Hybrid Model 2020

It has definitely been a while since I posted. Since the pandemic hit and we closed school on March 13, 2020 it was all I could do to keep my job going. Everything that we knew has changed and is different. Teachers had to reinvent themselves immediately. And now still exhausted from last spring, teachers have to reinvent ourselves again.

I teach in a Connecticut, a state, which thankfully has a low number of cases of COVID-19. In CT, all towns can choose their method of going back to school. In my case, our town felt that hybrid was the safest for kids. What that means is that the school system was basically split in two. Half was last names A – Kl and the other half was Ko-Z; more or less. There were changes made based on childcare. But you get the idea. Cohort A comes on Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday everyone is home. Cohort B comes on Thursday and Friday. Families could also choose complete Distance Learning. In that case, those students would just be with the “at home” cohort every day. Children from home would be expected to log into the computer and learn right along with the students in school. My school has done an incredible job of getting computer and internet to everyone, so that part is not an issue.

Teachers started on August 24th with a week of professional development. During this week, we learned about new regulations in regards to COVID-19. Students would stay as close to 6 feet apart from each other. Everyone would be wearing masks all the time. There would be mask breaks, whole class bathroom breaks (where students would enter the bathrooms one at a time), one way hallways and lots of sanitizing. All flexible seating is gone. Desks are in rows and facing forward. Specials like art and music would be in the classrooms. (During this week, I also tripped and completely sprained my ankle)

Students came on Monday the 31st; cohort A. We were graced with early released time and we only taught the in person learners. This was not your typical back to school, get to know you, team building. Instead, we did lots of social emotional work with picture books. We did tons of computer work. Third grade is a big grade for beginning to use computers. We usually spend the month of September practicing and getting better and by the end of September, we have created our first Google Slide. We did not have the luxury of time this year. Cohort B, I would only see for two days before they had log on from home. So, that first week, there was much work to be done.

So, we got to work. We practiced logging in to the computer. We found Google Classroom. We sent emails. We typed in Google Slides. Then we shut down and did it all again. But, you know what else we did, we smiled and we laughed. And the children, they were happy. They just wanted to be at school. And I didn’t want them to feel any of my stress, we laughed some more. And we did masks breaks and listened to music when we worked. We did the best we could to make it feel normal and the best we could to learn Google Apps. We also learned Flipgrid (a place where students can create and share videos with each other) as I know that magic it creates for students. The hardest part for us was in saying goodbye for almost a week each time.

This week started our hybrid for real. What that looks like is I have a Cohort A in class. Cohort B at home. Complete distance learners are also at home. I create a lesson like I did during Distance Learning in the spring. For me, that looks like a Google Slideshow where all the lessons are attached or linked to it. Some lessons I have prerecorded and the link is in the slideshow. Everything the child needs in the slideshow.

Those lessons drop into the child’s Google Classroom at 8:30. Kids at home log on and check the lessons out. Students at school log in and check their emails and get ready for the day. At 8:45 I have a whole class Google Meet. That means that students at home join via video. We go over the the day together as a class and do a lesson. We then sign off. Students at home work on their work (which is all in the Google Slides, with prerecorded lessons) Students in class are with me and we are doing more or less the same thing. We all meet back up at 12:45 for another Google Meet. This one is to go over the morning work and for a read aloud.

Students at home are asked to write down questions and email me or ask during one of the Google Meet. The problem is that I cannot help like I did during full Distance Learning, because I have students in front of me. (I am thinking about checking my email more throughout the day, which is something I don’t normally do) This week I saw a need to leave a little bit of time at the end of each day to help the cohort in front of me with some of the trouble they had when they were at home.

The planning takes an exorbitant amount of time. The teachers I know work a lot anyways, but this is more than that. I cannot speak for anyone else but I am averaging about 11 hour days and my brain is not turning off ever. Last spring, planning and answering questions was all I did. Now I am teaching during that time. Our classrooms are being used for specials and lunch, so there is no quiet time after school.

However, as hard as I am working, I am TRYING to keep perspective. I told the kids we were on a great adventure where we get to make the rules. We get to decide what we like because this has never been done before. They liked that. Also, in a twitter chat one of colleagues had said he is looking at it like a problem and finding ways to solve it. That really spoke to me. I also know that at the end of the day, we are talking about children. Eight year old children. When my daughter’s were 8, what kind of classroom would I want them in? What kind of teacher would I want leading them?

