We Got This – Part 2

This post details my journey with We Got This by Conelius Minor. My school met to discuss the first two chapters earlier this week and it was a productive discussion that could’ve been longer. It was helpful to discuss strategies related to listening and getting to know our students better. This will be especially important as my district will be starting in a face-to-face or hybrid model soon and that’s far removed from the norm.

My highlighter was busy during chapters 3-4.

Chapter 3

We loved talking about giving kids voice while mocking the voices that they brought to school with themp. 48

I highlighted this statement as it resonates. It’s important to give kids a voice, but too often I also hear people in education speak about how that voice needs to change because it’s not “acceptable” compared what’s expected. By taking that stance, teachers take on the role of attempting to change a student’s voice to what’s deemed as more important and in the process they devalue what’s being brought from home. In my mind a student’s voice is part of their identity.

“Creating a change in your classroom impacts your students. Creating a larger change can impact your whole school” p. 65

Teachers want what’s best for their students. Innovation is often evident in schools and it originates (my take here) in individual classrooms. Teachers see the results, get excited (if it’s a positive outcome) and want to spread the news. Finding a way to communicate this to administration is sometimes a barrier as there are other directives and only so much time. I thought Minor was able to carefully articulate a number of ways to showcase why the change is necessary and how it may impact a larger population.

Chapter 4

“Some kids don’t feel like learning is a safe pursuit” p. 81

I cringed as I read this but also know it to be true. This outcome has to do with how/what a student has experienced during their learning journey. There’s a decent amount of pressure in schools. That pressure is different depending on the student and situation. Good grades and peer pressure all play a role. The perceived “mistake free zone” in a school isn’t attainable and therefore students don’t engage as a form of “failure” is guaranteed. Since it’s not safe they might decide it’s not worth the effort. Teachers have to proactively create a classroom community where students feel safe to make mistakes.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give children is the ability to advocate for themselves and for their own education” p. 92

I work with students in grades k-5 and it is a joy to see how students use their voice over time. As students progress through their elementary journey they develop and use their voice to communicate thoughts, ideas and personal reflections. Understanding how to approach and ask teachers about a particular question/topic takes initiative. Students won’t take that leap unless they feel safe. In order to advocate for themselves they need to develop their voice and be able to reflect on their own understanding compared to what’s expected. Student self-reflection plays a role here as well as how receptive a teacher is to the student. Being able to navigate and help a student develop self-advocacy skills is worth the time. I find this especially evident when an upper elementary student transfers those skills to middle school.

We Got This – Part 1

This summer I’m reading through We Got This by Conelius Minor. I’ve heard of the book and another teacher at my school raved about out last year. Based on the preview it looks like it falls in similar lines with two of the books that I read last year: This is Not a Test and White Fragility. I feel like understanding your own bias and privilege are the beginning steps in making actionable change. I’m continuing to read more to find out where I can make lasting impact.

The book is part of an optional study for the summer that was made available by my administrator. With all that has transpired over the last few months (George Floyd’s death, protests, awareness of inequalities … ) the district has taken a stance that equity should be a focus. How that turns out is anyone’s guess right now, but I believe we’re making strides in the right direction. The study group will be reading a couple chapters and then meeting over Zoom throughout the summer. Last week the group initially met to discuss the logistics and decided to read two chapters and meet every two weeks.

I kept my highlighter handy as I went through the first two chapters. I highlighted certain statements that resonated and kept them at limit to focus on particular pieces. I’m writing here to preserve my current thoughts.

Chapter 1

“The true masterminds – the real enemies – in this dystopia are the business-as-usual attitudes ..” p. 10

Over time I’ve realized the business-as-usual tendencies are often rooted in resistance to change. As an organization become larger balancing efficiency with what’s best for students tends to drive decisions at a school level. Being open to modifying or scrapping an idea for something else can be a challenge, especially when the originators of the system are not willing to budge or have been given a directive to stay the course.

“When we are inflexible in our naming, we become inflexible in our thinking” p. 10

Despite our best efforts, fixed labeling is evident in schools. Gifted, resource, special ed, striving, low, high, average, EL, kiddos (okay I threw this in there), are all labels. Once a label is fixed it’s trying to remove it from our fixed perspective. Being more flexible with categorizing can help evolve our viewpoint. Students are changing, growing and developing their own academic identities through experiences at home and school. Why should teachers affix a label that’s attached to a student as the individual learning process evolves.

