In the past 10 days, our world has moved at lightening pace. It seems that there is a moving target that changes on an hourly basis. “Prepare a few at-home enrichment activities” to “Plan 3 weeks of nontraditional instruction.” to “ALL SCHOOL IS MOVING ONLINE”. Whoa. We, as educators, have emotional, mental, and physical whiplash as we consider how to care for and keep safe our own families and our students.
Taking a Breath
We must take a breath. We must take moments to disconnect from the world and technology. We must find small moments of joy. My small moments of joy this week? I worked in front of a window this week and a turkey walked by (really!!). A friend and I walked 6-8 feet apart at the park yesterday and a beautiful dogwood tree was blooming. Small joys remind us of the importance of slowing down, breathing, and showing gratitude for the world around us.
As we become full-time online teachers (yikes!), I have experienced a lot of feelings. Some of them I can name and some of them are just there. 10 days in and I’ve had some really solid days and some days where I’ve never left my bed and worked from under the sheets. In this quick amount of time, I’ve learned that I need to develop my own rhythms and routines. A strict, colored-code schedule feels too repressive and depressing, but rhythms seem just right. So what’s working for me?
- Working in front of a window or door helps keep me ground and connected to the world, even if I’m not in it. Plus, the light helps boost my mood.
- Each morning I’ve been showering, washing my hair, and putting on work clothes. This keeps me from feeling like a slug and reminds me – I AM STILL WORKING (and very blessed to be doing so).
- I create an unplugged checklist. These are ways for getting my eyes away from a screen and my brain engaged in a hands-on task.
- My friends and I have been hosting front-porch book exchanges. Drop a stack of books and snag the ones you want. It’s been a blast and a great way to save money!
- Connecting with coworkers 2-3 times vis Google Meet. This has been huge. As a coach, I don’t belong to any building, so have a way to check-in and connect with individuals virtually helps keep me accountable and remembering “I am not alone.”
As teachers, caring for ourselves – mentally, emotionally, and physically – cannot be the cost for caring for our families and students. We matter, too.
Considering how to care for our students, we need to remember that the same chaos of feelings and overwhelm is being felt by little people too. Our first priority is safety – physical, mental, and emotional.
I will always assume families want their students to be successful. Right now, more than ever, there are a lot of competing priorities. So while I will continue providing students and families high-quality learning opportunities and experiences, they will always been an invitation. The ability to participate and continue schooling is dependent on a lot of factors that are rooted in inequity and privilege.
My commitments as an educator:
- I will not place learning over life.
- I will not shame families or students for what learning does or does not take place.
- I will always work under the positive presumption that families want the best for their student.
One way we can help provide a sense of normalcy for students is by leveraging the routines that make your classroom special to help lighten the mood and remind students “We’re here. We are still a community. I see you.” What might this look like?
- Keep writing your 3 positive notes a day. Since you won’t see students face-to-face, write one email, write one letter (and mail it), and leave one voicemail each day. Relationships matter.
- Host your daily morning meeting on Zoom or Google Meet. From 8:30-8:45 AM sing your good morning song, celebrate birthdays, and just check-in with students.
- Have school dress-up days? Have them virtually, sharing pictures and videos via Twitter, Remind, Dojo, or video.
- Remind students to take their daily special. Do laps around the house for PE, sing a special song for music, make a piece of artwork for the fridge.
Our daily routines offer a sense of safety and comfort when daily life routines are up in the air. (Below is a fun Google Slides challenge we did as a class. An opportunity to learn a new tech tool and say “Hello!” to one another!)
Learning Somewhere That’s Not School
Initially this section was labeled “Learning at Home” but realistically that’s not the case for many of our students.
As we consider using resources and tools, we must pick priorities for these coming weeks and for our learning. We will not be able to teach every standard. We won’t. So, as districts or schools or grade-level teams, we need to pick “big rocks” and work on those.
- What are the skills and learning students MUST have before moving on to the next grade.
- Which parts of our content will they not see again? What are standards that exist in x grade that don’t exist anywhere else?
These are the questions we ask. From this questions, we pick our priorities and offer families multiple access points and opportunities to support learning around these things.
Then, we make a plan for next Fall. How will these “missing” standards be included next year? What will students need? How will we fill the gaps? These are things for us to dwell on now, but we need to remember to return to these questions in July and August.
While I am all about innovation, trying new things, and being a learner…most of me says – take a breath. Let’s start with the tools we already know and our students know, and take small steps from there. Friends – this is going to be a game of stamina. This isn’t a week or two, it will be 6, 7, 8 weeks+. We have time to learn and explore. We do not need to pull out every trick known to man or offered by an educational company.
As we consider tools, what questions should we ask?
- What are we already using that we can leverage for supporting students families?
- Which tools allow students multiple access points into content?
- How can we present content so it allows work to be done asynchronously, giving families choices and flexibility to meet their needs?
- When choosing new tools – what specifically do I need?
So, which resources are my go-to’s right now?
- Communicating with Families: Remind, Dojo, or a class email list (whatever you have previously established)
- Interacting with Students: Google Meet or Zoom
- Prerecording lessons or messages: Loom or Screencastify
- Access to Texts: Epic for Kids or Audible
- Online Learning: Scholastic Learning at Home, BrainPop, and Cincinnati Zoo
Friends – take heart. There is no perfect answer for nontraditional days or remote learning. No one has the perfect solution. We are all working to ensure the safety, achievement, and opportunity for all of our students throughout this incredibly stressful time. So, we will learn and grow together. We’ll share our victories and our failures. We will take a breath and remember that the goal is progress not perfection.
Well friends, here’s to us. I’m cheering us all on in this season of life, however long it may last.
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