I also know how stressful this must be on parents, especially parents of multiple children. I could not imagine what I would have done if my children were younger. I want to keep that grace and understanding.

Right now, our district has said by the end of September, the decision will be made whether we will go back to school fully on October 13th. I have learned through this pandemic that no one even knows what tomorrow brings

My Favorite Number – Distance Learning Style

If you have been reading my blog, you know that for Distance Learning math, I have been having the students complete Choice Boards. Choice Boards consist of about 12 activities they can choose to do. There is a varying level of skill associated so kids differentiate for themselves. See below.

After having done them for about 5 weeks, I wanted to change things up. So I put a call out to twitter and was answered by Mary Anne Matys of Massachusetts. She had several suggestions for me. The one that stuck was My Favorite Number. (Isn’t is awesome how I can put out a question on the internet and someone I have never met before shares with me?!). She then shared several of her students work. I also began researching it. This looked like fun!

I decided to use the number 100. Here are the directions the students got. I also did a quick video explain and we talked about it in Google Meet. Students had to have certain items (like odd and even, square etc) and also figure out how their number was important to the world. Below is the requirements I had

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Then I had the students submit their work onto Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a place where students can videotape themselves. Other students can view and then comment with a video.

I wasn’t sure how this entire project was going to work. I had a vision of what I thought it would look like, but I have also noticed that things get lost in translation through the internet. However, I thought I would give it a try! I was also wondering how they would share their project, if they are on the computer and they did their project on the computer. Flipgrid does have the option to share your screen, but would they be able to do that? However, my theory is that if you don’t put limits on kids they will surprise you every time. And they did..

Students who used Google Slides to make their project learned how to share their screen and present. Some made a poster and shared that. Other chose to just read the information onto Flipgrid.

I completely enjoyed each and every single one of these! They were creative and imaginative and incredibly well done. The fact alone that I had 8 year olds using technology to write a report on Google Slides, which had different background, clip art and transitions between slides AND using technology to share with their friends was incredible to me.

During this time of COVID, students have become problem solvers. One of my students wanted to share her favorite number in different languages. She had a page on her Google Slideshow that had her favorite number in different languages. She would then ask Alexa (the computer you can talk to) and say, “Alexa what is 15 in Spanish”. Alexa would answer and my student would repeat what she said.

I loved this project. It just showed so much! How willing teachers are to help out other teachers, how far the students have come in technology skills, the problem solving students have learned since COVID, as some math.

See below for some pictures from various projects.

Unfinished

On Friday, I walked into my classroom for the first time in months. A heavy bag bursting with unused teacher manuals, teaching manipulatives, and other things I thought I would use, but didn’t, weighed down my shoulder. I gripped a piece of scrap paper with my to-do list scribbled on it. The time started to tick, knowing that we only had two hours to prepare for the summer.

Mentally, I considered what I had to do. Two hours is not a lot of time when you have to pack up a year into little bags and prepare to shut down an unfinished classroom. I quickly decided on my plan of attack, put a playlist on my phone, and finished my coffee. I couldn’t dwell on the reason why I was there, why I was packing up for summer three weeks before I was supposed to, why there weren’t Littles filling up my room, why I was putting together bags for students.

My priority was packing up the bags. I started by emptying desks, pulling out books, and making piles. One for each of the Littles that weren’t sitting on our rug. Our rug, our meeting spot. Where we listened to stories, watched math videos, had class meetings, playing games and danced. It wasn’t lost on me the irony of putting all their stuff where they normally were. In their piles were unfinished Fundations (phonics) materials, scribbles and drawings and free writes from the beginning of the year to now, a math notebook with only two units ripped out, folders with unfinished work and morning work, and writing samples from the first day until March.

Once the piles were made, I had to put each into a little trash bag. At one point, it got too much for me and I felt my eyes prickle. It’s hard to describe these emotions. On one hand, you understand because of the severity of this cruel disease. On the other hand, you feel your heart break because of the things you’re missing with these little bodies and souls that became part of your family.

I know these Littles weren’t missing out on graduations or big dances, but when you’re six and seven, the small things are the big things. I’m twenty-four and these are big things! Spring is such a special time of teaching, when the snow melts away and you’re left with outdoor learning, projects, field trips, and when the flowers bloom and you look back to August and are blown away by where you started and where you are now.