Chapter 2

“Teaching without this kind of engagement is not teaching at all. It is colonization.” p. 28

The text before this statement mentions the importance of relationships that are grounded in a shared vision and collaboration. The word that bounced off of the page was colonization. When I hear the word I think of establishing control. Is that what school is for? I would assume if you ask teachers, many of them would say that having a classroom community is essential in creating an environment for optional learning. This quote reinforces how important it is to allow (I kind of cringe when writing that word as it assumes that it’s my decision) students to be empowered to be part of a community of learners.

“... Racism, sexism, ableism, and classism are systems”

“The hard part of knowing that oppression lives in systems too is understanding that systems don’t change just because we identify them; they change because we disrupt them.” p. 31

Understanding that racism is a system and not necessarily an act can take time to digest. Being aware that oppression exists within systems takes a critical eye in looking beyond business-as-usual tendencies. Identifying what/how a school culture silences, excludes and/or oppresses students is the first step. Then we move towards the disruption process.

Feedback During eLearning

I’m a couple weeks into summer and have had time to thin about the last couple months of the school year. After analyzing it a bit, I’ve come to the conclusion that feedback was one of the major challenges during eLearning.

Feedback in an actual classroom is much different compared to feedback during eLearning. I should say emergency eLearning because the plans were thrown together with very limited transition time. It’s much different when you’re able to sit and talk with a student about misconceptions. In person feedback is more effective as you can use non-verbals, see reactions, have students explain their reasoning, and make multiple attempts within a short period of time. The biggest difference is in how quickly students are able to use the feedback while in person. In the digital realm, I found myself giving feedback and a student using it much later in the day or sometimes multiple days later. Some students would respond quickly and others wouldn’t even see it for days. Part of this was due to the platform that we were using. I found that the effectiveness of the feedback was a tipping point when introducing new content and students were still having a challenging time applying the skills. Students that understood the concept and/or had help from a parent at home were able to move on and those that didn’t had trouble keeping up.

Soon after moving to eLearning I ended up developing a draft key to help with the feedback. This was made more as of a communication method to tell students that I received their work and if corrections were needed. SeeSaw allowed me to write in the comment section and that’s where I put the feedback. I wrote about some of this earlier in the year here.

√ Meets expectations
∆ Try again (and then I added feedback)

I mainly used these as they’re shortcut keys on my computer and I could quickly type them into the comment field. If a student received less than 100% they’d get a ∆. Over time my feedback turned into questions or I referred students back to the directions.

Some of the question/comment stems are below.

  • The directions state …
  • Have you considered …
  • Can you explain why you …
  • Is volume measured in …
  • How does your work show …
  • Check what I circled …
  • It looks like ____ might be missing
  • Why did you use ____ operation
  • Why did you round …

Obviously the written feedback depends on the task. Many of the tasks came out of our district’s adopted resource, but others were Google Form or from Desmos. Another factor to consider is how receptive students are to the feedback. Most students were receptive and resubmitted with a “I forgot/ I didn’t see that / That makes sense now / Thanks! / I’ll remember that next time …” Other students would say, “It’s right, I checked it / I didn’t forget anything.” In those cases I’d kindly remind them to check again or notate on the student response where additional information is needed. There were times where I gave audio feedback and that worked for a few of the students. Some students would respond to this immediately, while I had to remind others to review the feedback and resubmit.

As we inch closer to the new year I’m looking at modifying this system. Teachers and students might (as of 6/20) be in the classroom to start the year with masks and there’s a possibility that some of the instruction will be online.

So far this summer has been full of non-school reading and yard work. It’s great to recharge and get outside. While doing this I’m keeping in mind what needs to be done when we return in August.

Reflecting on the 19-20 School Year

School officially ended on Monday. It didn’t feel like a typical end of the school year as teachers said goodbye via Zoom and then shut off their computers for a little while. It’s now time to reflect, drink my coffee slowly, work on a few house projects and take some time for self care.

Before leaving for the summer I asked students to fill out a Desmos survey that I found online. It was originally created by Rachael Degnan and I edited it to reflect my students’ situation. The survey asked students about eLearning, their effort and a number of other questions related to this school year. I was able to get 44 responses in total. I’ll post the slide question and observations in the captions.

