8100 Minutes: Keeping It In Perspective
12:02PM May 1, 2020
united states postal
Hi, welcome to the let's k 12 better podcast. My name is Amber Coleman-Mortley. And these are my kids.
In our podcasts we will cover a variety of subjects involving k 12 education.
We will talk about the ways that parents kids and educators can improve education.
We encourage you to join our conversation on social media using the hashtag #letsk12better
Let's jump into Episode Two of the "Let's K12 Better" podcast
This doesn't add up. I'm on social media, witnessing parents, educators and kids work hard to bring their whole selves to what we are now calling school. It's overwhelming my empathy meter. The fact that we're suffering and varying degrees together does not bring solace. Reading the quotes in media stories and posts on social media; I sense this fear bubbling up to the surface that at some point, we will all just have to "suck it up" and accept this new version of life.
I want to share an epiphany I had alongside my middle schooler about the minutes of instructional time she's missed since Shelter In Place.
It all started with her completing a test. The rule was that students could take the test as many times as was necessary for as long as they needed. Like many students in the class, she failed. She's an A student and of course was super devastated, I realized there was a level of performance anxiety attached to acing a test that one could take from home. So I stopped her. And we talked, I explained to her that there was no way even if she could take the test for as long as she wanted, that she really understood the material on that test, because she had not practiced enough. That under the stresses of the current situation, and the lack of human contact, she could not perform optimally, even if her brain was telling her otherwise. And to power through. She was an A-student in a "go to school world" that was social and beautiful. And that right now, she was a student that was doing what she could with what was in front of her, just like her teachers.
This of course, wasn't good enough. So I came up with a math equation to help her keep the failures during this time in perspective. She spends 45 minutes each school day in class for 5 days a week, or 225 total minutes of in-person instruction for just one subject. During the 6 weeks of shelter in place, she's missed 1,350 minutes of instruction for that one subject or 6 weeks times that 225 minutes per week. 1,350 minutes, gone. That's 1,350 minutes of missed instruction time, rich in class discussion, important opportunities to raise your hand and get one on one help. And just the comfort of seeing your teacher in "3D" and knowing that they're "real".
So we pulled the scope back a bit and thought about all 6 subject areas. That's 8,100 minutes of missed in-person in instructional time for all six of her subjects 8,100 minutes. And those proponents of digital learning from a screen might say, "hey, that's not true. She hasn't missed 8100 minutes, she's gotten instruction via Zoom". Okay, well, let's do the math.
Our district adapted to zoom calls about three weeks ago. So we can say that for three weeks, we've missed that three weeks times to 25 times the six subjects, right. So that's 4050 total minutes of missed in-person instruction time. Now, in our most recent 3 weeks, there are Zoom calls for some of the classes that are 45 minutes once a week. So for the sake of the argument and keeping everything simple, we will say that we've only missed 180 minutes per week in each of those 6 subject areas. So that would be 3 weeks times 180 minutes per week we've missed for those 6 subject subject areas. Meaning 3,240 total minutes of missed in-person instruction time this past 3 weeks. Now when we add the two together, the 3 weeks with no Zoom calls, and then the 3 weeks with the Zoom calls, we're getting a total of 7,290 minutes. That's still 7,290 minutes of missed in-person instruction, rich in-class discussions, important opportunities to raise your hand and get one on one help. And then that just seeing your teacher and the comfort of knowing that they're a real person.
Her feelings about her test did not add up. I keep reminding my kids that business as usual, no longer exists. And as a parent I'm counseling my kids through the expectations that were set prior to this current situation. But I keep remind, returning to this idea of "what is success right now?" and "what is failure right now?". "What should I be expecting from my kid right now?" and "what is unreasonable to expect from my kid right now?". "What should I expect from her teachers right now? The school or the school district or the state?"...
Should we advocate for more Zoom calls? No.
Should we advocate for more screentime? No.
Should we advocate to replace teachers with virtual learning in perpetuity? No.
I think my whole point here is that this isn't adding up. And we all know that what we're doing is not on track for positive outcomes. But maybe we're afraid to seek better solutions.
There are five major educational themes circulating In the news right now...
Number 1, "Parents are stressed out".
Number 2, "Teachers are stressed out".
Number 3, "Kids are missing out".
Number 4, "There are issues of equity. We can't believe it's like this for some people".
Number 5, "See, this is great. We should get rid of schools and go online".
There is a need to report on something bigger than the inevitable... "Yes, this sucks. And I'm glad I'm not alone". Or "I'm privileged and my hands are tied". Or even "The world as we know it is crumbling".
Are we really asking the right questions and speaking with the right people? It's good to highlight that we're in a terrible situation. But our collective votes got us here. Our collective values around the purpose of our schools and what we should be teaching might be part of our problem and even what we desire for our children's future can be part of why we are frozen during this moment, naively praying to return to a life in society that just might require deeper reflection.
Our school district held an open forum for parents on the future of remote learning for our schools. 22,000 people watched and it was reassuring to hear our district leaders reiterate that we aren't in normal school or experiencing normal grading problems. This is a great start. But it would be great to have a large survey of parents, kids and educators on their experiences during Shelter In Place; asking questions like: What have we collectively learned since March?
What are our collective setbacks?
What are our collective fears and collective successes?
But most importantly, how can we encourage all stakeholders - the parents teachers, students, principals, school counselors and school psychologists, law enforcement, school board leaders, social workers, educational support staff, anyone who's a stakeholder to think differently about the way we want to emerge from this pandemic, and create stronger schools and communities.
I'm going to ask the kids to share a couple of their own reflections on this experience with COVID-19 and learning from home, and some of the things that they... epiphany that they've had in this during this time.
What have you learned since March about yourself as a student?