One of my favorite things about first grade is all of that growth you see in a school year. When they come to you, they’re still kindergarteners, still learning how to “do school.” Then come January, they grow, they mature even more but are still children, still excited about everything. By the time we return from April break, they are basically second graders, shooting up physically, academically, behaviorally, socially. They are (almost) big kids. And we’re missing out on that.

They missed their beach field trip, and terrarium projects, first grade picnic, and three months of being together, making memories, learning, growing together.

After I piled everything into their bags, I stuck their names onto it, awaiting patiently to be picked up by their little owners. I placed them gently in the hallway, lined up just like my Littles would be. Except, the bags were in a straight, alphabetical, quiet line. In the morning, my Littles would be twisting and turning to talk to each other, little voices ringing out and making the hallway become alive.

Once that was done, I quickly began sweeping through my room, running through the many things that needed to be done to lock up for the summer. I labeled ~everything~ for when it is removed. I stacked stacks upon stacks on my back counter to clean up the floor. I put away old books, old read alouds, old student books from their book boxes, took down sight words and decorations and New Years Resolution posters. I took down my calendar, which never had anything after Thursday, March 12, flipped over. (I’ve seen so many teachers post about their calendar and it completely resonates with me, too. Our calendars are frozen in time, just like our classroom, just like the time we assumed we would get, but didn’t.)

By the time my afternoon was up, I was exhausted and dusty. Everything was labeled, student bags knotted, floor clear of as much as I could. The knot in my chest tightened as I began to pack up my things and do one look around. Although it’s not the place that makes a classroom, it’s the Littles, I can’t help but thinking how much I’d rather be in my classroom with them.

When I finished student teaching, I remember talking to my mom about feeling “unfinished.” “We didn’t have enough time together, Mom!” And that’s so very clearly how I feel now. We didn’t have enough time. Mom said, when I finished student teaching, “it won’t feel the same in your own classroom. In your own classroom you have nine months of giving it all to them. And when June comes, they’re ready. They’re ready for a new teacher, new friends, new experience.” Now, I don’t feel ready. I gave as much as I could in the classroom and am giving as much as I can online, it just feels different. It feels unfinished.

But as we wrap up the last few weeks of school, my heart bursts thinking of my little ones. I am so proud of their resiliency, their hard work, their willingness to learn, their adaptability, their love of learning. (And that thanks can’t go without thanking their guardians and adults, who have embraced this change and have been incredibly patient with me as I try new things to see what works best for us.)

Even though we don’t know what the future will hold for this class, I cannot be any prouder of them. I am forever grateful that I was their teacher.

The only saving grace to that really tough day was seeing this Little (from a safe, social distance) three days before her seventh birthday. Love you miss you, Little!

A School Year Undone

On March 13, 2020, the students attended their last physical day for the 2019 – 2020 school year. They walked out the doors expecting to be back in two weeks. Teachers in my district spent that Monday 3/16 preparing. Up until yesterday, I had been back only once and only for 30 minutes to grab everything I could to make this Distance Learning as successful as it could.

Yesterday, I went back to clean up my classroom and do some end of the year filing. I had to hustle to get my work done in my physical classroom so that I could go home to my virtual one and help as needed there.

Walking into my classroom was completely overwhelming. At first, it looked like a classroom that had been closed up for the summer. All the desks were empty, with no name tags, and were in the middle of the classroom. A large cabinet on wheels was pulled away from the wall. Then, on closer inspection, I noticed that work that had been on walls were either in a pile, hanging off the wall or were on the floor. There was evidence all around me that this had once been a living, breathing classroom. And now it wasn’t.

While I hadn’t seen the date on the board of March 13 (I am notorious for not remembering to put the date on the board) like other teachers have reported having to witness. What I did see was my students all around me. Evidence of a year left undone.

Our March Book Madness project, still on the wall, only made it to round 2. Fraction people were falling off the wall. Our map of the world and all the places we Mystery Skyped was hanging literally by a string. The blankets we were making for Project Linus were in the closet. It was a real bizarre, unsettling feeling that I have never experienced before.

