Schooled in the Greater Good

I’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this. Parents, teachers, principals, and superintendents conjugate hope, courage, and determination. I’ve got this. You’ve got this. We’ve got this. This has been going on for days and yesterday Virginians found out it is for the long haul. Schools will not reopen this year. The news is hard and there was a collective sigh across the state, but nowhere was it a sigh of relief.

Teachers work so hard to build community and their energy comes from the love they develop for their students. It is real. Now, without closure or a roadmap, they have to figure out how to do their part with and for students they will not see again this year.

Students will miss egg hunts and splash parties and birthday parties. They will miss raffle sales and camp outs and end of year celebrations. Playgrounds are silent without their chorus of “Not it” and “Hey, look at me” and “Whoa, watch this!” Childhood is not over. But this season is a different season. This is a pause they will remember and history will too.

And the older students. The seniors. This will be the year they missed prom. Graduation. Beach week.

Parents (many of whom are teachers) are asking this question: “How do I home school my child?” This question was being asked last week, too. But it is different this week. We stand on the shores of overwhelm with a brave face. The brave face is important. The feelings are real. The compassion for yourself, your child, your child’s teacher, your neighbor is essential.

We know how to do this. Classroom English instruction is built on the model of the literate home. It is true. Literacy happens at home and is largely caught not taught. It doesn’t or can’t always happen at home, so school tries to fill in the gap with a state mandated 94 minute literacy block. Teachers are evaluated on how well they create the kind of literate environments that mimic the homes that launched highly successful and literate people.

The world is quieter– and deeper–with a whisper of opportunity waiting to be found. Look around your home. Is there printed material? Are you playing games with your children? Are you talking to them? Are you talking about what you are reading. Are you making sure they have something to read. Yes? Then school is in session. That is where you start. Build routine, habit and ritual from there. You don’t need the questions at the end of the chapter. Here are the essential questions–no answer key required:

How is it going?

What do you notice?

How do you know?

Can you say more?

Teachers are scrambling to answer “Now what?” They are working in uncharted territory. No one knows what this looks like. In a climate of loss, anger looks for a target. Please don’t target teachers or school systems. Please don’t compare efforts as a way to take the focus off the very complicated issues at hand. Much of the academic material has been covered by this time of year. The period after spring break is often a period of heavy review for state-mandated or Advanced Placement tests. Instead, right now, children are engaged in real time, project based, hands-on lessons in the greater good:

Everybody has the right to be healthy and safe and happy.

Our choices affect one another.

Sometimes we do hard things and make hard decisions for the greater good.

Research shows that successful teaching (and learning) is built on “knowledge of student” and “relationship with the teacher,” as well as the ability to “reflect on what works and what doesn’t work as you go.” These things are native to parents. We are in this together. You’ve got this.

About Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell is a National Board Certified teacher and loves her work. After a forty year career in the classroom, she continues to support teachers. Annie enjoys cooking for family and friends; she likes to lose herself in a good book; she loves discovering new ideas, restaurants, perfect picnic places, and movies with her husband, Ben.
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