I learned that even though online school is hard, it's possible on that way.
Since March, what have you learned about yourself as a student?
Well, I learned that I can be flexible.
What does that mean?
It means that I can... during school since it was normal school, it was like everything's like a piece of paper, which I really liked because I could like, use different colors and um, write on it how I pleased. But now since it's all digital, you could print it but the easier way is to digitally. Um, I was thinking about like this earlier, um, how am I going to get through if I usually like to do things how it's like paper? But and like pencils, but I learned that I can be flexible, by like, typing and digitally writing and other things like that...
How have you pushed yourself During this moment, or how has this moment pushed you?
This moment has made me more vigilant. How so? I've had to check my email more often so I can fully communicate with my teachers.
So you said that you had some challenges, but it's possible. So what have you had to do to push yourself during this moment?
Where you've had to do is kind of calm myself down, so I don't get frustrated.
So what are some of the ways that you've calmed yourself down?
Some of the ways of coming down, is I might take a nap, or like play video games for a few minutes, 30 minutes. And like, just walk away from the thing I'm doing.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing that school provides you each day?
It helps me keep a schedule and keeporganized.
How would you like things to be different in the Fall?
I would like it to, kind of, like go back to normal and not have online school anymore and see my friend in person. See all the teachers go on the playground go outside.
How would you like things to change in the Fall?
I would like everyone to stop saying everything's gonna be alright.
What do you mean by that?
People are assuming like, nevermind. Nevermind... We don't know what it's going to be like so we need to be ready for everything.
I think that's a really realistic way of looking at things.
What are you looking forward to in the Fall? Like hopefully everything goes back to "normal". What are you looking forward to, being different?
I kind of want to go back to normal school because it's kind of frustrating when my school and home life collide... because a lot of people are on meetings, or people are doing other things that require noise when I'm like about to talk on a meeting.
What is the purpose of school?
I think the purpose of school is not necessarily to get you ready for a job. But to get you ready for the next grade, or college and up to a college and up to a job.
What skills do you think you need?
I think the skills you're going to need. For school is to be a good listener. You have to know what's right and wrong.
What skill should school teach you then?
School should teach you how to listen, to um read, to write, do math, and to speak, without getting nervous.
What are some things that school should teach you when it comes to being around other people?
Like to, kind of some of the things I said; they should teach you others speak around other people and like, like listen to other people; cuz if you're doing an assignment with someone and it had... you have to have someone else, and you're not doing anything, that means you're gonna get a bad grade.
So kind of like, Is it like teamwork?
Okay, that's interesting.
If you could reimagine school, like change one thing or eliminate one thing, right? Like, what would you do to make school better?
One, no school one day a week because so that kids can get their assignments done.
If you could reimagine school, like come up with anything to add to school to make it more awesome or better or take something away to make it a better experience. What would you do?
So I would actually teach children in elementary school and stuff like that and middle school. And in like an elementary school in middle school, they would be taught only the things they didn't need in math, like the actual things you need not line graphs or anything. You'd just be taught multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and other things help you like you know, other strategies to help you quickly, quickly use math.
And then in high school, they will teach you how to write checks, get a job, how to pay a mortgage, how to do all the stuff you need to do in real life because I'm pretty sure they don't teach you that.
So you just like mentioned like a curriculum addition. I'm talking about like if you could just completely change the way school is, like what school is. What would you change?
What about our school to install a playground?
Why should you have a playground?
Because... Just because we're in middle school, I feel like we still need physical activity. We do go outside during lunchtime sometimes, but not every kid goes outside. In addition to all the stuff that you can do outside is either walk, run or play basketball.
So you would add a playground to a middle school. Do you think any middle schoolers would play on it?
I challenged parents to ask their kids some of these same questions, and then talk more about what their child comes up with. If you have any cool epiphanies that you'd like to share, please leave them in the comments or share them with us on social media.
Each episode we will share quotes that we find inspirational and we will share what we think they mean.
My quote comes from Ella Baker, an African American civil rights and human rights activists of the mid 20th century.
My quote is, "Give light and people will find a way".
What does this quote mean to you?
It means to me that, if you make way for people to succeed, you can also succeed with them.
My quote comes from Harriet Tubman, who was an American abolitionist and political activists. She was born into slavery and escaped and came back to finish 13 additional missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends using the Underground Railroad system.
My quote is, "Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world".
What does this quote mean to you?
No matter who you are, you have the strength in you to pursue your dreams.
My quote is by Oprah Winfrey, an American actress, media executive talk show host, TV producer and most famously, a philanthropist; which is a rich person who gives money to those need.
My quote is, "Turn your wounds into wisdom".
What does this quote mean to you?
To me, this quote means turn your adversities into good situations. This can also mean turn a challenging situation into something you can understand better.
My quote comes from Lisa "Left-Eye" Lopez, a member of the girl band TLC that was super popular in the 90s; one of my favorite groups of all time.
Her quote is, "There's a thin line between genius and insanity, and I always get labeled as being the crazy one".
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this quote. Share your ideas on social media or in the comments.
Each podcast we will host a "Democracy At Home" segment, where we talk about the ways in which we bring democratic practices into our home, the ways that we serve as civic actors, or the ways that we better serve our community.
The mail is still coming. I don't know about you guys, but I'm still getting mail. Right. And I'm also still getting packages. But let's talk about the United States Postal Service, right. That's the government. I really want to encourage each and every person to make sure you show your USPS person your United States Postal Service Worker, some love as an essential worker helping to keep normalcy in a way that's not actually recognized. Put a note on your mailbox; right or leave a bottle of water in there or some hand sanitizer in there; right like, show them some love. They're delivering your mail and going to each person's house every single day.
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