But, I had work to do. I didn’t have time to indulge in those feelings until the work had been completed. So, I adjusted my crown, like every other teacher in America, and got it done. I grabbed paper bags and stuffed them with all the students’ supplies, work and notebooks not yet taken. I took things off the walls. I filed papers and filled out folders. I took one last look around and then I left.

When I got into my car, it was just so weird. I thought a lot about my students; how they will not have all that third grade spring has to offer. Projects will go undone. Field trips will be cancelled. We will never have that time together and there has been no real closure.

When we look back on this year, I hope I did enough. I hope it was enough for them. I hope I was enough. I made mistakes. I tried to get better. This Distance Learning required a whole different skill set, that I did/do not possess. Many skills I will not use again.

We still have three and a half weeks left. It is time to dig deep. While these 8 and 9 year olds are not missing graduations, proms and big important things. They are missing their every day. They are missing friends, school, and teachers. So, it is my job to do the best I can for the next three and a half weeks.

Three and a half weeks…

Distance Learning for Room 114

Hello and welcome to Week 8 for my online classroom! Yes it is hard, no it is not ideal, but wow have I learned a lot. I’ve been able to stretch and push and think and change and adapt and update my thinking (and my technology usage).

This week, I changed some of what I was doing. For some reason, that was really hard for me. But why?? In the classroom, month to month, week to week, day to day, minute to minute, and honestly and most importantly, second to second, I’m constantly changing. I’m evaluating what’s best for the kids (and asking them what’s best for them) and making snip snap decisions. Do they need more time? Do they need more help? Do they need me to let them be? Do they need a stretch, a brain break, a song? Or, technique-wise- did that work? Too easy? Too hard? And then, my favorite question, what can I do different?

So this week, I tried to make it easier on my families as they navigate these platforms. And I realized that it’s okay to change. I explained to them in our morning meeting and in our Google assignment how things were going to look a litttttle different but still at the core, the same to what we’ve been doing.

But as I am updating my teaching style, I wanted to report back as to what I’ve been doing.

Hi and welcome to Miss Iwanicki’s Class 2019-2020 (Online Learning Version)!

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When you enter my class, you’re greeted by two elephants (a nod to my favorite animal and my study abroad time in Cape Town).

We’ve been using Google Classroom as a way to organize assignments, announcements, materials. This is what it looks like once you open one of our daily assignments:

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So I’ve been using daily Google Slides since the beginning, but this week I made the switch to make a copy for each student. This is HUGE because now they can type and edit each of the slides, whereas before I had experimented with commenting on the assignment (which honestly, just didn’t work great for us and you know what, that is perfectly ok because we are trying to teach and learn during a pandemic and not everything will work but we’re all doing the best we can!!!!).

Also as you can see, ~everything~ is linked onto the daily chart. This is to make it as accessible as I can for my kiddos and their adults helping them out. I’ve also been translating the daily assignments / morning messages into Spanish, tapping into my high school / college education, to help some of my Spanish-speaking families. I am really rusty and out of practice, but I hope translating it helps remove another barrier that families are facing during this time.

We also do a lot of FlipGrid, which I am low-key (high-key) obsessed with. (I got my Level 1 FlipGrid Educator badge and am currently working on my second!!)

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I wish I could share some examples but for the sake of student privacy, I will not. But I will tell you that hearing their voices and seeing their faces has been a life saver for all of us. We do Journal weekly as I have been encouraging them to write 2-3 times a week to record what’s going on in their Little lives. (I’ve told my families many times, that if it gets to be too much, I just want them reading, writing, and doing a little bit of math every day….and that we’ll get through this together!)

We also do a Fun FlipGrid every week, which has included Masked Student (think Masked Singer but more open ended), Joke of the Day, #FlipHunt, and Guess Who? It’s fun to not have any expectations and just see each other.

Speaking of seeing each other…..BLOG photo

We Zoom! (Again for the sake of children’s privacy and their right to consent, no faces!) This week we went on a field trip to the moon! We’ve also done Show and Tell, dance parties, science projects, and just chit chat. Although these are stimulatingly exhausting, they are also a heart and bucket filler. Seeing them in real time has been refreshing, for both me and them.

We also do a lot of reflecting. (Because their reflecting helps me reflect and then helps me adjust to then ask them to reflect again in a beautiful reflecting cycle.) They have gotten SO good at goal setting (and busting!) and reflecting, themselves. So after some activities, they let me know how they did….

