Reframing for Our New Reality

Copyright 2020, Maurice Barry, Performance Rights Waived

Our spirits strong; our strength not deadened,
we somehow survived a snowmageddon.
But twenty-twenty sneered crying, “Here, you! Hold my beer!”
And now, locked in with this pandemic,
the issues are much more than academic.
One thing for certain is the challenge that is our next school year.

The change will happen across many layers
so please don’t listen to the sad nay-sayers
who think remote teaching is a wasted effort, a mere fool’s game.
For our young ones are far from feral
and their education won’t be in peril
so long as we are willing to let our world-views be reframed.

Yes, once we viewed a learning space
as a room where we gathered, face to face;
a thing; a structure that owed its existence to it’s physicality.
But in this time of social distance
we must create a new existence.
The virtual ties we build together will form our new reality.

New ways to be present; you’ve heard of Zoom?
Maybe Collaborate, Webex, even Messenger Rooms?
No doubt by now you’ve taken one or more out on a trial,
all decked off in your new headset.
But a session or two left you knackered, I bet.
Seriously: getting used to this mode is going to take a while.

“Why is online so tiring?” you may have mused.
Well, we we’ve had whole lives to become used
to our normal senses. Now our attention is also slapped
with stattaco audio, and a video soup,
text chats, both individual and group;
these are add-ons, and to them our brains will need time to adapt.

So as you set out to make plans for the fall
it’s important to keep both your eyes on the ball.
Achievement trumps all but what matters most is what students do.
So don’t lecture and “cover stuff” at great length.
We’re not entertainers; our greatest strength
comes from creating the success path and steering them all through.

Rather than preventing all distractions
focus, rather, on interactions.
Employ your breakout rooms and maybe bring in virtual guests.
Use Collaborate, Meet, Webex or Zoom
in tandem with your Google classroom.
And find other ways of assessing than reliance on pen and paper tests.

Yes, breakout rooms may leave you vexed.
Why they’re so cumbersome, leaves us all perplexed.
Still, with practice it doesn’t have to feel all that contrived.
They accomplish more than idle jaw.
Organize; double up for a jig saw!
And with practice your small groups will surely come alive.

When the whole class contributes to the same Google Doc
and then views it as one, it’s a gallery walk!
Or, given one minute and each student with their own blank page,
encouraged by you to contribute their thoughts,
each attending as well to their own unique spots.
Your students’ minute paper will not fail to amaze and to engage.

With Xmind, FreeMind or maybe MindMup
groups in breakout rooms, can do a concept map up.
Or turn them all loose on a Doc to create a cool Graffiti wall.
And also, since you can share your desktop,
the whiteboard with software then you can swap:
Lab interfacing, Desmos, Geogebra, whatever: your class can have it all.

And, as for the chaos. It’s not a rat race.
Al hands will settle in once routines are in place.
Set rules around cameras and use a hands-up as a talking piece.
Don’t hog the mike, encourage debate.
After questions are asked allow a sufficient wait.
Then your class participation is guaranteed to only increase.

And always remember, if you’re patient and kind,
your students’ needs and yours will remain quite aligned.
And if on one slow, frustrating day, for sanity you are reaching,
remember it’s straightforward; the order’s not tall
so long as one truth is remembered and kept above all:
It’s not science, or math, but students that you are teaching.

Maurice Barry has been a practicing educator since 1983. He is currently the coordinator of MUN’s Teaching and Learning Commons.

This was the recitation I did for the 2020 MUN Education Grads. Just realized I never shared it.

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