Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Bridging the Gaps: Students, Teachers and Families

by Brent Gilson

To see how the discussion played out check out the Wakelet here.

I hope I am not the only one that at times does not know why they are included in things. What their purpose is. I am not an academic writer. I write from my experience, sometimes my anger (ok most of the time my anger) and I celebrate my students, my friends and our learning together. I think that is why I am here writing for Literacy Lenses and on the #g2great team but my goodness this current pandemic and what our teaching has become has really clouded my thinking. While looking at this topic I had a hard time coming up with a thread that would bring the thoughts shared on Thursday into a cohesive piece. But here goes.

My wife Julie and I go and walk the trail systems in our tiny under 3000 people town every night. The trails weave through the old irrigation canal system that our town was build around. There is wildlife and beauty all around. The old spill gates still stand with their rusted old gears and cracked cement. I still remember when I was a kid and we would come down to my now home town and visit family friends and we would travel the creek in old inner tubes launching off from this same spill gate area. The landscape around it has certainly changed but the old dam is still there. Last summer or the summer before they put in a new bridge. This humongous spanning bridge that sways a bit as you cross the dam from one side of the creek to another. I am grown and I pick up my pace a bit to get over the bridge as quickly as I can.

On Friday as we crossed the bridge a young family, a coworker of Julie’s and her young boy approached the bridge. The boy dismounted his bike to walk the long expanse of the shaky bridge. His mother told us that the boy, I will call him Hank, was terrified of heights but he was going to try and cross this bridge to continue their bike ride. She had a younger child with her and took them across as Hank started his journey. We cheered him on as he slowly crept across the bridge. At one point Julie yelled out, “Hank you are doing it you are being so brave” to which he replied, “Yup I am doing it but I am SO SCARED!”

This event kept coming back to me this morning as I was pondering this post. We are living in a time right now where people are so scared. The uncertainty of health and safety, jobs and access to education are huge sources of anxiety and concern for many. But as we look at this bridge and the fact we must cross it to continue our journey we can only do so by taking those shaky steps.

Step 1: Relationships

I know it is said a lot and coming from some it is a cliché. I think we all know relationships are important. In this current situation I think we need to lean on them but not exploit them. Our students and parents trust us and we trust them. This relationship is the first step in success because we know we can count on each other.

Step 2: Sound Pedagogy

As we approach the return to schools in whatever form that might be we need to be doing so on the shoulders of research based practices that honour our students. Our assessment game needs to be built on equity for all students, our assignments need to take into account that our students have so much more they are thinking about than they were last year. It is the half and half it again approach. For myself I am looking at the work of Sarah Zerwin who will be a future guest of #g2great and the focus on learning versus scoring points. How that shift makes for a more equitable student centred approach.

Step 3: Learn from this and act.

There are a lot of folks out here on the teacher social media that at the start of the COVID closures were talking about inequity in education like it was a new thing. Those folks are for the most part already back to their old ways hocking some quick fix and flashy smile and slogan. Let’s not fall for that because it is a trick. We need to see these inequities and if they are new to us we need to expand our circle. Find folks that have been doing this work a long time learn from them. Spoiler: they likely are not out here trying to get you to buy things from them or join their brand. They are too busy doing real work. You want names? I am happy to share them you know where to find me. Now is the time to do more than HOPE for change. Now is the time to make it happen.

Where to next?

3 steps to bridge the gap. None of this will be easy. We are all learning as we go. Borrowing the words of Hank,

“Yup, I am doing it but I am SO SCARED!”

It is ok to be scared, it is ok to move with a little less confidence because walking into a fog can be scary, looking down and worrying about falling is scary but we have the tools to succeed. Step carefully but keep taking those steps.

2 thoughts on “Bridging the Gaps: Students, Teachers and Families”

  1. Relationships. Relationships. Relationships.
    The reason that the “teacher factor” can have a life-changing impact. This is so important:

    “In this current situation I think we need to lean on them but not exploit them. Our students and parents trust us and we trust them. This relationship is the first step in success because we know we can count on each other.”

    Thanks for your thoughtful post!

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