their posts, and also they could use these posts for their comment requirement even if nobody else posted anything.
But I’m realizing that responding to others is at least as important as writing. And so, I’m going to ease back on the time I spend writing and try to increase how much time I spend responding.
A few years ago, something brought Dante’s Inferno into my mind while I was working on lessons for Julius Caesar. What I had never fully realized before was that while Brutus is arguably the protagonist of Shakespeare’s play (despite the fact that he’s not the title character), up until that point he was primarily seen as a villain. In fact, Dante places him and co-conspirator Cassius in the very deepest pit of Hell along with Judas Iscariot!
Much of Shakespeare’s audience would have been familiar with that perspective on Brutus and Cassius, and titling the play The Tragedy of Julius Caesar plays up those expectations. Then Shakespeare takes that perspective and stands it on its head, making Brutus the tragic hero and showing the story from his point of view.