My Dearest Students,
So now we are embarking on a new adventure in education. Who could have foreseen this when we first sat down together in January? Our world has turned upside down just since the last time we met as a class. I looked sadly at the kitchen counter today because I had bought ingredients to make St. Patrick’s Day cookies for class yesterday, when I thought you would be returning from spring break. Throughout my 20 years of teaching I have baked my famous chocolate chip cookies for every single class…up until now. It is hard to believe that we will not be in the same room together again. (You are all invited to come by my office and get a cookie whenever the world returns to normal and I bake again; they really are quite good, if I do say so myself!)
So, the remainder of the course does not look like what any of us had planned. Reworking this course for online-contact-only presents a challenge for the Socratic teaching style I have always favored. I like the give and take, the exchange of ideas, the synergy that arises among a group of learners. I hope this can still happen, but it will be a greater challenge for all of us. (It could be worse; we could be a pottery class.)
I have spent the weekend trying to consider how the remainder of our time together can be as meaningful for you as possible, while trying to be sure that you tackle the various topics and issues that are so compelling and significant for future teachers. It will take some dedication and creativity on all of our parts and it will–of course–be an exercise in “thinking-outside-the-box” which, fortunately, is an invaluable skill for everyone in education to develop.
The issues that we still need to cover, in one way or another, this semester include:
- The experience of students with special needs
- Educating for Social Justice
- Checking our privilege – inequity as a recurring theme in American Education
- How the Supreme Court and the Congress have affected our work, our schools, and our students
- Cultural Miseducation – how do we, as teachers, pass along the collected cultural wealth of the generations without bundling it with cultural liabilities?
- The world in which you’ll teach…. issues for the schools of tomorrow
At the time of this writing, I am still not quite sure what the remainder of the semester will entail. It will be a combination of online meetings of the class, (but I would like to minimize my contribution to the “screen fatigue” you will doubtlessly be experiencing in the weeks ahead) using some online resources, posting responses to readings, and doing more contemplation, reflection, and writing on your own.
I cannot promise that it will be easy, and there will almost certainly be problems, technical glitches, and irritating unintended consequences. But let us covenant together to make the best of a bad situation and see what good can come from it. Life rarely turns out the way that we had planned, so this will be learning laboratory. To paraphrase Robert Burns, “the best laid lesson plans of mice and men often go awry.” Just imagine how someday you will have your own classroom and your students will ask you to tell them what it was like during the Great Pandemic of 2020. How we respond to this and other challenges in the weeks and months ahead will determine what story you will have to tell them.
Let’s plan to meet online on Monday during our regular class time. Instructions to follow. Please read this article by next week (in addition to the reading assignments I gave you before break)
Stay home, stay safe, wash your hands,
With great affection