The first question asked students about elearning and instruction. In my case students primarily use the SeeSaw platform. Teachers were expected to post daily assignments in SeeSaw for students to complete. The assignments were posted by 9 am and Zoom sessions were scheduled throughout the week – some by the homeroom teacher and others by specialists. Sometimes the Zoom session related to the daily assignments other times that wasn’t the case. It was up to the teacher to decide what to assign and how to use the time during the Zoom sessions.

Most teacher assignments included some type of instruction (possibly pre-closure) or during a Zoom session/teacher instruction video. The most helpful, according to the students was trying a problem and then getting sometime of feedback from the teacher. I’d say approximately 60-70% of the assignments required a student to review the teacher feedback and make a second attempt. Some students required additional attempts. If students were still having difficulty after multiple attempts the teacher would sometimes create a brief instruction video or screencast to help.

The second question related to effort. Most students felt as though they tended to put in a good amount of effort during class. I think if I excluded it to just eLearning the results might be slightly skewed lower. Some students mentioned in the comments that they didn’t try as hard during eLearning because there wasn’t as much work expected. That’s true because the work required decreased during emergency eLearning.

Students tended to skew more positive on the improvement as a student/learner compared to the personal level. This was given to students in grades 3-5 so that’s also something to keep in mind when analyzing the results. Many students related to personal growth to making new friend and helping others in need. I saw responses like this in the student explanations. I thought that was interesting as it wasn’t something that the class discussed much in detail.

This question had responses across the entire grid. Students generally completed the math work in the morning after a homeroom class Zoom session. If a students was having trouble with a concept it was challenging to address it without seeing the student work first. I think this was tough for some students as they were able to ask for help from a parent and others were not. Some students mentioned in the comments that they couldn’t work through problems with a partner or group and that negatively impacted how they felt about eLearning. Other students were nervous and weren’t quite sure how to work their question so they gave up or left question fields blank.

A couple things stood out to me with this question. Most of the students liked completing tasks at their own pace. This doesn’t happen as much as I’d like it to in the regular classroom as schedules often limit timing. Many students mentioned they learn best in-person. This isn’t surprising and highlights the importance of being able to see a student, their work, non-verbals and use those to connect and give feedback. I believe students missed those connections.

The top vote was “getting good grades” and part of me feels sad about this. I try to devalue points/grades as much as possible and focus on the math journey instead. There’s quite a bit of pressure for these students to do well. I was glad to see maintaining friendships and building new friendships to be in the upper half of the priority list. I loop with most of my students so it’ll be interesting to see how students react when I show them this data in the fall.

Each student filled this out and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. Most students gave themselves between 5-10. Concepts that haven’t been discussed as much were in the 5 range. Again, I’ll be reviewing this with the students that I loop with in the fall.

I was initially teetering on whether to give this feedback survey. I’m glad I decided to try it out and will be parsing out more details as I dig into the data a bit more over the summer.

Now, summer officially begins.

One Week Left

It’s official. There’s only one week left of the school year. It’s been a trial-and-error emergency elearning adventure for the past couple months and we’ve almost made it. The last couple months have been challenging and there has been plenty of anxiety to go around. Fortunately, I’ve also seen grace in supply as parents and educators tread through these uncharted waters. This year has been far from normal and I’m currently planning out my last week with students.

I have one more Zoom session with each class next week. Each class will discuss the results of a cumulative quiz, review the year, take a polygraph and end with a closing message. I’m hoping to end with some closure as we prepare for a different summer and unusual fall when school starts up again.

Cumulative

Last week I gave one final cumulative quiz over the past 1-2 months of learning through a Google Form. The quiz was only around 15-20 questions, but covered content related to the last unit. I’m required to give a grade for the final trimester and this quiz was influential in reporting math progress. Some of the questions were multiple choice, while other were open response. I realize I need to up my Google Quiz game. Hoping to work on that over the summer.

I’ll be using the quiz results to discuss particular concepts that might need strengthening and to highlight areas of strengths. I’ll most likely use some type of graph that summarizes problems that were correct/incorrect. Trends will be discussed and possible opportunities for summer learning will be brought to the forefront. Usually teachers give sometime of summer work near this time of the year, but I’m going to pass this year unless otherwise directed.

Review the year

The class will then review the year. I have a class Twitter feed that I’ll take pictures from and create some type of brief slide show for the students. I also asked the students for classroom experience/memories during the last class session. I’d like to have each student talk a bit about their math experience this year (if they’d like) and then finish by introducing the class polygraph (Thanks Cathy for the idea!). Each slide has an experience or class event. Students will spend around 10-20 minutes on the polygraph. There won’t be any looking over the shoulder during this as everyone is remote. During the last couple minutes I’ll reveal the names of the partners and then we’ll come back as a group.

