Isolating Together

Teaching online is a real challenge, but I’m going to talk briefly here about a few points I’ve been noticing over the last few weeks. I’ve been using Discord because the kids are already comfortable with it, as it was designed to facilitate video game side chatter.

  • I can literally call kids out of bed. That’s important not simply because they’re teenagers and sleep in like they’re hungry for it, but also because quarantine is emotionally stressful and I see some struggles with depression developing. Having friendly voices @ing you first thing in the morning can be a big help.
  • Today, I separately told every one of my students in my morning classes to go eat breakfast. We encourage it at school, too, keeping a stocked fridge by the toaster oven, sink and microwave, and the kids’ minds immediately become sharper and their emotions become more resilient when they’ve eaten.
  • It’s easier to hear each other. Even though sometimes everyone is talking, there’s volume control and we can duck into side rooms for private conversations. I’m prioritizing students listening to and helping each other in Rocket Science Isn’t Rocket Science, and there are some good moves forward, though, as a group of kids with boy training, they still have a hard time asking for help.
  • When teaching drawing, I can point a camera at my hands. The students can see my hands and see me make mistakes as a drawing comes together. They are behaving noticeably differently, being more gentle with themselves in their struggles because they’re not seeing final products, but process.
  • In one-on-one contexts, the ability to show one another specifically what one is looking at while describing the experience one is having is quite powerful.
  • It is easy to add links, diagrams, and examples into an ongoing conversation. For complex topics, that’s a particularly good set of powers to have. It means that students can explore complex parts on their own.

I still get up excited to teach the kids on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They continue to learn and adapt because that’s what kids are good at.