What kind of world are we living in right now? We are now a few weeks into social distancing and a week into our shelter in place policy (for Minnesota.) I know all of us can agree that this is strange, insane, weird, scary, etc. There is no one word to explain everything that is happening. This week started something else totally abnormal and weird for all of us educators in the state, distance learning.
We were under strict guidelines that the past 2 weeks were designed to plan for distance teaching. We got 2 weeks to organize and prepare our new creative ways to get information across to our students. Monday, March 30th was the first day we got to “teach” our students. It has been a crazy week to say the least just trying to adjust to that.
I wanted to share with you what are grade level team came up with just because I thought it was pretty well organized but also because I’d love to hear other ideas on how to implement distance learning the best way possible. I know that what we chose to do is very different than what I’ve heard from other teachers in and out of our district. I would love to know things that worked well in order to possibly adjust some of the things we have set in motion just to make it easier.
We decided that as a 4th grade, we were going to do the exact same thing every week and use the exact same outline for every subject. We created a 4th grade website that had all of our information on it along with PDF’s for each week’s assignments. When we came up with this idea, we split into teams to put together 8 weeks worth of lessons for each subject. We have 10 teachers on our team so we split into 3 groups. One group worked on reading, another math, and the third social/science. We had a working Google Doc for each week where we wrote out each subject’s assignments. It took a lot of work, but once we were done, we had everything laid out for parents to see and use. It made planning lessons SO MUCH EASIER because I really wouldn’t have to.
We are lucky because we are a 1:1 district. Each student has an iPad to use. These have come in so handy during this period of time. We are also very much used to using platforms like Seesaw and Google Classroom because we use them daily with our students. This made assigning and collecting work super easy. Students were able to have access to our website and their homework on their iPads and had step by step instructions right in front of them on what to do and where we wanted them submitted. This was by far the easiest part of my week! I was worried they would be confused on where to find their homework and where to turn it in but there were no problems what so ever.
One of my biggest struggles this week has been trying to meet with my class virtually online. As a district, our students were given a new app on their iPads called Google Meets. It is essentially Zoom but the Google version. I had never worked with it before so I wanted to play around with it and give it a try.
Day 1 was kind of a mess. I wanted my students to all meet at a certain time so we could all talk and see each other. For some reason, half of my class weren’t able to get one. Day 2 came and I learned how I was able to see my whole class at once and how to help them see the whole class at once (you need a certain extension otherwise Google will only show up to 4 people at a time.) I attempted this but then something went wrong and I couldn’t see a single student in the meeting. By day 3 my students were getting bummed out because we were having such a hard time getting it to work. We tried one more time but again, something went wrong. I decided then to test out Zoom. We were recommended to use Google Meets but because I’ve heard of so many teachers utilizing this tool, I thought maybe Zoom would be easier and less chaotic. We had a Zoom meeting and it worked pretty well. Some of my students weren’t able to get one but it was more successful than our Google meetings. Sadly, I guess I was not supposed to use that because I was immediately reached out to and told not to use Zoom at all. I felt bad because I didn’t know we absolutely couldn’t use it.
I had my 5th Google Meets meeting today with my class and it finally worked! I’m just crossing my fingers it continues to work in the weeks to come. I love seeing my students and being able to talk to them and listen to them talk to each other. They need that right now. Heck, I need that right now!
This week has been stressful in so many weird and different ways but I did have 3 big take aways that I learned:
- I HATE sitting at a desk staring at a computer screen all day. I need to move and do something. I have had a massive headache the past few days because I’ve been on my computer so much.
- Technology is not always your friend (I’ve already known that but this week reenforced that tenfold.) Besides having students who were having trouble opening links, my WiFi crashed Thursday morning. That was literally the last thing you want to happen when you’re supposed to be teaching from home all day online.
- I MISS MY STUDENTS. This has been the longest few weeks of my life. I love my kids and I need to be back in the classroom. Seeing them this week has been nice but it’s still not the same. I would give anything to be back with them on a daily basis.
In order to keep myself preoccupied and somewhat sane, I’ve gotten many things done (which I’m sure you all can relate to.)
- I’ve been able to read more books than normal. I usually don’t get a big chance to read in the school year but I’ve gotten a huge head start on my summer reading list.
- I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my cat. It cracks me up though because I’ve given her more attention in 2 weeks than she’s gotten total the past year and she is more whiny and clingy than ever.
- I’ve worked out more than normal. I usually have the worst motivation for that but being cooped up inside ALL DAY LONG has inspired me to get out (even if that means having to go for a run!)
- I’ve been able to keep up on my laundry and cleaning! I’ve been cleaning things over and over just to give me something to do. I’ve also done so many loads of laundry, I don’t even know how my washer is still working.
- I’ve binged on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, AND HBO. (Don’t judge okay, I’ve been behind on a lot of shows.) Tiger King anyone?
- I also have been able to be a little bit crafty which I normally don’t have time for. I’ve been inspired by the #HeartsAroundtheWorld movement that keeps showing up on social media. I decided to join in by decorating my own window.
It’s a weird time right now all over the world. I’m constantly inspired by those who are sacrificing their lives to keep us all safe and healthy. For all of you in the health care service, and everyone working essential jobs, thank you. Our world would fall apart without you. I also want to thank all of the parents out there who are trying hard to adjust to the new normal of helping their kids with school while also trying to work. I could barely get things done with my cat around let alone a child. You are all my heroes.
Things will get better. Life will go back to normal. We just have to take this day by day and be so thankful for what we have.
For more day to day action, go follow my Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher. There will be some distance learning resources being shared over the next few weeks.