For the past decade, I have been advocating for the integration of social-emotional learning and screens in schools. I never imagined that we would be living in 2020 when families are forced to make the choice between face-to-face and online classes due to a pandemic. Now that we are here, I find myself continually listening and learning, researching and re-evaluating.
The question I keep asking myself is what can we take from this experience that will improve education?
With the many shifts in mind, let us examine some of the practical social-emotional and technology needs of educators, families, and children.
On an almost daily basis, I am having conversations with educators of all types – classroom teachers, school counselors, social workers, principals and district leaders. More often than not, what I am hearing is that you are working harder than ever. Even though many of you are able to work from home, you are pushing yourselves beyond your limits to meet the needs of your students, and you are overwhelmed. Thank you, educators, for your late nights and early mornings, for your trouble-shooting, for your patience, for teaching to a screen full of names without faces. Your dedication and excellence are inspiring. Just a reminder… we need you for the long haul, so please take time to unplug.
First and foremost, I believe we have come to realize that education involves the entire family. With millions of students learning at home, parents, grandparents and extended family members have shouldered the burden of teaching. Many of you have embraced creative solutions, including travel, outdoors and the arts. In other situations, community organizations such as the YMCA have designed academies that provide care and support for the children of you, our essential workers. Thank you, families, for showing up for your kids! Your flexibility and determination are heartening. Just a reminder… we need you for the long haul, so please take time to unplug.
You adapted to life without regular school days, sports and dance classes in the Spring. Now you are making your way on this roller coaster of a new school year. With each twist and turn, you adjust… sometimes painfully, sometimes loudly, sometimes emotionally, but you adjust. You are committed to your future, so you keep learning and growing. We are proud of you! Your dogged resilience and indefatigable humor are uplifting. Just a reminder… we need you for the long haul, so please take time to unplug.
Yes, each of us needs to take time to unplug. Never-ending screen time is not good for our bodies, minds or spirits. Go outside. Take a walk. Converse with a friend. Read a book. Paint a picture. Ride a bike. Do something other than stare at that screen! It will be there… or should I say, they will be there – computer, phone, tablet & television – when you get back. Just take time to breathe.
The blessing of this time is that we can look at school and work as part of the fabric of our lives because of technology rather than simply an activity that fills a specified number of hours in our day. Accepting the ebb and flow of an asynchronous lifestyle brings freedom and breeds creativity. In many ways, this is the similar to the path of entrepreneurship and innovation, both which we need greatly in this new age.
Consider these words of Theodore Roosevelt, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."
Let us continue to dare greatly, my friends, knowing that we are in this together!
About the author
Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.
Tamara is editor of Building People: Social & Emotional Learning for Kids, Schools & Communities, a book that brings 12 wide-ranging perspectives on SEL to educators, parents, and leaders. Follow her on Twitter .