Teaching, Learning, and Growing in the AC

Today’s Contributor: Carlos Lopez is an IT Principles, Digital Media, and Web Technologies and former Spanish teacher at LBJ Early College High School.

I’ve never really given too much thought to the BC and AD acronyms used in Gregorian calendars and timelines. To be honest the concept was kinda confusing when I was a kid. I liked dinosaurs. Whatever AD actually meant was lost in my belief that After Dinosaurs (AD) nothing else mattered. Fast forward a couple million years after T-rex Times (TT) and it seems like our little spec of an earthly simulation is at another historical acronym crossroad. Which is making life origin jokes trickier to tell. As we all collectively watch this Covid-19 moment unfold and it unquestionably forces us into smaller, very uncertain, and undeniably uncomfortable times and spaces.

First of all, I just want to make it crystal clear that I am not here to tell you the sky is falling or remind you how we are all stuck inside fearing for our statistical and existential lives. That’s what your media outlets — with the aid of that one friend we all have who’s always strung out on the latest conspiracy theory — are for.  I’m also not writing this to remind you that even after taking every CDC guideline precaution possible we will all be affected by the infection to some degree since life as we know is pretty much fundamentally changing right before our eyes in real time for everybody. And who am I to even try to think that I could explain how our physical, emotional, spiritual, and virtual selves are being challenged and will be rocked to their core? I’ll leave that to the psychiatrists. therapists and crystal collectors. I am just a teacher and I’m here to write about teacher stuff. And as tempting as it sounds, I am most definitely avoiding how curiously difficult this quarantine has made my job. Who would have thought that flexing these tele-teaching muscles was going to be so uncomfortable and unnatural? Not me! Don’t even get me started on the feelings I have about the fact that gaps in equity, compounded with the already expected physical distance challenges have made continuous learning preparation 1000x’s trickier, problematic, and borderline depressing. Especially since thinking about that would probably break me down and compromise a few of the superpowers I have as an educator; the power to always show face and show up despite what I’m feeling or going through on a personal level. Which in a Covid-19 ironic twist just reminds me that I don’t even have to show my face anymore…. And the higher the quarantine day counts get, the harder it becomes to just to be — and stay —  present. 

But, I digress. Like I mentioned, I am not here to push doom and gloom. This is an educational technology blog so I’m here to talk about instructional technology! As a long time advocate for blended instruction and effective technology implementation, this once in a generation (fingers crossed) pandemic has set the playing field up for those of us who have drank the “distance learning punch”. This is the comeuppance to anyone who ever rolled their eyes at me when I presented a BLEND/CANVAS professional development. This is when my words, “You know you can put that in a BLEND module, right?” will echo in eternity and finally resonate in the psyche of all who ever resisted and challenged my messages and warnings. I win! THIS. SHOULD. BE. MY. SUPER BOWL!!! But it isn’t. It has been quite the opposite actually. This has turned into a conversation with myself– and my cats. Where I self soothe with those well worn schoolmaster words. The ones my students ‘love’ to hear when we’re being reflective about behaviors and actions….  “You know this is a teachable pandemic, right?” 

So what exactly are we supposed to be teaching ourselves in quarantine? What lessons are we supposed to be learning? How to Zoom with students? How to bake sourdough bread? How to make dalgona coffee? Or practice all the Tik Tok dances? To be honest, you should be learning whatever the heck you want. In fact, remove the word ‘should’ from that last sentence because ‘should’ is a mental and emotional trap. If you haven’t been paying attention to the messaging from everyone selling stuff– these are unprecedented times. There is no playbook for life right now. You shouldn’t have to do anything outside of just surviving and doing your best to feel comfortable. Making those 2 happen in quarantine are feats in themselves. 

That being said, we still have a responsibility to our profession. Up to now, I’ve intentionally stirred up some emotions that we’re all feeling to some degree, to eventually drive my point. This blog post was originally supposed to be about fostering and maintaining authentic connections in our new virtual educational environments. That became difficult because I believe there are times to think fast and there are times to think slow (loose reference to Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.) Right now is one of those slow times and I truly feel we could possibly get way more out of this moment if we embrace the slowness of deeper thinking, analysis, and awareness. Most of us are so distracted and processing soooo much as it is. Solistalgia is a real thing. We absolutely need to be kind to ourselves and our students, and slowly but surely start thinking about life After Covid (AC) and our adaptations to the educational shifts this virus has initiated. 

So, instead of connecting you all to the latest cutting edge distance learning tech trend, I want this blog post to encourage discussions on how we can all start connecting with our social and emotional selves, in our new environments, with these unsettled new RL and DL expectations (RL = Real Life and DL = Digital Life). It is just my opinion but reconnecting with ourselves as we prepare to reconnect online could actually be very helpful and possibly make our digital connections that much more empathetic and authentic. Reconnecting with nature, in a safe and socially distant manner of course, could also help in grounding this new way of life. So for now, my tech recommendation is to take that walk to clear your head. Light that campfire to smell, and breathe, and be in your own body and not just exist in theory on a screen. Get a plastic pool or just hose yourself down to feel alive. Learn that Tik Tok dance if it makes you happy. Whatever your thing is, do it. These connections to everything in the RL and DL are what make us human and moving into them and becoming hyper aware of what they are doing to us and how they inspire and direct us can’t be a bad thing in improving future digital communications. We are being given a fresh, extraordinary opportunity to look at our technology and our physical outside worlds with gratitude. Letting our resiliency shine and pushing forward at our own pace is an option we all have and should try our best to choose. Any growth in quarantine should fruit pretty amazing technical and digital outcomes in the future. Especially when we all show back up a bit more in tune with our physical, mental, and digital selves. 

At the end of the day though, don’t stress yourselves too much. Just be mindful and do the best you can with what you got. After all, we are all still in the micro mist of it all and there is just too much out of our control at the moment. Take care of yourselves and each other. Be kind, stay healthy. It will all sort itself out one way or another. And that covid mist pun was intended. Because a bad pun groan could essentially be a breathing exercise and even cheesy grins are better than no grins. Let’s grow into our new happy places. We got this and we’re all in this together!

P.S.  Here’s some stuff I’ve personally been connecting to and checking out to read, listen, and watch on my own personal health walks to stay sane and happy. If you’re up to it, taking an online course yourself to feel what your students are feeling could be fun and enlightening. No pressure though. You do you. Find your good stuff. Can’t wait to see everyone thriving on the AC side of this. And please add more positive, cheerful and uplifting resources in the comments. I would love to check them out. Bonus points if they deal with Ed Tech. 

PODCASTS:

READING:

ONLINE LEARNING:

MEMES – #eLearning #distanceLearning:

Distance Learning Tik Toks –  #eLearning #distanceLearning:

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