Oy… did mama get a lesson toDAY. People, lemme tell you something: my Master’s is in Secondary Education with a specialty area of Education Technology. I taught high school in the business department and that included (other people) teaching office productivity applications and an end-to-end systems architecture overview (which I taught) but it did not include teaching typing, netiquette or some of the other ins and outs of collaborating or learning online.
And you do not learn this well on your own. This is how I found out…
In BigGuy’s quest to enter the math and science academy (and yeah–I need to update you more on THAT since he concocted a “backup plan”) and my complete inability to maintain consistency and rigor for him, we enrolled him in an online for-credit middle and high school SCHOOL. Like, with teachers.
Today was the first day he had access to his classes.
Wait… back up here… today Mama realized that she was doing exactly what the schools did to gifted kids. I pretty much gave him an assignment or a task and then assumed he could figure out how to do it. Holy wake up call, Batman. What’s worse is that this is something I regularly gripe about and quickly follow with “gifted kids need accommodations to learn, too!” Honest to goodness, I have no idea what “accommodations” I was making for BigGuy. It’s not like I was giving him complicated stuff to go figure out; but I already feel that kids aren’t getting enough modeling and guidance in classrooms full of kids.
So, I decided that was over and that I just needed to sit with BigGuy and go through every last step with him to make sure he was understanding, and that he was handling things appropriately. Actually, I had zero delusion that this was even possible. I knew full well that he had no idea how to do his work, and that he often needed me to just be physically nearby or talking to him in order to slow down and think. Not telling him the answers, just asking questions a lot of the time… “what do you do next? How did you come to that answer?” Questions that weren’t leading questions per se, but that forced him to slow down and think.
He has a language arts class and a math class. I DID allow him to look through all of the orientation materials on his own, but our deal is: he cannot hit “send” on an e-mail or “post” on a message board without me seeing it first. We discussed that these were classes that would be on a real transcript and the math/science school would see them.
Thankfullly, a few years at home (and Mama having recovered from her PTSD) means that BigGuy is finally able to admit when he’s handled something less than optimally. I feel like that’s such a huge parenting “win” with a pre-teen. Seriously. I’m going to bask in that and pray that we continue to nurture this relationship in a way that makes him always feel like he can admit his wrong-doings to us.
So, when it came time to provide thoughtful responses to some questions about the orientation materials, he was able to acknowledge that he pretty much skimmed through the stuff without reading it.
He was downright giddy about having to post on a discussion board for each class; and doubly giddy that someone else had also posted and he could respond. Discussions for the day included:
- How instructions were given to imply that he should use e-mail vs. posting on the discussion board
- Why it was okay to share his actual name, age and location in this particular forum (in great, great detail as to the regulation of the site)
- How to connect to what’s been stated, and then expand on it (this conversation was driven by the rubric provided for discussion forum posts; and then there was thankfully another student that posted so that he could practice this)
- Lots of deciphering “relevant information”
- Reasons why other kids might be using a virtual school
After about 2-1/2 hours of being online by his side, we called it a day. I was kind of discouraged, thinking this would now be taking up a LOT of time; but then I saw the pacing guide for one of the classes and we just did the entire workload for this week. So that was good.
Of course, I got on Facebook and it went like this:
Suddenly, I felt an overwhelming sense of clarity about how I was preparing BigGuy for his future. I was teaching him what he needed to know to meaningfully communicate and collaborate with people electronically. It would take him some years of practice to really hone this skill; and he needed to start learning that now if he’s to take advantage of connecting to people and specialists in subjects he wants to delve into. Suddenly, a Personal Learning Network (which my friend, Lisa Nielsen of The Innovative Educator blog, introduced to me to a few years ago and I quickly blew off because BigGuy didn’t have any online fluency and I thought he was too young… But she totally nailed it)
So I’m excited… I’m excited WITH him and I’m excited FOR him and I feel a sense of peace about moving forward and really SERVING him for the first time ever on this journey. I’m really hoping these online classes will be a transformative tool for him.
Now I just need to really nail it for Girly. ❤