Closing Message

Completing this in a digital form will be new. In a normal setting I’d tell the students how proud I am to be their teacher and that I’m looking forward to hearing about all the great things that they’ll accomplish in middle and high school. I then give them a high-five or fist pump and I say a quick goodbye and keep my composure (some of these kids I’ve seen for multiple years). Obviously this year is different. I’m preparing a slide that I’ll be showing them of of how proud I am during this strange and unique time of eLearning. I still have more work to do on this slide, but I want to make it meaningful and memorable for the students.


I hope I’m able to see all of my students face-to-face next year. I’m not sure that’s going to happen and only time will tell. I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not really the end of the year. Every year in school impacts the next to a certain degree. This school year seems different and its ripples will impact next fall in ways that we’re not used to as schools scramble to figure out how to safely operate.

I hope you all have a safe end to the school year and a restful summer.

Finishing the Year with Elearning

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School to eLearning

The calendar shows we have about three weeks of school left.  At this time during a normal school year I’d be looking at my unit sequence and schedule my final unit assessments.  I’d also be organizing how I want to end the school year.  I’d usually have a final exam about a week before the end of the year then have a decent amount of time for student reflection and plan a few fun end of the year activities. The last day of the year is always field day and where the school claps out the fifth graders as they prepare for middle school. During that day teachers wave to the busses as students adventure onwards towards their summer.  We wish the students well and tell them we look forward to seeing them in the fall.

Obviously this year is different. With three weeks left I’m looking at an unrealistic pacing guide, have decided to consolidate lessons and am making a priority to check in with students more often. I’ve had to change my own expectations in a realization that emergency eLearning isn’t the same as being in school.  Not even close.  I’ve had to become even more flexible with my own expectations regarding student participation nd missing work. Tracking down missing work digitally isn’t ideal. Students are turning in assignments between 8:30 (when they’re posted) all the way until 9:00 that night or later. Students have been fairly receptive to feedback as around 60% of students need to resubmit an assignment for a second attempt.  This doesn’t happen in the regular classroom.  Because we have less assignments there’s more of an emphasis on completing quality work.  That’s a win in my book.  Students have been consistent with attending Zoom meetings during the last few weeks.  I’ve added more interactive pieces to these sessions as reading off slides for 10-20 minutes is ineffective.  I’ve had more success with using Padlet, Quizziz, interactive sites and question/answer sessions with Zoom.  Referencing other assignments and reviewing the work completed during the week in Zoom sessions has been helpful to some students.  Keeping with similar school routines with questions via a Google Form have helped keep some of the normalities of my class during the past month.  The class then reviews the questions and answers during the Zoom meeting.

I’m in the process of planning out the next three weeks. I want to continue to provide quality experiences for kids, but also realize the limitations of teaching remotely.  Those experiences look different depending on the grade level.  I’ve been attempting to have a variety of assignments throughout the week.  I’ve been picking and/or creating assignments that relate to the lesson from the resources below.

Some of these are used more often than others. The adopted text sheets are used more than others. I try to use 1-2 days of the week for a Google From quiz or Desmos activity.  Those days are designed to review concepts and provide more direct feedback.  When students complete the quiz they receive a score and get to review the results.  Same with Desmos as students can self-check.  The starter slides are also great to check in with students.

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I have a few ideas to think about for the the last few days of school. Last year I used a Desmos polygraph to reflect on our math experiences and am thinking about doing something similar.  I want to close out the year with students feeling like they belong and have made positive progress during their elearning math adventure.

Didn’t think I’d say this last year, but I’m now off to plan digital math experiences for my students.

Elearning Wins and Obstacles

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The governor extended the stay at home order throughout the month of May. With that order schools are now physically closed for the remainder of the year.  I think most thought this might happen, but it wasn’t confirmed until last week.  Having a sense of closure of what’s expected moving forward was relieving, but at the same time understanding that we won’t be able to meet with the kids again this year is disappointing. It’s bittersweet. When meeting classes through Zoom you can tell that this pandemic and closure is taking a toll on all of us.

