There is no doubt that 2020 had been a very challenging year (and 2021 hasn’t seen a drastic improvement)! Throughout all, teachers and parents have tried very hard to adjust, sometimes doing it well and at other times struggling greatly. So, my word for the year is compassion. I have never done a “word of the year” and, frankly, didn’t plan on starting this year. It just kind of happened.
You see, this year, I returned to the classroom after training for Brainspring for the last two years. While everyone was confined at home, it seemed prudent to return to the classroom, work with students, and take one step closer to a fully funded retirement. It was not my plan. But, like so many, it was necessary to go with the flow and adapt. I took a job as a middle school reading interventionist, teaching three classes in-person and three classes online. Like most educators, I had never done reading intervention online. That was my first lesson in compassion. Parents, staying home with children who struggle to read, trying to work themselves, repeatedly talked to me about how difficult the situation was (and is). Online learning, for the most part, depends upon reading. Kids who have difficulty reading typically dislike reading. Seriously, who does like to do hard things? So, learning from a distance made the work all that much harder.
When talking to parents, many of them have given multiple reasons for keeping their children home. None of them make that decision lightly. All of them, like all of us, want only the best for their kids. So, I realize they need a little compassion and a lot of leeway. They will make mistakes when trying to help their children; they will become frustrated and temporarily quit pushing their kids to complete assignments; they will probably yell, complain, and cry. I think we’ve all wanted to do that at some point this year.
One of my students, Troy, recently told me in a Zoom call that he gets easily distracted when he is on the computer all day. He hasn’t been turning in assignments and has been muting me during Zoom calls. He was quite shocked that I had figured out that he wasn’t paying attention. Near tears, Mom told me that they had tried everything to get him to complete assignments. She, however, works as a nurse and cannot be by his side all of the time. He is a good kid who is reading far below grade level. He has to spend 6-7 hours each day on a computer screen. I know how I am: more than an hour on a computer screen, and I get fidgety. I cannot begin to imagine learning online for 6-7 hours a day for a full year. I would not be a good online student. I spoke to him about the importance of the interventions we are doing on Zoom and how they will help him for a long time. I also offered to meet with him via Zoom for an additional day so that he can catch up. He needs additional instruction even beyond intensive reading. His mom needs a break. I need him to do well.
So, I have decided to cut all of us some slack. When kids tell me that they did not finish their assignments on time, I will give them more time. It doesn’t harm me, but it may mean all of the difference for them. When parents tell me they don’t know how to help their children, I will give them another Zoom call. That little bit of extra support may keep them afloat for another day. When my teacher friends are frustrated and overwhelmed, I will offer support, friendship, and a much-needed laugh – or whatever else I have to share. Together we are powerful. When I cannot push forward for one more day, I will take a day to recoup. I will do my best to be kind, offering words of hope and smiles and a little bit of joy. This year has been difficult enough. Choose compassion. We all have needs. If we focus on meeting the needs of people first, remember our love of kids, then, in the words of Kenny Chesney, “It’s gonna be alright.”
Written by Cheryl Garner.
Cheryl is a Brainspring Master Instructor, Certified Dyslexia Specialist, and Nationally Board Certified Teacher. She has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school level and is currently an Interventionist for 7th & 8th grade students.
Brainspring has proudly supported the educational community for more than 25 years.