You’ve. Got. This.

My grade 1 Warrior taking her daily yoga practice to the top of “Pagoda Hill” near our house.

COVID-19. The talk of the town. Any town.

Right now, there is a groundswell of anxiety as people prepare for the unknown: online schooling, stay-at-home parenting, maintaining connection and community in a time of global pandemic.

Here in Nanjing, China, we have been off campus since we broke for Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations on January 24th. We are mid-way through Week 5 of online learning thanks to the leeway afforded us through a planned week of Professional Development, and the movement of our April Spring Break. 5 Weeks. And I have learned a lot. About myself as an educator, about what I need and want in school leadership, about my children, about friendship, community, and what school is really for.

My intention is to start a series of blog posts that touch on these findings from the experience I have had. I want to celebrate some successes and point out what I need, what my kids need, and yes, what I would do differently. To those reading from my own school, don’t expect finger pointing and a list of “should have’s” because you won’t find them.

These are unprecedented times and we are all bound to make mistakes and blunders. It’s how we acknowledge them, learn from them, and move on from them that will shape who we all are when all is well again.

In the spirit of the great, late, Grant Wiggins, let me start with the end in mind – and ask you to do the same. As your school prepares to close or has recently closed, what is your end game? What do you want your kids and families to come away with? You have the opportunity and a challenge ahead of you – what will success look like? And in the spirit of the insightful (and very much alive) Seth Godin, go ahead and claim that victory – write yourself a note of congratulations detailing how magnificently you handled this situation.

I know, it might sound lame, but at least take a moment to think about it.

As educators, we have an opportunity like no other to dig into authentic, conceptually-based learning like never before so, if nothing else, I emplore you to resist the pull of the craptivity. What we are embarking on needs to be as rich as the inquiry-driven, conceptually-based, global context/transdisciplinary theme curricula from which many of us draw from at school-school. What’s the big idea? How might we make this visible to our class community?

Today I had the good fortune to discuss a number of these ideas – and more – with my good friend and former colleague, Marina Gijzen. Marina’s school in Ghana is heading the way of school’s globally and she wants to be prepared and she wants to do it right. If you know her at all, she already has both of those traits nailed down. Her community is in excellent hands. Marina has always been a strong sounding board for me ever since we were 2nd and 3rd grade teachers in Bonn. She helped me come up with a list of future posts and suggested I turn it over to you, the readers, to offer suggestions on which posts rise up first. Here’s the list:

  • building community
  • communicating with parents
  • involving specialist teachers
  • setting schedules and new routines
  • engaging older students
  • rethinking middle school
  • synchronous vs. asynchronous learning

An hour or so after our conversation, Marina forwarded Seth Godin’s daily blog post: The Conversation – A Short Manifesto about the future of online education. I am not going to lie, I think he was listening in our call! Here’s a short excerpt that resonated loudly:

if you want to create transformative online learning, then allow people to learn together with each other. Connect them. Create conversations.

Seth Godin

We can use every flash-bang tool in our IT Toolbox to virtually collect our children and place them all in groups/pods/teams/classes – but what are we doing to connect them with each other in meaningful, authentic ways, and how are we supporting and planning for the same opportunities for student agency that have become so revered in the classroom?

You have the opportunity to do amazing things.

Take a breath.

You’ve got this.

Here are two graphics I created at the beginning of our journey – one for students and one for educators. Please share these with your community, your parents, your students. A PDF file is attached.

11 thoughts on “You’ve. Got. This.”

  1. Another idea…interview a student from each division – what are their thoughts on online learning?

  2. So happy to think of you and Marina dreaming and scheming together… and to follow what you come up with and contribute to the conversation!

  3. Great to see you starting a new blog Sonya. Happy to see Marina and Eve here too. I think communicating with parents is always important. We need to tell them that we are here for the children and for them. Create a support network. We all support each other. We are in our second week of distance learning and I have already started to ask the students (ages 5-7) what ideas they have for possible activities or projects. Respect and value student agency. I have already seen amazing ideas through videos they send me. It’s an opportunity to see the students in their home environment. It’s another perspective. Let’s learn and teach together with students and parents. Community-centered learning and teaching.

    1. It’s a BIS reunion in the comments! Love it! Asking the students their ideas – something that seems simple yet powerful. I am noticing that in shifting our focus to a much more heavily personalized context, we are able to go deeper with learning – would you agree? I love the perspective we are getting on what learning looks like for other people. Flicking through my son’s SeeSaw feed has become quite interesting as I see what other families value and where their interests lie.

  4. Timely indeed as we start at least 30 days of closure in Abidjan. Building community and creating opportunities for collaboration plus synchronous v asynchronous learning catch my attention for future blogs. Thanks so much, Sonya and Marina.

    1. Good luck in your new experience with all this, Kath. Will you stay in Abidjan or ??? Building community will be key as your community disperses. Collaboration is another great area – how can we bring our kids together -and our teachers together – to help make the most of this situation. Lots of thinking to be done – jump in any time with your thoughts! Loads of love to you and Juan x

      1. Thanks, Sonya-we are staying. So much to think about! Suggestions for Lower School DT gratefully received if possible. Virtual hugs to all x

  5. UWCEA Tanzania closed this week and we start our online schooling on Monday. The primary students are mainly local but our secondary students have headed back to home countries all over the globe. I would like to know more about your thoughts on synchronous v asynchronous learning.

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