With all that being said, we’re trying to push forward.  There are five weeks left on the instructional calendar.  Moving abruptly to emergency eLearning hasn’t been a walk in the park and there has been a lot of anxiety. The increased amount of planning has caused a massive amount of stress, but I believe most teachers in my district feel like their feet are on a bit more solid ground compared to about a month ago.  Professional development is happening more consistently and everyone seems to understand (not accepts) that this new normal is in place for the remainder of the school year.  Coming to terms that the education structure has changed isn’t simple. Through this process of tinkered, tweaked and took some risks in trying to find out what works best with this new medium. Personally, I’ve found some ideas/strategies that have worked well and others that have downright bombed.  I’m keeping a list of the technology tasks here so I can reflect (and hopefully use again!) back on them. Feel free to use and remix as you see fit. Just like in a normal classroom I’ve found certain ideas have worked well with eLearning and other haven’t. I’ll be noting wins (some instruction, some structural) and ideas/platforms that are on the fence below.  Let’s start off with the wins.

Wins

SeeSaw – I’m required to post daily math assignments through SeeSaw and it’s been a great tool so far. I generally post a brief message to the class and a link or a page that the class would normally complete if we were together.  Students will complete the assignment, I review it, offer feedback and send it back to students if they need to redo something.  Right now about half (yes I said half!) of the students redo and resubmit the assignment for a second attempt.  This process has actually been helpful as students use the feedback to make changes.

Desmos – I’ve been using Desmos with all of my classes this year.  More so now then I did when in a physical school. I’ve been borrowing tasks found here and creating my own that match what I’m teaching.  One of the game changers has been the self-checking and feedback slides. Students are able to take as much time as needed to eventually find a solution.  This has been a great way to provide correct/incorrect feedback without being there in person.  Also, really enjoying the “starter” and “checking in” screens.

Google Forms – I use Google Forms for parents to sign up for activities or clubs.  Haven’t really used them beyond that purpose until this week.  I gave a Google Form to my 4th and 5th graders on Monday and we discussed the results when we met live via Zoom. Later in the week I gave my 5th grade group a brief graded quiz on concepts that we’ve been discussing.  I’ve also been able to incorporate spaced practice within the forms. Students were able to see how they performed immediately afterwards, which is a win in my book.

Teams – I feel fortunate to have a supportive teaching team to discuss ideas with.  Moving from a regular classroom to remote learning has been a challenge and my team has been fairly consistent in the process.  It certainly hasn’t been easy, but having a supportive team and new administration that has done a fantastic job with the navigation has helped.

Upper Fence

Zoom – Being able to see your students live is important, especially when there’s been such a change in instruction.  My meetings last around 20-30 minutes and the first few minutes is allocated to seeing how everyone is doing.  The class says good morning and then we settle into a math routine.  Third grade works on an Estimation180 task, fourth with a Who am I, and fifth with SERP’s pre-algebra.  The class then is introduced to a new concept through Google Slides.  Students have opportunities to ask questions and then we say goodbye.  Some students stay longer to ask questions or tell me about something going on in their lives that they’d like to share.  I haven’t had much success with the polling option (it isn’t available) and breakout rooms need to have another adult in the room so that’s not always feasible. The chat is a mixed bag and I feel like I’m policing whenever it’s available. I’m adding an additional Zoom session for my students that might need extra support this week.  I’m anticipating some positive results.

Instructional Videos – I’ve made a few instructional videos over the past couple weeks.  The videos are between 2-5 minutes and discuss particular problems that the class explores during our live sessions.  I think it adds another personal element, which is needed during this time, but I’m not 100% sold on the effectiveness of the videos.

Google Slides – Most of my Zoom meetings include some type of lesson.  I’ve been using Slides for this and am trying to keep the classroom routine similar to our face to face interactions.  I tend to create one deck with all my grade levels.  The first slide includes a title, then the objective and then eventually into the lesson.  The decks are short, usually less than 10 slides.  I try to make them interactive, but there’s a lot of be desired and part of that is due to the time it takes in the creation process.  One of the benefits is that I can send the class the slides after the lesson as a review. Maybe I need to look into more options/templates for this medium.  So far it’s worked ok, but nothing to write home about.

Lower Fence

Quizziz – I use this frequently during face to face instruction (probably more than any), but not as much during remote learning.  There’s some competition involved with Quizziz and it doesn’t work as well if people are using it at different times.  There’s feedback embedded, which makes it a decent option.

Nearpod – Again, I use this in the regular classroom.  I love the draw option where students can show you their work, but students aren’t aware of how well they’re doing and what’s correct or not.

