One kid at a time.
Talked to Mrs. Jones. Her son was causing her no end of grief. He is a peer oriented follower who often misses class and goes to the library where he sometimes works and he sometimes disappears. Sometimes for days. Mr. and Mrs. Jones don’t always know where he is and this has been going on for a year and a half. Could we please hang on to her kid for an extra month even though he’s already been enrolled for a whole year? Social 20-1 could be the one thing he could hang onto-if he passes, then he can take Social 30-1 and graduate from high school. I promised we would not give up on this kid. That’s not what we do.
Got an email from a co-worker. “Kendra” was in her online class but the discussions weren't working out because there were no active students in her cohort. She really wanted to talk about some issues. Could she be moved to another group? Kendra has Asperger’s and selective mutism. Talking to people face to face? Forget it! But if she actually wants to discuss issues online, that’s progress.
Speaking of discussions, Clinton- diagnosed with ADHD and ODD- was entering into some online discussions. Not in the aggressive manner we had been led to believe might happen, but in a fantastic supportive way. And while some educators may say there can be no discussion like face to face discussion, his conversation about “traditions” with a classmate - spending her first Thanksgiving without her dad-was electrifying. I wonder if that would have happened in a face to face classroom?
Bob called. He just wrote his final exam in Social 30-2. What was his mark? He had written the diploma without having taken the course. He was racing through the content and currently had 38. With 68 on the diploma he knew he only needed 32% to get his credits and graduate. Bob could be about to learn an important life lesson.
Another phone call. A Social 30-1 student was outraged that his paper on the relevance of Marxism had received a poor grade. Stalin failed so how could Marx be relevant? A heated discussion ensued- had Jamal contacted me to complain yet? No...and the next day I found out they had had a very good discussion with some deep learning- on both sides.
A call about another student, suffering from social anxiety and an eating disorder. She was seeing an outside support worker and had access to a school counsellor but she would not talk to anyone on the phone. Mom was distraught. How can we help? Well, we can listen. We can remember this student’s particular circumstances in our assignment feedback and communications. And, like a good parent, we can wait- patiently and supportively-as she works through her issues. Because sometimes that is all you can do.
I may work with my students online. I may never see even one of the dozens of students on my class list. But I work with every one of them one at a time. My students are not a nameless mob lost in cyberspace. Every one of them is real to me. As a professional I would be derelict in my duties if I believed that the education I offer my students is a pale second in comparison with face to face instruction. In fact for many of my students, it is the only instruction that will work.