Last week was supposed to be students’ first week with the novel The Pearl, finishing the novella this week. But last week was the first week with distance learning, and there was no way I was going to be able to teach the class novel remotely, even if I did get access to the book.
So my teaching partner and I planned to have students create a video of their favorite independent reading book they read this year and upload it to Flipgrid. (You can find the assignment here if you’d like to try it.) Since last week and this week assignments are optional, I had about half of my students make videos and submit. It was so good to see their faces and talk about their favorite books. My teacher heart was happy.
(You can see my original plan in pencil and my new plan in pen.)
There were a lot of ups and downs last week, and next week we go to “distance learning for all,” which means assignments count, it’s not optional. I am still not sure what that looks like or how that will play out; but, I will worry about that next week when my teaching partner and I plan Monday. There is only so much I can deal with right now.
What I learned last week:
- Office hours do matter, mainly for my sanity. I wrote a letter to parents and students to go out Wednesday, but I didn’t set any office hours of when I’d be available to answer questions, reteach, explain an assignment, etc. Our district was pretty lenient on what office hours meant for each teacher, so instead of setting a few hours aside each day to be at my computer to help students, I didn’t say anything at all. What I found was that I had more questions than I anticipated, and kept checking my computer every half hour, all day. The emails just kept trickling in. Unfortunately, most of the questions students had I didn’t have answers to. (Like, when are we going back to school? This assignment we started before we left, when is it due? Is it even due? How do I return classroom books?) This week I will dedicate two hours each day for “office hours,” so I am not glued to my computer. (Plus, I have two school-age children who have schoolwork they have to complete and I need to juggle that as well.)
- Connections matter even more now. For each class, I designated 20 minutes to chat with me via Google Meets. It was so nice to say hello, see how they have been spending their Spring Break, and just allow time for questions. It was letting them know I cared about their well-being and that we are in this together. Continuing to build that classroom community and connection, even though it’s through the confines of a computer is just as important as building the community inside four walls. While it meant I was at my computer for almost 3 hours that day, it was worth it. I think I might have another chat time this week just to check in. They have ups and downs too.
- Things will work themselves out. They always do. After my day of freak out and panic when we first went to distance learning, (what does teaching look like when it’s supplemental?), to last Sunday night when the department of education made new changes (what does “distance learning for all,” and that grades now matter starting April 13th, look like?), I have learned to process carefully and rely on my teaching partner and admin for help. Discussion, planning, action, are all important, but sometimes, just letting things sit for a day or two I find a new idea will come that will be better than I originally thought. It’ll all be okay. My students will be okay. I’ll be okay. We will become stronger through this. And we will learn.
How has this past week been for you? What have you learned through this distance learning? I’d love to hear your thoughts!