We’re not hungry.

Over my career, I’ve often used the metaphor of feeding the hungry in my approach to technology use in the classroom. Some teachers and school leaders are eager and ready to try new things. We certainly want to support that. Others are struggling just to keep their heads above water. We need to support them, too, and perhaps through them a lifeline rather than a boat anchor.

My approach has always been to support everyone, but to push the people who are ready to be pushed. When we had instructional coaches, we discussed this many times. You’re not going to get all of the teachers at a particular grade level to jump into your new initiative. You’re not going to transform entire departments or buildings at a time. Take the people who are ready, and work with them. The others will come along in time. Forcing everyone into the clean plate club make create compliance, but it also fosters resentment. Feed the hungry.

Image generated by AI in Canva.

But it feels like nobody is really all that hungry these days. Sure, we’re politely snacking on the appetizers like we’re grazing at a Christmas party. And shiny new things are still attractive. But no one is ready to sit down and actually have a meal.

I think COVID had a lot to do with that. I avoid writing about COVID now, because we’re trying to move past it. But it was a traumatic time for schools, especially in the spring of 2020. And while we did a reasonably good job of surviving the shutdown, no one looks back on that time period with nostalgia.

Schools survived by moving to online instruction. Every student had a device. Teachers became live streamers. We used all the digital tools we could find just to get through. And, we did get through. We did remarkably well. But truth be told, we didn’t do a great job of transforming instruction to leverage the benefits of online learning. We just tried to replicate the classroom experience. That was the wrong approach. We needed to do different things instead of trying to use technology to keep doing the same things. We knew we were making that mistake at the time, but we didn’t have the capacity to do anything else.

But now we have a problem. The tools we used to survive the pandemic are now tied to the trauma of that experience. While Zoom meetings were very effective in connecting and communicating in 2020, we can’t even mention them now without drawing up all the anxiety and uncertainty of that time. Teachers who weren’t using online learning tools before 2020 have many of the same associations. They don’t want anything to do with this online stuff. We are so fortunate to be back in classrooms with students. That’s why we’re here. We didn’t sign up to teach online.

I understand that. And it needs to be okay. For now, we’re going to focus on sustainability and reliability of technology systems. We’re going to support the people who need help. And we’ll still try to foster innovative practices where there’s interest. But it doesn’t make sense to prepare a feast right now. We’re just not that hungry.