In every corner of the Earth there are paramount changes occurring. Systems in place that govern our lives are being turned inside out and upside down, as humanity gains awareness in the ways we have been indoctrinated by false idols as to what is normal, what is forbidden, what is accepted, what is truth. We are no longer accepting a “that is just the way it is” defeat—blurred lines between peace, and complacency. Every unspoken and age-old written rule stating “you must” is rebutted with a strong and sincerely posed question of “why?”. Why do we need to operate like this? Not only do we ask others these questions–we are asking ourselves why we have maneuvered, within each of our intricate roles, in the ways we have been maneuvering–contouring ourselves for the comfortability, easy digestion and consumption for a machine we can barely name for all it has infected, for far too long. Why are our priorities, priorities at all?
Education is no exception in our quest of why, in fact it is an integral component of this shift, for education has nothing to do with institution.
In recent years in every educational setting I have been a part of, there is an incessant complaint of teachers concerned with students “always on their phones”, and I have always found the demonizing of cellphones in classrooms to be a missed mark. As a millennial teacher, with social media accounts filled with connections in various parts of the world, of all ages, paths, and backgrounds, it is clear to me that there is a vast gap between awareness of our connection to The Whole, and the linear perspective only reaching so far as what our Facebook feed and local news can deliver. From a single Tweet, Instagram post, and TikTok, we are exposed to the beliefs and experiences of people in the state next-door, country above us, camp below us. We see into the living rooms of leaders, of the privileged, of poverty. Hidden cameras and leaked screenshots reveal and expose. Heroes have become human. Protests in our country have been broadcasted on livestreams of the accounts of “ordinary” people, coinciding with the telling of the very same events from the local newscaster, both stories on the same night contrasting in severity, tone, bias, honesty. Livestreams depicting unwarranted and severe police brutality, organized and peaceful protest are depicted by news channels as being “riots”, placing authority on pedestals, aghast at such unruly behavior by “deranged” citizens. If we already had little to no trust in our systems in place, the contrast in the telling of events between people and paid organizations has only affirmed our disbelief.
As we move into the school year of 2020-2021 gaining knowledge and experience of available virtual learning tools, we add more to our ability to access and reach our students. As I dissect every impulse within me to hang on to the ways in which face-to-face instruction is better in any way compared to virtual instruction, I am left with the simple truth that given a student has a device they can connect to WiFi, they are able to take ownership of, and expand upon their learning like never before. As educators we have the opportunity to enrich and inspire, reaching far beyond the restrictions of campus protocols border-lining on unnecessary policing. The driving force remains the same–are we filled with the intention to prepare students for a world as it is, and as the limitless and versatile world it is becoming? Or for systems of rigidity and rules we don’t believe in–a world that doesn’t exist, that is hanging on by the fragments of operations long since proven ineffective?
The neuroplasticity and patterns of thought of our students will always differ from our own, just as much as generations after them will differ from their own. As I piece material together, create videos, insert links that reference information, add a gif, play with html, I am able to control the steps in which information will be received, and on the student’s end they can move at a pace comfortable for themselves. There are opportunities to expand upon information, then options for deviation from the lessons in order to practice a skill, or gain more awareness of prerequisite information not yet learned.
I feel challenged, yes. But I also feel empowered, more passionate than ever, and ready to connect with and reach students in a time where connection and the ability to discern fact from fiction, is crucial. I have never taken my role as “teacher” lightly, and consider it an honor and tremendous responsibility. After recently overcoming many internal doubts I had of myself, as an educator in the school I am at, during this virtual era, I am realizing that everything I have experienced up until this point has, as usual, prepared me for where I am, with the team and students I am with. For every complaint or frustration a teacher has about teaching virtually, I have a dose of a silver lining for them, and I don’t hold back in my delivery.
In the future I foresee teaching to be an “independent contractor” type of role, as more and more parents opt for homeschooling, and students themselves seek answers, truth, sincerity and authentic instruction. I am willing and able to adapt, grow, and serve my students, connect with people and enrich the lives I come into contact with, whether I am under a blanket of an institution or not. Because education has never been about the building, or the system, or the mandated assessments. Education happens to all of us whether we enroll in a course or take a year off to live and work on a farm. What cannot be bought or given a certificate for is the passion for truth, for uplifting–the driving force of an educator, then the reverence and sacredness of the relationship between teacher and student. And perhaps this shift moving us to adapt, to re-frame, to scaffold, to put ourselves in the shoes of our “clientele” will remind us all of what education, truly is.