We Miss Seeing Our Students, How Can We Fill That Hole in Our Soul?

Editors Features April 20 / April 30, 2020

 – Jon Harper, Mandy Froehlich with Chase Mielke –

 

It’s becoming more clear daily that online learning is leaving a hole in our souls that was routinely filled by face-to-face contact.  How can we meet our need for close relationships with our students when teaching remotely? Listen to the 11-minute panel discussion or read the transcript below.

 

Guest:

Chase Mielke is a writer, speaker, and award-winning high school teacher. He holds a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and runs affectiveliving.com He is the author of The Burnout Cure: Learning to Love Teaching Again. His work has been featured on CNN and on these websites: We Are Teachers, Edutopia, HuffPost, and Cult of Pedagogy.

 

Transcript

Jon:

The coronavirus is causing schools to shut down for the remainder of the year. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

Mandy:

I know, Jon, and I know in Wisconsin we have already shut down, and I can’t even imagine what those teachers are thinking. I know a friend of mine told me today that she almost felt like she was going through the grief process from just all of a sudden not being able to see her students again this year. And today on Teachers’ aid, we’re speaking with Chase Mielke, the author of The Burnout Cure: Learning to Love Teaching Again. And thank you, Chase, so much for joining us on Teachers’ Aid.

Jon:

So, Chase, I’m going to hit you with a hard question right away. What if you found out today that you weren’t going to get to see your students again for the rest of the year?

Chase:

Well, my reality is that that is pretty much our case right now. I teach in Michigan full time, and we’ve been getting updated almost daily that the school year’s getting kicked back, and we’re pretty much preparing for the idea that we are not going to see our students for the rest of the academic year.

Mandy:

Yeah. And I think we tend to default to that students are excited to be out of school, and it’s like a huge spring break, but we have a large population of students where school is their safety net and school is their place that they go to have sort of a pseudo-family and be taken care of and have procedures in place and they know what’s going on. And I think that it’s to think that all of our students are enjoying this time off would be a huge leap.

Chase:

Yeah. Absolutely. Because I think no matter what the student, there’s something at stake for everyone. I still stay in contact via text and flip grid and email with a lot of my students and even the ones who are academically solid or the ones, my seniors who have complained about like wanting to be done with school, like they are crestfallen right now. They are really upset at the idea of not returning back to school because there’s a structure to it. There is the ability to socialize. There are caring adults who are there for them. So it really even flipped my mindset of it not, I would say most kids still want to be a part of school and be a part of the academics even in their angstiest of days.

Mandy:

Absolutely. So thinking about the teachers and sort of what they’re going through right now, if they’re feeling like you, like what would you tell these teachers as far as what advice you have for teachers that may have already heard this news or might be going to hear this news that they’re not going to be returning to school?

Chase:

My biggest realization for myself, and I think the most important thing for most teachers to know, is that school is never going to look the same with this circumstance that we’re in. So we have to be open to just shifting even our own expectations of we’re not going to get to the same amount of content. And to be frank, content might not even be our biggest concern right now. It might be relationship building and just checking in with kids because you know the academics are secondary to the emotions, and so many people are going through really, really distraught and intense emotions with the fear and the uncertainty and just the external factors out of our control. So my biggest recommendation is just like check in with kids, try to do that as informally as possible. Don’t worry about checking in with every single kid because then we’ll overwhelm ourselves, but just shoot an email when we’re thinking about someone or posting a video in a means where students can see it or like calling parents or sending a letter. Just those little ways of letting students know that we still care, I think, will way more in the history in the grand scheme of things than whether they get the exact equation right for their mathematical homework. The connection is so much more important than content right now.

Jon:

How do you get teachers who are going to be waking up on different schedules, going to bed on different schedules? How do you convince teachers to hold on? How do you get them to keep up the same energy and the same enthusiasm that they have when they’re with their students? I mean, is it really possible? Do you think it’s possible to keep the same enthusiasm and energy?

