Reflections and takebacks | Mark’s Remarks

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As I close out the end of my 32nd year of teaching, I’m amazed at what we’ve accomplished and survived in the past couple of years.  

Mainly though, I look at these poor, battle-worn students and am amazed at their resilience and determination to rise to the occasion of their new normal.

Now look, I’m one of those hard-nosed, buck-up types of teachers.  Not necessarily lacking compassion, but usually a teacher who does not mamby-pamby around.  However, I’ve been offering a great deal of grace since this pandemic altered the lives of teachers, students and yes, even the parents I am often so judgmental and critical of.

I’m afraid, though, we have coddled these students long enough. In other words, I think it’s time to end this grace period. As I end this 2021-22 school  year, I am making plans to take my students back from the clutches of COVID.

During the pandemic, students who were learning remotely learned that they could open up their chromebooks in the morning, follow some instructions and turn in an assignment in pretty short order.  Most of the assignments were designed to be easily followed, easily done, and easily turned in by hitting the handy-dandy submit button.  

Students began getting into the habit of completing work as quickly as possible in order to go on with their day. There were, of course, students who put in the extra work, read carefully and actually turned in their best products. But overall, even our most conscientious students began slacking off when it came to quality work.

And who could blame them? This whole remote thing was new and uncharted territory. There were no tried-and-true methods or strict guidelines to follow. Teachers were learning technology skills overnight, on their own and facing criticism from parents because the kids were confused. It was a bit of a nightmare, and everyone wanted to blame someone for their discomfort.  

I know some parents recognize what I’m talking about.

Now that we are back to in-person learning and things are basically back to normal, they see glimpses of their children from pre-pandemic days. However, they also recognize that kids have changed somewhat. Kids have a hard time focusing on things and many of them who were once conscientious about things now seem to fly through work, avoid or ignore directions, and so on.

Isn’t this Tullis having end of the school year gripes? Nope. This has been going on since last school year. It’s an epidemic within the pandemic.

It’s a bit disheartening to me to see kids unable to spend enough time engaging in a learning activity.  Even with a certain degree of movement or spirited components added, a lesson can only do so much.  Eventually, kids have to do a little work independently in order to test their understanding and comprehension. And folks, it’s a struggle for some kids anyway, on top of the bad habits they have learned from this awful time in their educational career.

Sure, there have been some bright spots in this process. We’ve all learned some skills that can enhance in-person learning.  Kids have learned to support and supplement their schoolwork with technology. I could list a number of good things that have come out of this whole mess.

But still, I think it’s time we get back to the old normal and whip these kids back into shape.

I’d like to lead the charge to take back our kids and take back proper learning.  

Let’s start expecting more from our children. Let’s ask them to show us their work – even if a lot of it is completed and graded on their chromebooks.  Require kids to help with tasks and possibly follow some type of written directions.  Don’t be afraid to ask kids to re-do something or correct their work.  Hold them more accountable. Don’t dumb down conversations or vocabulary. Read to kids and have them read to you.  

It’s been my experience that when we expect more from children, they rise to the occasion. They have these brilliant little minds that are like big ‘ol sponges.  

OK.  Who’s with me?

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