Adopted Text screenshots – By screenshots, I mean taking a workbook/worksheet resource and using it as an assignment that is sent back and forth through SeeSaw.  I think many teachers feel obligated to use the district resource in an effort to stay consistent with the scope and sequence. Also, this falls into the digital worksheet realm, which has pros/cons. I think there’s a lot of potential here, it just hasn’t been collectively used yet

Time – Managing time working from home has its challenges.  I’ve been digging my commute, but haven’t yet settled into the new normal. Since I’m not able to easily check in with students, I’ve been working longer at creating content/finding resources that provide meaningful feedback to students. I’ve attempted to balance the amount of increased screen time with getting outside and enjoying the weather when I can.  I’m making progress and believe other teachers are in similar situations.


I’m certainly not ranking the platforms/ideas, but instead showing what seems to be working well or not so well during this transition to emergency eLearning.  Platforms that provide opportunities to for feedback and multiple attempts are more helpful than others.  I’ve been able to curate many resources because of the fantastic #Mtbos and #iteachmath communities.  I’m looking forward to making the next five weeks memorable and beneficial as we continue to move into uncharted waters.

Week 3 of eLearning

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My class finished up their third week of eLearning today.  Tomorrow is a scheduled non-school attendance day so today ends the school week.  I think most teachers are still figuring out how to balance and cope with what’s changed over the past couple weeks.  A historical event is playing out before our eyes and the learning environment for our students (and us) has significantly changed.  Even with all this being said, I believe we (using the collective educator we) are making progress. We’re adapting, learning new skills and attempting to reach students through a different medium.  I believe Llana’s Tweet sums up my thoughts fairly well.

Since student work is now being turned in digitally teachers now return the work in the same manner. Right now students complete assignments and return them through SeeSaw (at least at the k-5 level in my district).  The assignments take many different forms.  Some of the them are digital while others are pulled from district adopted resources.  Most of the assignments include some type of written response or visual model.  Assignments are sent out once a day and students send them back to the teacher completed. Once a student’s finished assignment hits the teacher’s SeeSaw inbox the teacher has the option to accept the work, send the work back, or add comments.  Usually teachers add a comment about the work and send it back to the student. Here’s where the feedback/analysis comes in.  Take these two different examples.

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With limited information available, a couple questions come through my mind when taking a look at both of these responses.

  • Does the student understand the question?
  • What made the student decide on using multiplication?
  • Why did one student use 40 and the other 3.5?
  • Did one student forget to move the decimal point?
  • Which student has a better understanding of the concept?

Identifying misconceptions and offering feedback based on that analysis is becoming more of the norm with eLearning. This is part of the regular classroom experience, but is emphasized even more now as contact is limited. Asking the student for more information and/or a well planned question to encourage the student to rethink their answer might help here. Giving feedback through digital means isn’t a simple task.  It takes thoughtful consideration and thankfully I’ve had the student more 3/4 of the year so that helps frame some of my own thinking.  As I contemplate how to give feedback in a more meaningful way, I’m planning on using a coding key for SeeSaw activities.

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This is similar to the NY–M retake sheets that I used during non-learning days.  I’m hoping this is helpful (along with the feedback!) as we continue into week 4 next Monday.  Enjoy the weekend everyone!

A New Normal

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Last week all of my classes spent their time at home.  They participated in “eLearning” by  visiting a district website, picking their grade level and choice board activities.  Most of the feedback from the community was very positive.  The kids were engaging in content and the choice element was a bonus.  This week we have spring break and I’ve spent a good amount of time outside and away from school work.  I went on a walk outside this morning and ran into many different chalk drawings.  The kids can’t wait to get outside and return to something normal.

As we’re mid-week now, I’m noticing a couple trends.  We still don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last.  Right now school is supposed to resume on April 8th, but that doesn’t seem feasible.  Some districts have closed their doors for the entire year and have gone straight to eLearning.  I’m looking at you Virginia and Kentucky! State testing has been abolished (okay, more like canceled just for this year). Some states have pushed their soft opening date later down the line even closer to the end of school. More will probably follow, but that’s the current status until we get more information from the state of department of education.  The stock market continues to wildly change and the ticker at the bottom of the televisions indicate the new pandemic numbers.  It’s stressful.

