Simply Put: This is Hard

For the last three years, I have had the honor of blogging for the AZK12 Center’s Stories from Schools AZ. Each month I love having an outlet to pour my thoughts and ideas into. Each month it was easy to generate a topic and explore it. Each month I had renewed energy for my practice as I hit “post.”

However, this month is different. Why? Because everything is different. Nothing is the same.

I have spent the last seven years perfecting my craft as a teacher by finding lessons that connect with kids, creating activities to support their learning, presenting texts I know they will remember, and building my confidence in my ability to be an effective educator.

But right now, I don’t know how effective I am. Online, virtual, remote, distance (call it what you want) learning is the hardest thing I have ever done. I am scared I am not doing a good job.

Gone are the days of pulling out my favorite lesson that I know the kids will love. Gone are the days of using strategies and methods I know will work. For example, I LOVE my document camera because modeling is one of my go-to ways to show kids exactly what I want. Every day, I walk by my sad little doc cam and instead flip on my webcam and try to pull together another tech-filled lesson I hope will work.

Every day is a wild rollercoaster ride of trial and error. Online learning is requiring me to try new methods and feel like I am starting back at square one. Some days the cool tech tools soar like an eagle (Well, maybe not an eagle. Maybe more like a baby bird learning to fly for the first time) and other days they flop like fish out of water. I tried Poll Everywhere last week. Total flop. So I pivoted and tried it again yesterday, taking my failed experience and reworking it to see if it garnered the results I was looking for. And guess what? It worked. The kids reflected on our reading in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

Online learning is like learning to ride a unicycle after riding a two-wheeler my entire life. The purpose and pieces are the same, yet everything is different. The head nods or blank stares from kids that help me know who needs help and who can tackle the assignment without me are gone. Gone are the little chats at the door as kids come in that help me know who is having a great day and who went through a breakup during lunch. This new arena requires me to use the data I can gather through online surveys, reflective journal assignments, narrative writings, and even missed assignments to navigate what’s going on with my students. The kids are the same, but the interactions are different.

Simply put: This is hard. This is the hardest thing we as educators have done. This the hardest thing the kids have ever done. This is the hardest thing parents have ever done. There’s not a magical solution that will make this easier. The only thing we can do is keep going even when we feel like giving up. We must open our web browsers. We must log on. We must try to connect with kids and create a space where they feel safe and secure. We must not let allow fear of failure overcome our drive for success.

Simply put: Our love of learning and students is more important than ever before because we need each other more than ever before. This is the mantra I am planting in my mind when the days get tough.

Simply put: What is yours?


Leah Clark

Leah Clark

Phoenix, Arizona

I joined the teaching profession after spending several years in luxury retail. While the free clothes and handbags were definite job perks, I felt burned out and tired of long hours, weekends and holidays. So, I went back to school to become a teacher and have never looked back. I love my job!
My teaching philosophy is simple: Do what’s best for kids. While it’s not eloquent, this humble phrase directs every decision I make about teaching and students. As a Language Arts teacher at a central Phoenix high school, it’s my honor and passion to create opportunities for students to communicate, collaborate, create and connect with one another and the world around them.
When I am not grading a stack of essays, planning a new lesson, or chaperoning a school dance, I love riding my yellow Huffy bicycle around town, sampling a new restaurant, and traveling to Flagstaff with my husband.

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