I’ve been teaching for 6 days in the most surreal school year in my 27 years in the classroom.
First, our students are hybrid. We have an A/B schedule. On Monday and Thursday group A attends face to face and group B attends via Zoom. On Tuesday and Friday the groups reverse. Wednesday everyone attends via Zoom.
Our class periods are shortened to 35 minutes so our day ends at 12:40.
My classroom has between 3 and 16 students attending face to face in each period.
It’s got all the germ-X, all the wipes, and all the spray cleaners!
I’m not in it.
I have an arrhythmia that, over time, has caused my heart to weaken.
Oh and yay… I have asthma.
Basically… I can’t play covid roulette.
So I’m teaching hybrid students AND I am also virtual!!!
Maybe it sounds like a recipe for disaster… pandemic, the teacher is a head on the wall like (I’m dating myself here…) Max Headroom. 😂 Look it up all you young ones.
BUT IT ISN’T.
I’m learning some important lessons.
SLOW IS SO GOOD.
I always thought I was taking my time and teaching things very slowly. I thought I was making SURE they were acquiring. But I was not going as slowly as I have to now (because it takes me a minute to type stuff on my whiteboard in Zoom)… and my students have never been as sure of themselves as they have been the last few days.
RELATIONSHIPS COME FIRST
I was scared to death about how I would get to know kids virtually. BUT that was 180 degrees off what I’m finding.
As the virtual talking head at school, they’re still in MY kingdom. All the stuff is mine. They like to look at it, tell stories and use my props, see my pics…
…but as the virtual talking head on Zoom, they’re bringing me into THEIR space.
I’ve met their pets (SO MANY PETS… Guys… I LOVE all the pets), their little siblings, their parents, and even one neighbor’s kid who just thought Spanish sounded fun so she stayed to watch the Zoom).
This is a whole new level of meeting my students. We’ve detoured our conversations to meet Isaac’s hedgehog Chip (we won’t tell mom he was on the table) or for my dog, Sasha to stick her nose in the camera… We’re becoming a community. I wasn’t sure HOW community felt online but 6 days in, I find myself smiling ear to ear about some of the earliest signs that it is there and it will be strong.
I REMEMBERED THE JOY OF TEACHING
Guys… I graded papers yesterday. We’re doing Card Talk in 2, 3, and 4 to get back into the routine and get Spanish back in our brains after a 5 month hiatus.
After having talked about 5 days worth of peers sharing their summer activities, future goals, or plans for a million dollars, I asked them to illustrate 4 things they learned about their classmates and write a sentence or two about each one.
I smiled the WHOLE TIME I WAS GRADING THEM. I love seeing them drop in an inside joke that already happened in their class… or one that happened last year that they still remember… or just writing three sentences instead of one… or a COMPLETE SENTENCE FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER… There was so much to smile about.
THIS ISN’T GOING TO BE EASY…
It’s honestly exhausting. I have to be in “extra” mode ALL THE TIME to engage kids in person and online… so I am learning that if I build in a warm up and a wrap up, that “extra” mode can be 25 minutes long instead of 35!
This can’t be about “gotchas” and “covering the curriculum” and “rigor”(mortis)… We have to be flexible or we’re going to end up poisoning the waters we’re trying to keep them afloat in!
SO MY ADVICE TO YOU…
Love those kids… even the ones who sneak out to get a snack during class.
Ask to see the pets.
Cover less material but dig deep together and enjoy the experience.
Thank your admin.
Pat yourself on the back at the end of every day.
People told us in the spring that they were so impressed that we built the plane as we were flying it. That hasn’t stopped. This is a jumbo jet and we have a lot left to construct. Lean on your co-workers, relax with your family, and most importantly, give yourself grace.
It’s going to be a year of re-teaching ourselves as teachers but I have no doubt that from this crazy experience will come amazing new ideas and techniques that will reshape the next 100 years of education.