Adele Raemer
Life on the Border with the Gaza Strip

School: the ‘most massive project-in-Beta ever’

You know how people all over the world have gone out to their porches and clapped for medical workers? Of course, they totally deserve to get a standing ovation, 24/7. But you know who else does?

Teachers.

Especially those who have been doing it for years and now find themselves thrown into the “most massive project-in-Beta ever.”

Aside from my own attempts at keeping it all together while teaching my own class and functioning in my own school, dragging teachers onto Google Classroom, trying to convince them that this pandemic – as awful as it is – presents us with the greatest opportunity for a revolution in education since the Industrial Revolution put kids in classrooms to learn in order to serve society as factory workers, aside from all that, I also work as a teacher-trainer. As part of that role, I am in the throes of zoom chats with coordinators from schools in my area. I talk a little; mostly I try to listen. To how they deal with the situation of having to do a job no one signed up for or was trained for. Trying their best to learn new tools on the fly while teaching kids whose favorite parts of school are mostly coming to be with their friends and are often only marginally interested in actually learning for learning’s sake (let’s face it: they want to KNOW English but not necessarily invest in LEARNING it).

Teachers are dedicated professionals who have devoted themselves to years of study in order to answer a calling and now need to learn it and figure it out all over again, without even the most rudimentary road map. Today more than ever before, they understand that “Who dares to teach must never cease to learn” (~John Cotton Dana – an educator who could never have envisioned what the world of teaching looks like these days).

While I miss the camaraderie of being in the teachers’ room with my wonderful friends/inspiring colleagues, and I miss my students more than I could have imagined I would (yes – even those who give me a hard time and are a challenge to reach) I have to admit that I am relieved to not be going into school, because for the first 2 weeks of September, when schools were open for business, I felt like I was playing Russian Roulette with my life, my health. Each and every day I went in. The pods were not really pods. Washing hands did not happen nearly enough as it should have. Wiping down desks only happened when I made the kids do it. (“Wipe before you Type” became my new slogan, handing each an alcohol-soaked wipie). And the endless reminders, begging the kids to put on their masks. To pull them up all the way over their noses. Trying to explain what needed to be done that lesson, with the mask over my mouth, aspirating the suffocating material with every breath. Every day, coming home and expecting “the call” sending me into isolation because one of my students had tested positive. As my cousin Gil said: “Teachers should be getting combat pay”.

Yes, it’s better this way, from the safety of our isolated homes, for now. Teaching and learning the tools that will get us through this pandemic while enabling our students to learn the best they can; the best they are willing to under these circumstances. We have a long road ahead of us. I’ve no doubt there will be times when we’re teaching from home and times we’ll be back in school: partially, or fully, but always with some kids not coming in, so teaching “hybridly” trying our best to include and enable them all to learn, regardless of where they are.

So I had to share this with you all:

“Consider teaching in a post-COVID world to be the most massive project-in-Beta ever. It’s going to be messy, but that’s how humans learn and grow and adapt. Continue to experiment, fall apart on the days when it’s your turn (because everyone seems to need a turn every now and then), ask students and parents for feedback, observe other teachers when you can, and most importantly, keep giving yourself and your students grace.

We’re getting through this.”

~ Jennifer Gonzales’s Cult of Pedagogy podcast. Take a walk, have a listen

Photo by Mwesigwa Joel on Unsplash
About the Author
Born in the USA, Adele has lived in a Kibbutz on the border with the Gaza Strip since 1975. She is a mother and a grandmother living and raising her family on the usually paradisaical, sometimes hellishly volatile border. She is affiliated with "The Movement for the Future of the Western Negev", and "Achdut Im Hadarom" for sanity's sake. She also moderates a FB group named "Life on the Border". https://goo.gl/xcwZT1 Adele is a teacher of English as a Foreign Language, as well as a teacher trainer and counselor for the Israeli MoE for EFL and a Tech Integration Coach. She blogs here about both Life on the Border, as well as about digital pedagogy, in "Digitally yours, @dele". She has recently become a devoted YouTuber on the topic of digital stuff. (https://goo.gl/iBVMEG) Her personal channel covers other issues close to her heart (medical clowning, Life on the Border, etc.) (https://goo.gl/uLP6D3) In addition, she is a trained medical clown and, as any southern clown would do, clowns as often as she can in the pediatric ward in the hospital in Ashkelon. She was recently included among the Haaretz "Ten Jewish Faces who made Waves in 2018" https://goo.gl/UrjCNB. She was invited to Geneva by an independent investigative committee for the UN to bear witness to the border situation in November 2018, and in December 2019 addressed the UN Security Council at the request of the US ambassador to the UN.
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