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Like this Little, who did, knock it out of the park. The cool part is when they’re honest with me too, about when they needed a lot of help. (That goes into my notes and I send a comment back asking what exactly was tough.)

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We do a weekly check-in too! This was back from the second week of online school. I also put in a question for guardians to answer, in case they needed something or needed to let me know something. As you can see, there’s a lot going on and a lot of varied responses! All important and all another way for me to connect with my Littles. (Side note- this was a freebie from one of my First Grade Facebook groups – thank you SO much to the teacher who created it!)

Well, I think we’ve reached the end of our tour. Thank you for stopping by! It’s a lot, and I am so thankful to my families who are all doing their absolute best to keep their children safe, healthy, happy, and learning. I miss my Littles terribly, and can’t wait until we get to see each other again!!

PS This Friday is a professional development day and I am heading into my classroom for a two-hour slot to clean up, back up, and bag up my room (including 16 little bags to put in a year worth of learning for my Littles to pick up). Stay tuned for a post then, too.

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For The Rest Of The Year?

Yesterday our governor pronounced that schools are closed for the rest of the year. I’ve seen Facebook posts and Tweets and Instagram stories from other teachers expressing their sorrow, their heart-break, their worry.

I don’t think I’ve been hit by that yet.

Don’t get me wrong, it definitely will. Even starting to type this, I feel my eyes get heavy with the tears that will eventually come. But my way of dealing with grief, exhaustion, is to keep on trucking until time lets up, so this weekend I will probably be a wreck.

It’s kind of ironic that the closure was announced on Teacher Appreciation Day, in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week. Wherever I look, I see teachers and educators working their booties off. I see an overwhelming amount of free resources, webinars, collaboration, Zoom faculty meetings and grade level meetings, posts supporting each other and guardians/families expressing their appreciation for us. I can’t express my how my admiration for this career and other educators has increased ten-fold since the school closures.

Even as we come together to give our kiddos the best experience, my heart is breaking, shattering, crumbling for these kids across the nation. For my 16, we didn’t get to say goodbye. That Thursday we went home, I said goodbye and see you soon and gave high-fives, hugs, hand holds, all of thinking that we would at least, see each tomorrow. That Thursday night when we got the news, it was only for two weeks. Then three weeks later it was for a month, then two. Now? For the rest of the year?

But….

We had so much left to do! We had books to read and dances to dance and songs to sing. We had math to do and terrariums to build and field trips to go on. We had jokes to laugh and memories to make and love to build. We had good days and bad days and days in between. We had so much to learn and love and grow. Together.

To be clear, I understand the severity of this cruel disease. And I understand keeping our Littles safe. And now I’m seeing articles and pictures of children returning to school with added safety precautions. With hats on their head to encourage social distancing and only one child per table and mandated hand washing on the hour and lunch in classrooms and only small groups for recess and alternate days or AM / PM sessions for smaller class sizes. That reality, frankly, scares me. The uncertainty of the fall scares me. I know we’ll be okay, but right now, these emotions are heightened and precarious and undefined.

And to that,what if “normal” is not what I’d like to go back to? What if this is the time to reflect and improve? Thinking about teaching practices and pedagogy and philosophy (and honestly in society too). There are some days where I need to unplug and take a deep breath, but this is also a time to reset. I think.

But for now, my focus is making sure these Littles have their best online learning yet. We do fun FlipGrids and see AR animals (thanks Google!) and see each other for themed Zooms. We share our writing and are making math riddles and still listen to good books. We are still making memories, even though it’s through a screen. They still know Miss Iwanicki loves them and misses them and will always always always be there for them. (And if they forgot, Miss Iwanicki will tell them over Zoom or FlipGrid or Morning Message or in hand-written letters.)

Even though it’s not person-to-person, it’s still personal. We’ll be okay, because we’re doing it together.

Lastly, thank you to the front-line workers, who are battling this now so eventually we can improve and make a new normal. You are all heroes.

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This is the last picture I took in my room. Everything had been sanitized. My counters were clear (for the first time ever). Chromebooks unplugged, book boxes on the floor, sticky note names on our CAFE board, as if waiting for their little owners to come back, March 13th still the date on our calendar. How I can’t wait until the day my calendar is updated, book boxes refilled, and to hear little voices waiting for me outside the room, waiting to bring their joy, love, and laughter into room 114. ❤

Week 6 of Distance Learning

In some respects, it seems like I have been doing this forever and in other, I am surprised that it has been 6 weeks already. That is like the length of one summer.

