The title of this piece specifically does not mention teaching because this topic is of global relevance. Although I will bring this back around to the classroom, let’s reflect for a moment on how flexible our lives have become in the past two months. We’re conducting all of our business online or by phone, talking with representatives of large companies who are not in actual call centers but also at home, homeschooling our kids (I, for one, did not sign up for that), cooking ALL THE TIME, and figuring out how to do it all, together, with the people in our homes who sometimes we enjoy taking a break from.
I’m a creature of routine (and control) so switching my whole life up on a dime has been extremely challenging. I’m also not good at waiting, but that’s for another time. Let’s think about our students — not only are they doing all of this as well, but many are financially vulnerable, facing eviction, or are also caring for sick loved ones. On the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory, they’re maxed out. I’m just inconvenienced and uncomfortable, but they may be way beyond that.
So how do we as educators help our students be successful during a time when the cards may be stacked against them more than ever before? We can BE FLEXIBLE. We can be flexible with attendance, engagement, course requirements, due dates, and overall expectations that just may not be realistic for this particular time. It won’t last forever and when our jobs and lives become more normal we can adjust those expectations again, but for now, let’s at least consider how we can be part of the success equation.
There are issues related to fairness and equity, but do learning outcomes really need to be satisfied by all students in the same way? Content can be learned in different ways and bending in the direction of the student can help us understand how learning looks from their perspective.
Being flexible can make us stretch as well. I, for one, had never even considered the benefits of remote teaching before, but I could now rattle off a short list of “pros”.
Reach out to your students, especially the ones who are falling behind or disengaged. Find out how you can create a bridge over troubled water and help them succeed right now. We are all in this together and at least for now, flexibility rules.