It feels a bit daunting, I’ll admit, to write a blog post thanking teachers for everything they are doing right now to support our PJA students. The eyes of society are always glancing at our profession - sometimes squinting narrowly, focused and scrutinizing. Other times, a sideways glance as they stare off into the distance at other professions - like choreographer, or designer, or entrepreneur. Other times, like now, the eyes looking at the teaching profession are open wide in wonder and gratitude.
Right now, even the most experienced and veteran teachers say that emergency remote teaching feels like their very first year teaching, which feels like the first time anyone does anything. Launching yourself off a diving board, springing cannonball deep into the big-kid end of the pool. Barreling down a mountain on slick new skis - heartbeat pounding in your temples as you try to coordinate your limbs. Even the first experience of a more everyday feeling has its adrenaline rush - like pulling a car from the safety of a big, empty parking lot and into the hectic street, looking left, right, left again and again as you pick your moment to jump into traffic. The rush of teaching, though, is relational and emotional as well as tactical - a feedback loop of giving and receiving. Teachers are the diver in the deep-end and the vigilant lifeguard. The skier racing down the mountain and the ski patrol who comes to the rescue. The driver, a passenger, a traffic light - and the technician building the car.
It’s been an incredible experience moving to an online teaching platform, to witness the collaboration between teachers, students, and families. Our teachers have carved out little corner classrooms in their homes where they practice and refine this new way of teaching. They are both improvising and strategically crafting ways to translate what we do in “real” life into this digital space of wires and wifi and little tiny squares stacked on top of one another. What do routines, tone, pace, facial expressions, rigor and care look like in 2D? They are also learning to work as a remote team that rivals any Silicon Valley start-up - using Slack to communicate with one another, to fix schedule issues or tech problems, to share creative ideas, to ask for help, to offer support, to share a joke. They are planning and creating content using FlipGrid, YouTube, Screencastify, and more. They are zooming one another at 11:30 PM to test an idea and experiment with a feature, and spending upwards of two hours to create a 5 minute instructional video - with the mindset that it’s worth every minute.
Our teachers are also connecting to the larger community of independent schools, Jewish schools, educational technologists and software developers the world over. Everyone is sharing their struggles, successes, and resources as never before - each mobilizing to learn as quickly as possible. Most moving of all, our teachers are being brave and vulnerable - pushing past shyness, or disliking how they look on camera, or the sound of their own voices. They are modeling a willingness to try in the face of uncertainty, to connect and to engage - because the effort it takes and the hurdles we must clear and the problems we must solve and the fears we must face to continue learning is worth it. Our learning is worth it, our teaching is worth it, our community is worth it and our hope for the future needs it.
So, thank you, teachers, for your steady and consistent presence. For being vulnerable, and flexible, and learning so quickly. Thank you for focusing on our students when there is so much else competing for your attention. My eyes are looking at you with wonder and gratitude - seeing that you are choreographer, designer, and entrepreneur. Thank you families, for all of your work and effort to keep the connection between teacher and student flowing and the learning going. It’s hard work, it’s new work, and we are so fortunate to be building PJA@Home, together.