Shadow Teaching

To distract us, many teachers created virtual classrooms

The lingering, nagging question during our PLC this morning was: “Are you feeling like you’re really teaching during this time?” and my mind flipped to reframe the question: what are students learning? Because that is what the question should be, always. And acknowledging that what we’re teaching is different in other content areas with more strict guidelines and assessment accountability, too. One teacher who runs the local native tribe’s school who is an important voice in our PLC spoke up about how her students are learning many life skills and contributing to the community. She even pushed back on the notion, her words, “Euro-centric content.” I could have hugged her. Because when she speaks, we listen.

It occurred to me, and I hadn’t given this a voice before, that what I miss is what my students provide to the conversation.This one-way interaction gives me a deeper appreciation and love for what they say and their thinking, when they offer it. I’ve done the best I can with my messages in the bottles, the weekly question and the curated materials to help launch their thinking. It’s like sending a do-it-yourself model kit to them and hoping they make something cool, but after I manufacture the pieces and plans it’s up to them whether or not they construct something of substance. They’re not going to Google Meets for a variety of reasons, and reasons I respect and understand. But it’s not the same, anyway.

But I keep checking the intangible nooks and crannies to see if they’re getting my messages, and though I just put out this survey this morning, already one student replied:


So, I’m off to my book stashes and will find some things she might want to read. She can keep whatever I send, of course. We have five more weeks of school. The weird school. The abstract school. The shadow school, where I puppeteer avatars and ventriloquist myself in quick videos. And keep finding ways to make meaning for myself, and continue to rediscover purpose.