Little birds.

Well, that was a hefty miscalculation on my part. For many reasons, others on Twitter took my tweet to mean I think journaling is bad. But Twitter is the telephone game x1000, and between my hyperbolic phrasing, and perhaps the exhaustion on my and others’ behalves, we’re just all on edge. And as Joe pointed out, my “all caps” is classless. His response may be “man code” for “watch yourself, young missy,” questioning my teaching credentials and all. I was reminded of David Spade’s recurring receptionist character on SNL, “and YOU are?” And my response to this educator, and others whom I upset, is Emily Dickinson’s poem:

I’m nobody. A frog croaking. A bird singing. Just thinking about stuff and worried about my students.

And my colleagues: you are more than welcome to tell me you don’t agree with me. I just asked us to think and reflect, but I didn’t say it ‘nicely.’ My mother’s philosophy is “never apologize, never explain,” so I’m going to try that now. I tend to be a people pleaser to ease my anxiety, so while I try to buck up and find some courage, not sure how successful I’ll be.

We all come from a wide variety of teaching experiences. We all have something to offer. And who we are for our students may not translate or scale to what we need to be for each other. If I am not the colleague who want to converse or exchange ideas with, that’s completely cool. Often, I don’t have a lot of patience or time for you, either–and that’s okay.

Many teaching practices we did before our buildings closed down were brilliant, creative, rich, meaningful and nuanced. And many of our teaching practices will continue to sparkle and connect.

But many weren’t. There were, and are, inequities, bigotry, racism, poverty, classism, political domestic threats toward some immigrant students and families, lax oversight and accountability, bad faith ed reformers, poor practices and shaky scripted curriculum. Oh, and that state standardized testing, which as it turn out, was an educational albatross.

And I had this random thought, that maybe, just maybe, in our exuberance of trying to stay enthusiastic, engaged, and hopeful, that assigning journaling about the pandemic wasn’t a good idea. To quote, the “WORST.” And I did apologize for my hyperbole. As a choice, ungraded, an idea, no, it’s not a bad idea at all. Helping student writers frame their daily journaling is a great boost. What we may be grieving for, however, is much broader and painful than we care to admit.

We are not physically “there” to catch the body language, emotion, or stress our students are feeling right now. We’re not. And as much as we can duplicate some learning experiences or catch them before they fall, we are just not there. That is a big part to why teaching is emotional and psychologically exhausting — we are aware and watchful for our students’ responses. So now we are bereft of that role, and have a new exhausting role. And he’s right — we are all just trying to do the best we can. That does not excuse us from bad practices or lack of reflection, before the pandemic and now. Nor after.

If we assign something to be graded that may cause additional stress or trauma we are doing harm. And no justification, teacher ego, or defensiveness will change that.

Many people in the thread came to the conversation with breathtaking ideas, kindness, gentle pushback, questions, thoughts, and those are the next focus. Like this wonderful teacher:

Keep journaling, keep thinking. And allow writers to have their thoughts. I’ll have a talk with my inner editor next time.