Lessons From My Middle Schooler’s Remote Learning

Our family has been fortunate that our children have been back in the school building in some form or fashion since September. My 13 year old daughter has been going to in-person school every other day with classes over zoom when she’s not in the building. It’s not perfect, but she’s been managing well. We got some feedback from her teachers today and (proud parent moment coming up) she’s doing great and excelling in all of her classes.

They said she’s engaging, participating, being a leader, and generally doing all of the things we as parents would want her doing. The one place her teachers said she was falling down was in participating in large group settings. She participates vigorously in small settings, but she just clams up in those large groups. They were sure that if everyone was in class, she would be participating with enthusiasm, but its hard to jump in when you’re only a small square on a screen. It feels like nit-picking, and I understand, but there’s a broader point. Its much harder to engage in a meeting of 15+ people when some are in person and some are participating via video conference.

It’s a similar experience to what I have on my video conferences. It’s a great format for engaging with my team of four. We all have our cameras on, we know what everyone is doing, and we’re able to have a quality dialogue. Those all-hands meetings that the regional manager has once a month? The ones where we share market intelligence, talk about our recent wins, and discuss organizational objectives? They’re almost comical in their lack of participation. Nobody has their screens on (which means they’re all doing something else at the same time), its impossible to interject with a question or comment, and it feels like we’re all waiting for the call to be over. Nobody wants to participate. Just like we’re all back in 7th grade.

I know… That meeting could have been an email. But the number of emails I get that are TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) already fill my in-box. Giving me another lengthy email to digest in an effort to cut out this meeting isn’t going to work. There is a place for regular in-person engagement. It forces people to participate, pay attention, and opens lines of communication.

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