First, thank you to Mrs. Felicia Hamilton and Mrs. Sally Nicoll for their 3rd grade “Struggle Time” poster which I observed while my big kids were up sharing read alouds during Read Across America Week in early March. Some of my sophomores were planning to help me to recreate a HS version when the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic sent us all home to weather the storm and beauty of remote learning and teaching. Back then the world of remote learning, social distancing, and medical emergencies seemed far, far away. Yet, here we are, and most of us are doing our best to stay calm, provide structured time for our kiddos at home to learn, while working remotely at our own jobs, finding groceries, checking in on friends, older neighbors, parents, etc. Parents in our community are awesome- some have set up specific FB pages for individual grade levels as a support system for all sorts of reasons. Some have shared their activities and exercise opportunities to reduce screen time; still others have shared homeschooling schedules; and others have expressed various versions of “Holy CRAP- how are we supposed to do this” expressions of fear, panic, and anxiety.
Well, guess what folks? This is what could easily be defined as a “Struggle Time.” I’ve referred this poster a lot in the last 9 days especially and will however many times we might need in the days ahead. To be clear, just because I am, in fact, a teacher doesn’t mean I’ve figured any of this out completely or alone. We are a work in progress always, and I thought because this poster helped me– is currently helping us at home in real time with my own two children, that I should share it with the rest of you. Living in the age of awareness for social, emotional health and wellness, every elementary and middle school teacher likely has a similar description of this “Struggle Times” philosophy. Struggling may look somewhat different in kindergarten than it does in tenth grade or in parenthood, but the essential pieces are the same. Some situation, person, feeling or conflict (whether present or past) is making learning hard in the moment for you or your student.
So, CHILDREN AND ADULTS ALIKE, WHEN YOU GET STUCK OR CAN’T GET STARTED ON YOUR OWN:
- STAY CALM
- BE POSITIVE
- LOOK AHEAD TO THE NEXT PROBLEM
- BREAK BIG PIECES INTO SMALLER PARTS
- USE YOUR RESOURCES
- ASK FOR HELP
- TAKE A BREAK TO DANCE IT OUT OR GET FRESH AIR OR STACK SOME WOOD OR PLAY OUTSIDE (NOT ON THEIR LIST, BUT WE KRILLS FIND HELPFUL)
WHAT WE SHOULD TRY NOT TO DO:
- POUT, CRY, OR RIP UP OUR PAPER
- JUST SIT THERE
- RUN AWAY (AS THERE IS NO WHERE INDOOR TO RUN THESE DAYS, THIS ONE SHOULD BE EASY TO AVOID)
- USE DISRESPECTFUL LANGUAGE (WE WERE THINKING OF ADDING THIS TO OUR HIGH SCHOOL VERSION)
- HIDE OUT IN THE BATHROOM OR CALL HOME SAYING WE ARE SICK WHEN WE ARE NOT (IN THE TIME OF SOCIAL DISTANCING, THIS ALSO DOESN’T WORK SINCE WE ARE ALL HOME ANYWAY, OR AT LEAST MOST OF US)
- BLAST TEACHERS OR COMMUNITY MEMBERS TRYING TO HELP ON SOCIAL MEDIA (THANKFULLY, MOST PEOPLE ARE WORKING TOGETHER REMOTELY and POSITIVELY TO PROBLEM SOLVE)
And more importantly, just like our students who are trying NOT to cry, or NOT to run away, we may also as adults find ourselves falling apart, crying, struggling big time on certain days because this is actually hard. But I’m finding the moments at home with our family to be mostly positive, so let’s not let remote learning change any of that. Getting my son to read by himself takes Herculean efforts. I’ve read to him almost every day since he was born, so reading doesn’t shock his system. But like his dad and my brother, he would rather do other activities outside each hour of every day instead of reading and writing. He likes math and always likes to do it first. However, as soon as we get to ELA, the struggling begins. And as his mother, I can’t take it personally. He is smart and will survive our world of education even if it doesn’t always fit his mold; I’m encouraged by his creativity that he will be okay, even successful, in the world of adulthood. My daughter expects me to help her with everything, yet I know she is super independent while at school. Her impatience while I’m helping her brother is textbook Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We’ve all had to spend some quiet time away from one another in isolation.
So yes, have we had days where we pack up the school folders and head for the hills? We sure have. Is that considered running away? No. In the world of remote learning, it’s our physical education break, and we take a lot of them. Sometimes we turn the music up loud so our elderly neighbors don’t hear the yelling. We are doing our best and even our best is perfectly flawed. I responded to one mom that there will be some kids doing more work than her kid and likely some doing less– and given our state of the world–it’s all going to be okay. It has to be. We are enough even if the days don’t feel that way. Learning comes in so many different forms, so if authentic curiosity takes precedence over what was planned, go with it. If your student isn’t exactly self-directed yet, don’t be mad. No one expects us to be as good as their actual teachers. That would be impossible.
PS. And I haven’t found a “calm corner” yet inside my house, but if spring was here and not a foot of snow headed our way, it would be my front porch.