Some days I feel on top of my game and other days just seem bleak. Who am I kidding..it is not by days. It can be hours..my mood and feelings can change by the hour.

One of the things that I am so grateful for is the way teachers on the internet are sharing. It is really incredible. When the internet first came to be, teachers used platforms to share all the time. Then a website called Teachers Pay Teachers came and teachers (many who are terribly underpaid) decided there was profit to be made by charging for materials. Thus the sharing and collaboration as I knew it virtually ended.

Over the past couple of years, there was a shift again. Facebook, twitter and even instagram had teachers sharing materials and collaborating. Enter the COVID19 pandemic and teachers are sharing like crazy. I have been learning daily how to make this work to the best of my abilities.

The ideas I share here are a collaboration of many teachers. I cannot take credit for them.

One thing I have been using in my class over the past couple of years is Bitmoji. They are in my every morning message. I have learned now how to make a banner with them for the top of my Google Classroom. Google Classroom is a virtual classroom that hosts my assignments.

This looks similar to my classroom with the books that I have read aloud being highlighted. Of course, however, my Bitmoji looks way better than I do..I haven’t worn anything other than a sweatshirt and leggings/sweatpants since 3/13, no makeup and my hair does not look that good. 😉

Another wonderful idea I did was send the kids a bitmoji version of me. I then asked the students to take me some where and post in a shared Google Slideshow where they were. Here is one of my favorite examples. She made a shrinky dink of me!

Students have been using a lot of Flipgrid. Because they are videos, they are a quick way for students to share their work with other. My two favorite moments with Flipgrid came when a student asked me to create a topic because she wanted to share her writing. She saw Flipgrid as a tool for getting her message out. Then, I had two students create one story. In order to share it on Flipgrid, one logged into flipgrid while the other was on a phone. When it was the child on phone’s turn to talk, the phone was held to the camera.

I have found that choice boards are the way to go. I create a board with 9 – 12 items around a certain skill, like fractions. Students then can choose the learning they would like to do. The activities vary from high tech to no tech; from difficult to easier; from multiple days to one day. Students participation in this is very high. Here is the one we did for Earth Day.

This week my focus was on something new…on having a Google Meet (like a Skype/video chat). I have been very tentative doing this. There has been a lot of missteps using Video conferencing and I wanted to make sure it would be done correctly. On Wednesday, we had PD day. One of the options was to explore Google Meet. So I learned a little. I then emailed some of my students to see if they would help me learn. They were very excited. My learning curve has been big, as far as knowing how to have the kids log on, how to make sure the meeting is closed etc. However, after the original meeting, I felt joy. Absolute joy. To be able to see my students and talk with 4 of them, it just made my heart happy.

So, I tried again today. Today we had about 7 of us. I did a scavenger hunt with them. I would name something in their house and they had to go find it. This lasted for about 30 minutes, just the right amount of time. The smiles and the giggle were amazing.

I don’t know what the future holds. Right now our tentative day is May 20th to go back to school. But for now, I will find joy in the small moments..

Thoughts of a Teacher Five Weeks Into Quarantine

In typical Kelsey fashion, I forgot to write until it’s been five weeks of this online learning. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings and it’s helpful to write them down to process, or vent to my mom, who has many of the same thoughts and feelings as I do. Especially as the brutal reality is that we are going to have sustain some sort of this teaching / learning / technology hybrid until at least May 20, which as the date looms closer, we may actually continue doing this until June 12, my official last day of school.

So here we have some of my quarantine thoughts, a stream of consciousness kind of:

-waking up & immediately snoozing the alarm “I deserve at least 15 more minutes”

-“Gotta workout before school or I’ll never get out of this chair” “I only burned that many calories?” “Thank goodness Peloton is free.” “I have THAT much longer?”

-When recording myself – “yikes do I look that tired?” “do I really have bags under my eyes?” “okay, so take FOUR of this video” “is my voice that high-pitched?” -*hits myself in the head with the board* –“show must go on folks!” -*dog barks* “say hi to Melvin everyone!”