Chase:

I don’t think it’s possible to keep the same. I think it is still possible to maintain a level of compassionate energy. But, we’re all also dealing with a lot of these emotions. We’re dealing with our own families, our own children. Like I have a two-week-old and a four-year-old that like now, I’m full-time mom with them. So like even my time management and my emotional regulation is different. So I think that’s another one of those things we need to be okay shifting that it’s not going to be the same energy, but that doesn’t mean it’s either end of the continuum. There’s a whole lot of space in between. I can always try to dedicate 30 minutes of a day to posting a video or checking in with students or just like being open and available. I don’t have to put in the same energy because frankly, I don’t have it. But my students don’t need that academic energy. They need relational energy.

Mandy:

Yeah. I think that it’s such an important [one] too. It’s almost like it’s very similar to starting up a brand new school year. Like you have to take the time to establish those norms and create connections and like do all those types of things because your students in a brick and mortar setting are very different students than they are online. And I think that those relationships work both ways. They’re not only going to be great for the students that you’re checking in, and you’re doing those things, but also like that’s why we’re teachers is because of those connections and relationships. So that’s going to kind of refill our cups back up as well.

Chase:

Absolutely. And I think like this is a time where we all kind of have permission or at least the precedent hasn’t been set of like just being humans with our kids. Like there have been a couple of times where I’m supposed to post like weekly assignments and check-in with kids, and there have been a couple of times where I’ve just completely shifted the assignment I’ve given and just ask my students like please respond. Like how are you doing right now? Like what’s going on in your world? Or today I hosted like how to make bread on Instagram live. I’m just like, that’s something that I’m passionate about. And I had a ton of students, like former students, current students who just like hopped on and we connected over just doing human things in these really challenging times and seemingly inhuman times.

Mandy:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Jon:

What’s been the hardest for you? I’m curious because teachers listening are going to see, they’re going to see the bio underneath this episode and they’re going to see, okay, this is a guy who wrote a book called The Burnout Cure. This is a guy who speaks at conferences in different places, but what is something that has been tough for you or do you think might be tough for you that you can share with other teachers so that when they feel this way or think this way, they realize they’re not alone?

Chase:

One that I’ve been thinking a lot about, I wrote a whole chapter in my book about explanatory optimism and just the self-talk of pessimism that when something adverse happens, we sometimes go to very permanent and very pervasive language. And so I’ve found myself struggling with this idea of permanence and pervasiveness of like thinking, oh my gosh, school is ruined. Or oh my gosh, I’m never going to be able to connect with kids the same way or life as we know it is never going to return to normal. And those very permanent and pervasive responses are typically not even logical. Like there will be a time when we will establish a new normal and there will be a time where we get back to students and this isn’t going to last forever. But I find myself when there’s uncertainty struggling with, I’ve never seen this happen before, so I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know when I’m going to be returning, so it’s hard not to have my mind drift to that realm of very permanent and pervasive thoughts. So just really trying to check myself, really trying to like bring it back and down and think if my student were thinking this, how would I talk to my student? Or if my own children were like demonstrating this style of thinking, like what would I do to reassure them that this is a very specific adversity and it’s a very temporary thing as well?

Mandy:

So, Chase, in closing, you have a chance right now to speak to the teachers in states like Kansas and Virginia and maybe more by the time this episode airs, what do you want to leave them with?

Chase:

I think the most important thing I’m going to leave people with is trusting in the power of human connection. That humanity has been through so many adverse situations with way less knowledge and way less resources than what we have now. And so in the darkest and most challenging of moments, really leaning on each other that we’re all in this together, literally parents, students, teachers, administrators. And if we remind ourselves of that human connection, then no matter what the circumstance is, we will get through it.






Editorial Leam
Editorial Team
This article was written by a collaboration of editors and columnists on the FLR editorial team or guest contributors.




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