Looking forward there are some things that have become apparent.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that as a country, I don’t think we were prepared to teach solely online with eLearning (more like emergency eLearning). Many districts scrambled to get devices into students’ hands in order to send them home for a prolonged period to time to be determined later.  Immediate etrainings and putting together lessons/resources were quickly slotted on agendas and superintendents sent out mass communication emails indicating safety and learning.  For the most part and from what I’ve observed, administrators have done a stellar job in keeping staff and parents informed of what’s happening even though the news is changing so frequently. I’m finding that updates are pushed out and emails are read a bit more critically nowadays.  A “high importance” email has become more of the norm lately. Next week my district will begin it’s second week of eLearning.  It’s not all rainbows, but I believe the first week was a success and I believe we’ll build on that and offer more ways to transition instruction online.

Teachers are often expected to be flexible and pivot as needed.  Fire drills, assemblies, loud speaker interruptions, weather delays, and many other instances highlight the flexibility that teachers often exhibit as they pivot their instruction and make decisions  quickly.  The type of pivoting is now different.  Teachers are now sent into this online world where the expectations are different. Some teachers take to this better than others, but it’s different than what most are used to.  Instead of using educabulary like essential questions and mastery objective, teachers are figuring out how to use Zoom and SeeSaw. Teachers are relying on each other to figure out how to make this situation work. The learning curve is high and teacher are rising to the challenge. Right now differentiation and feedback look different and priority is given to issues regarding access and opportunity. We don’t know how long eLearning will last this year, but I’m fairly confident that it has added to our skill set and has made us better educators in the process.  Ideally, I’d rather be in the classroom and be with my students as we explore pre-algebra concepts together.  I want to be able to see them as we explore functions and algebraic expressions.  I’m a bit anxious even thinking that school might be online for the rest of the year (hoping that doesn’t happen) as I wasn’t able to say goodbye to the students that I’ve looped with over the years.  Regardless, the cards have been dealt and educators and school are working for the best outcomes. We need to make the best of it whether it’s online or in person.  I’m optimistic for the next transition as we reach students through a different medium.

eLearning, Questions and Equity

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Last Thursday night news reports starting mentioning that schools in my area were closing down because of the COVID-19 virus. Early Friday morning teachers in my district participated in a two hour eLearning training. This was brand new to teachers. We’re not a 1:1 device district and technology tools are used, but it’s use is inconsistent.  During the training coaches introduced a landing page that K-5 students will visit (starting Monday) during an elearning day.  Students will visit the page, select their grade, subject area, and pick a certain amount of tasks to complete each day.  A lot of work went into creating the landing page. Coaches and administrators helped create the page and also made sure it aligned to the state expectations so it counts as an official school day. After introducing the page and the expectations for staff and students, teachers were left to ask questions. There were so many questions and anxiety was running high.  t was stressful, but I felt more comfortable after the training than before.  As the training went on the presenters started to briefly discuss issues relating to equity and eLearning.  I thought this was interesting and am going to write down a more than a few questions that come to mind regarding these topics.

  • What about students that don’t have internet access at home?
  • What about students that receive free/reduced meals?
  • What about childcare?
  • What about students that aren’t familiar with the technology tools that are used?
  • What role do school libraries play with ensuring all students have books?
  • Can students make up multiple days in one?
  • What happens if a teacher needs to take a sick day at home?
  • What about the social aspects of learning?
  • Can individual teachers post activities for their students to complete
  • How do you know that students complete the tasks?
  • How does differentiation look with eLearning?
  • How are students assessed with eLearning?

These are just a few questions and some of them were addressed during the training.  Childcare, access to internet and free/reduced meals are such important issues and I think they could be discussed even more.  I’m wondering how many families that are in need will reach out and ask?  Honestly, I’m not positive.  Being proactive is key here and this is uncharted territory.

Later on that Friday teachers and students were informed that school will be closed all next week.  Some students were excited while you could tell others were crushed.  The realization that they won’t be able to see their friends, their teacher, work together and be part of the established routines was challenging for some kids.  As they left I gave them a fist bump and told them I’ll see them after spring break.  I’ll miss working with them and the social aspect of learning is a big part of my classroom.

Over and over again on Friday I was told that we need to be flexible.  The key is that we’ll need to pivot (seems to be the key work of the year) with eLearning and make changes as needed. It’s not going to be perfect and there will be bumps and redirections. I’m optimistic and am glad that students have the opportunity to still engage in content, but it’s significantly different than what they’d experience in the classroom.