Making the Most of This Moment
John Gensic - Trustey Fellows Instructional Coach
We were in the trunk of our minivan–me, along with my seven and nine year olds, dragging a 16-foot oak branch, as my wife drove about five miles per hour from the woods at our neighborhood park to our house. We needed this branch to complete our socially-distanced backyard playground climbing structure. Since sheltering in place, we’ve started building a bunch of backyard structures as a way to pass time, stay active, and give us a break from heavily screen-focused eLearning.
We have four kids, three of whom have eLearning requirements four days a week. Our youngest, aged three, doesn’t have eLearning, but has been learning along with his siblings, and probably could skip preschool at this point. His favorite states are Texas, New Mexico, and Louisiana, as they are the lowest on the map hanging in our dining room, and he can point to them. Thank God for my wife and her work that can wait until after the kids go to bed. I’m not sure I’d be able to manage eTeaching and my kids’ eLearning tasks.
I teach 94 high school seniors. I host Zoom meetings for my classes five times a week. We start these meetings with stories from kids who have jobs to tell us what it’s like “out there.” We then share the good and bad of their situations. I briefly review the content of the past and current week and show them websites I use to stay up-to-date on relevant news. We sometimes do Zoom breakout sessions where kids can discuss a question or plan a charade for when they come back as a larger group. As a class, we’ve read Deepest Well, by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, which has transformed their view of the scientific process and our class cohesiveness.
While I enjoy this face time with my students, most of my professional time is spent checking in with parents of students who haven’t seemed to complete their work on time, letting their families know I’m there to patiently support, answer questions, and provide whatever hope and stability I can while being physically isolated.
The majority of my seniors are sad. They are missing out on traditional ceremonies, sports, and typically cherished times with each other. At least one of my students is seeking free training during her spring break to become a personal care assistant (PCA) to help meet the current medical need. One of my students contracted COVID-19 and completed the first week of eLearning late. One of my teacher friends also recovered after a mild case of the virus, but their colleague, who also had COVID-19, had bilateral pneumonia. I showed my students some of this email correspondence to help them see glimpses of people's realities.
I’m excited to make the most of this moment: urging students to get PCA training, Zooming with Trustey Fellows, more time at home, working outside at my parents’ farm when they are not around, Palm Sunday 27-minute mass on YouTube, Imagineering on Disney+, riding in the trunk of a van...We are even looking at changing some inequitable practices in my school as the result of what’s happening now, inspired by what I’ve learned through the Trustey Fellowship. A recent quote from Dr. Fauci resonated with me as an educator. “When you’re in the middle of a crisis, like we are now with the coronavirus, it really does...ultimately, shine a very bright light on some of the real weaknesses and foibles in our society.” I’m hopeful, as a physically isolated educator, I can play a small role to help bring people together in addressing those weaknesses and foibles, now, and well into the future.