Preparing for Remote Launch


Wow.

What a week.

It’s been a rollercoaster, in every way you can name, and we’re all in this together.

I’ve been in schools with administrators and teachers as they planned and prepared for launch next Monday. It started with fear and panic — but by the end of the week, there was a sense of resolve and readiness, despite a wide array of unanswered questions and unknowns and anxiety still facing us.

We’ve all now experienced the awkwardness of videoconferences, the urgent need to ‘mute’ our microphones, and the tinny feedback of too many microphones in near proximity.

It’s been great to see educators pulling together and battling this out, both here in NYC and across the globe on Twitter.

In my last post, I shared a few general principles for getting started with remote learning:

  • Maintain Continuity
  • Start With Physical Environment and Resources
  • Start Small. Keep It Focused
  • Balance Synchronous with Asynchronous Learning
  • Remote Learning Doesn’t Require a Screen (At All Times)

As I watched schools preparing and struggled to prepare myself, I had some other things come up that I’ll share in the hope they are useful. Again, these are general principles and ideas — there’s a lot of specific and concrete tools and resources being shared. Twitter has been great for this.

What does a Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education mean?

I’ll admit the first time I read the CR-SE principles adopted by NY state and city, they felt just a bit vague and remote from daily instruction.

Two days ago, while on the train on the way in to a school, I was pondering what CR-SE meant for remote instruction, and at first, I couldn’t see the way in.

I thought of a middle school I was going to, and how they were plugging along setting up Google Classroom to link to CommonLit passages and assigning them to students, which is essentially what they had been doing as “test prep” the last week or two.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. This was the last thing that kids needed right now. Not to say anything bad against CommonLit, it’s an amazing resource that I’ve been recommending to everyone I know, and we’ll get there. But CR-SE means responding to and sustaining students based on who and where they are. CR-SE instruction — in this pivotal moment — means supporting students in processing what is happening to them and to their world. This is unprecedented. We are all freaking out. We are all overwhelmed.

Students are stuck at home — and “home” can mean something very different for the many students in my district that live in temporary housing. They may be frightened. They may have no idea what’s happening. They need us to help them process and cope with this.

Furthermore, they need our help in becoming informed on a situation in which we don’t know all the answers and our understanding is constantly developing.

This is our opportunity to get kids reading, writing, discussing, and involved in their world. This is what is relevant. This is what is responsive.

In that sense, then, this may be an incredible opportunity to engage kids who were disengaged by school.

We can’t fumble this by throwing random texts and tasks at them. For crying out loud, the state test is cancelled, folks. Stop that nonsense and engage your kids.

What will be each student’s experience?

The other thing that came up for me is that I see some folks steaming ahead into a full blown school day experience on Day 1. I think we need to hit the pause button and pull together around what exactly we may be demanding of each student.

If a student has never interacted much with an online platform, most especially in a situation where they may be completely on their own, they need to be eased into it. And there will be students who you will need to call on the phone and locate and talk them through or their caretaker through how to access the platform and problemsolve the tech issues or wifi issues they encounter.

We can’t start sending assignments from 10 different Google Classrooms. Think about the 1st day of school. You probably had a big meeting in the auditorium, introducing the principal and staff to students. Think in the same way for your kick-off to remote learning.

Think of it also in the way your team may plan homework assignments. If you each ask a student to do an hour of homework, or you all assign a major project at the same time, you’ll know what I mean. A school and each department or grade-team needs to be aware of what each student will be experiencing.

“This is a time for simplicity and being careful not to throw in too many bells and whistles.”

Take heed.

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