Virtual Teacher Trying to Erase the Distance

Back in 1991, I remember student teaching and working with little kindergarten students as my perspective of the student-teacher relationship was just starting to take shape. It was out of the classroom that some of my learning experiences began happening. Thirty years later and this pandemic experience is conjuring up memories that seemed to have been lost.

Way back then, I was going about my own business in a shopping mall when I heard, “Mr. Coburn! What are you doing here?” It was as if I was caught red-handed and, obviously, I should be back in the art room teaching and painting. The little guy’s mom and I laughed and exchanged greetings and went on our separate ways. I retold that story and many of my colleagues shared similar run-ins because they too ventured out beyond the classroom walls and were caught in the act of grocery shopping or browsing at a nearby library.

It is now 2021 and thirty years on I had a similar situation that can only be appreciated if I remind you that the student-teacher relationship evolves right along with all the other changes we are experiencing. On the second floor of the Pavilion Mall I heard, “This might be a little strange, but can I ask you to tell me your name?” The young lady who stopped me was wearing a mask and of course from nose to chin my face was concealed as well. Suddenly, I realized that there was a Mahindra International Student standing right in front of me. We had only ever communicated through a sterile screen and now we were, of course, six feet apart. I didn’t measure but I am certain we were at a distance. I instantly traveled in time and connected to my first years teaching and was reminded of the tender connections we make. The importance of relationships can never be underestimated.

It’s now Monday and back in class we are, expecting to hold on to those engaging discussions and discoveries made along the way. Emotion and Art is now twisted into a statement of inquiry for the MYP5s and hand building clay pots is the expectation of one student’s artistic intention. A quick attendance question on ManageBac, then a Teams call with video on, plus two short screen shares to introduce the female Abstract Expressionist,

Elaine de Kooning and we are well on our way to building that climate that welcomes creativity and discoveries.

MYP-5 student Tia builds her tiny thumbnail size pot as I build mine to reach our goal of meeting the Task #2 February 11th deadline.
Our goal is to present the artistic intention and to begin developing illustration and text that helps to explain how a work of art will develop to final resolve. I guess in another thirty years we will look back on this experience and laugh at how the students were learning right alongside the teachers who were challenged with carrying on.