Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

For a hundred reasons, remote learning is a lot harder than the face-to-face experience.

While waiting for another teacher to join our Google Meet a few days ago, I had an interesting conversation with a colleague. In the most organic way, she expressed several reasons why remote learning was more challenging on everyone–from students and teachers to families and communities–than “the real thing.”

I was fascinated by her central theme.

It wasn’t just that many of us are trying to be 100% parent, 100% householder, and 100% teacher/worker at the same time. Many of us do that every day, already.

It was that many are now living all 100% roles in the same time AND space. 

Although you’re never really off the clock as a parent, householder, or teacher/worker, there was always one factor that allowed adults to center their energies as wholeheartedly in the moment as possible.


Having the routine of leaving home to go to the workplace every day literally increases space between parenting and householding duties versus employee obligations.

Having the routine of leaving the workplace to go home every day literally increases space between employee obligations versus parenting and householding duties.

Having a routine matters.

Changing physical spaces matters.

Changing physical spaces during our everyday, routine roles may make a huge difference in our mental capacity to be healthy, productive, and effective. 

If seeing and hearing people sufficed, and

If sending and receiving information sufficed, and

If assigning and completing work sufficed, and

If technology in itself sufficed, then…

Why isn’t remote learning really working?

Physical space is a crucial medium that changes how we teach, learn, and function in our everyday lives. It directly impacts how we connect, interact, and sustain.   

Physical space is a stabilizer that may help all moving parts of the whole to survive.

At some point in the course of a day, our face-to-face, human connections restore our individual sense of self and reinforce our sense of belonging with the whole group.

Still, there’s a sad truth to embrace:

It’s always a trade-off. No one can be more than 100% at any given time.

When you thrive in any one area as a parent, householder, or worker, you’re sacrificing the other two areas. With routine transitions in proximity, you may have been able to compartmentalize more effectively, thus feeling more productive to do all that things, and to gain deeper satisfaction in all the roles in a given day.

It’s heart-wrenching to hear your child laughing or crying in the same room where you’re trying to invest in that workplace video meeting.

And what’s even more unimaginable from my current, privileged life experience?

Some adults don’t even have a job right now.

Some families have basic needs unmet.

Some kids don’t have access to learning opportunities.

Some kids have access but no support.

Some are doing all they can to hold it together.

Then, maybe we’re all just doing the very best we can.

One Reply to “Medium > Message: Proximity”

  • Kyle, your post captures a feeling I haven’t been able to put into words and helps to keep me from feeling guilty when I know that I have been excited about running into the school for small projects: meet the payroll secretary, sign some checks, mail a student transcript, … Thank you. Hope you are all doing well.

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