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.

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.