What to Expect from the #TWTBlog Team During COVID-19 Extended School Closures

I’ve been at home recuperating from foot surgery since late February. Therefore, my time has been spent alternating between listening to new podcasts, binge-watching baking shows, commenting on Slice of Life stories, talking with my family, reading the newspaper, and listening to the news. Consuming media around the clock has a way of making one feel like the sky is falling. 

As someone who lived in Manhattan on September 11th, this feels entirely different. Native New Yorkers are resilient, defiant people. After September 11th, most of us hopped on crowded subways, supported downtown restaurants, and flew on planes as a way of showing the terrorists that we would not be deterred. Yet, we knew there was no returning to life as we knew it before 9/11. The novel coronavirus is not a terrorist attack. We have no guidebook for how to manage a global pandemic, which is why social distancing (Am I the only one who’d prefer to call it physical distancing?) and self-quarantines have become the new normal.

Like many, I’m trying to protect my family. I’ve put together a schedule with my daughter, which we’ve revised together. I’ve directed my husband to buy our fair share of toilet paper, tuna fish, dried fruit, and chocolate (Because chocolate is going to be my vice for the next few weeks!) to get through the next couple of weeks. None of my preparations feel like enough, but I’ve done what I can.

Back in 2007, when I co-founded Two Writing Teachers, it was a blog where we shared reflections on our teaching. Posts from the early days were written with the spirit of “this is what I tried and look at how it worked” and “this is what I did and here’s how it failed.” In recent years, TWT has evolved so that we share our best thinking about a variety of topics that fall under the umbrella of a writing workshop. We try to provide information and resources you can use in your classroom the very next day. While we will continue our scheduled topical posts at this time, I feel it’s imperative to say we are not experts in this new realm of remote teaching and learning at the elementary and middle schools levels. We’re not sure what next week or next month will look like, but I can tell you what to expect from our team of co-authors, contributing writers, and guest bloggers.

  • Expect honesty. As a team, we’ve been emailing back and forth once the U.S. school closures began. We’ve been debating how to best serve students to help them maintain what they’ve learned and to continue to grow as writers. With decades of experience among us, we do not yet have a consensus about what will work best. Some of us feel hesitant to recommend sitting kids in front of screens for online tutorials and to use apps. Some of us feel hesitant about greenbelt, or low-stakes, writing being the only kind of writing kids do. All of us know we don’t want to put a greater burden on students’ families than we would want to have on ourselves. Therefore, you can expect us to share our present thinking, which is subject to change.
  • Expect ideas, rather than solutions. Some questions we’re asking each other as a writing team include (and are certainly not limited to): 
    • How can we ensure children are writing when their caregiver(s) are unable to be present? 
    • How can we ensure children have access to writing tools, WiFi and devices?
    • How can children and families lean on writing authentically in these challenging times? 
    • How can educators support children as writers remotely? 
    • How can classroom communities remain connected?
While we don’t expect to find answers to all of these questions, we will share our ideas for overcoming these and other obstacles in future posts.  
  • Expect humility. We’re navigating this uncertain time alongside you. Some of us are classroom teachers, while others of us are coaches and consultants. We may suggest something to try, and it may not work. Alternatively, you may have expanded upon what we’ve shared in your own practice. We commit to learning alongside you. Please share your thoughts, questions, and/or experiences  by leaving a comment or sending us a personal email.

As a team who cares deeply about children and educators, we are considering everything we can do to help the situation. At this time, we plan to continue our previously-scheduled topical posts throughout the springtime. In addition, we will continue to run the 13th Annual Slice of Life Story Challenge and the 8th Annual Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge (the latter of which will look slightly different since many people won’t be with their students in April). We will do this because we believe in the tremendous power of story to connect us during these anxiety-provoking times.