-*eyes burning* “I guess today I’ll wear my blue-light glasses” #self-care

-During Zoom meetings with the Littles “hi friends! make sure you don’t talk too loud, I’m wearing headphones!” *Little proceeds to yell at her mom to have help with something* -“meet my puppy!” “here’s my fish!” “I made slime!” “I got chips from the store today!” “I MISS SCHOOL” (me too Little, me too)

-During Zoom meetings with the coworkers “hi! can you hear me? can you see me?” “oh shoot, you’re frozen.” “oh shoot, am I frozen?” “Okay, can you see my screen?” “Oops, I forgot I was muted!” (yes all of those have been me)

-Actual conversation between me & my mom “okay so if I have a Zoom at 12 and are in my room and you’re recording your read aloud downstairs, will we be able to hear each other?”

-“Did I drink enough water today?” “Did I eat lunch?” “Is it acceptable to have another snack now?” “Wow I can’t wait for my next meal.” “How many jelly beans are too many jelly beans…?” And literally as I’m sitting here, it’s 11:19 and “is it too early for lunch?”

-Checking the family’s calendar, thinking “oh my goodness I completely forgot I had that meeting today!!!”

I’m sure there are many many others, just checking any form of social media I’m flooded with memes and tweets and posts that are incredibly relatable as many teachers are facing exactly what I am.

Things keeping me sane right now are included but not limited to: checking my privilege consistently, seeing my Littles faces on FlipGrid (shoutout to the platform that’s been a saving grace!!!!) & on Zoom (yes we have the premium version with lots of security features), venting to my Mom when needed & processing how to overcome whatever hurdle I needed to get over, working out before school & (sometimes) walking after, escaping into one of the fifteen books I’ve read so far, weekly Zoom calls with some of my nearest and dearest, cross-stitching for an hour every night to give my eyes a break (that’s probably questionable), & continually reminding myself what an honor it is to be part of this profession.

Thank you to those essential workers at the front-lines, battling this brutal disease; thank you to those staying home so we can reopen as quickly and safely as possible; thank you to my Littles for putting a smile on my face every day even when we’re screens away. We got this.

 

Week 4 Emoji

We have been out of school for 6 weeks. The only reason why I know that is because I looked on the calendar. I am not a counter. I have never been that one to count days of school or days until summer. Right now, I just can’t let my brain process how long we have out and how far we still have to go.

Relationships. Physical and mentally being present. So very important to learning. It is so hard to keep up a relationship with 8 year olds through a computer screen. Yet, it is essential. I want them to keep learning. They will keep learning if they think it matters. So I hope that my Google Classroom is a place they go for learning, but also for fun and entertainment.

This week, one of my more popular fun activities was emoji children’s book Pictionary. I posted this on our Google Classroom..

Students who wanted to participate then emailed me the answers. It is fun..see if you can get it. Then I just threw it out there for them to come up with their own and post of Flipgrid. I keep mentioning Flipgrid as an incredible tool for us to share video. However, it is so much more than that. Students can write and edit on it as well. They can use their face or not. I have always said that if you don’t put limits on kids they will surprise you every day. This activity was no exception. They taught themselves how to put the emojis into a video. Some learned how to do it while they were in the video, some learned how to do it on a dark screen. They were wonderful.

Here are two of the many that were posted. (Clearly I had to choose the videos that did not show faces)

Both of those are books that I have read aloud this year. 🙂

Another activity that I was lucky enough to find on one of my teacher groups is games. A teacher created games that the kids can play using Google Slides. Since Google Slides is a web based game, students can be at their house on their computer and another student can be at their house on their computer but they can be on the same document.

I have a couple games of Connect 4 going with students.

Then I received this note..

Of course I said yes. Then she beat me.

The interesting thing about the tic tac toe was she had it all figured out. In her slideshow, she created a page where we could ask questions and talk to teach other (slide number 2 in the picture). She had also created the line for when you won, you would just move it over your correct response.

This week has shown me that the “fun” activities have much value. Students are learning and doing things that they never would have done in school before. Their computer skills are going to be through the roof. They are creating and problem solving. They are learning what do when they are bored. They are taking time to just be.

This coming week may involve a field trip and some mail..stay tuned..

Distance Learning – Week 3

Today is Good Friday; April 10, 2020. It was supposed to be the start of our spring vacation. It still is. Our school district has decided to keep the April break. For me, I will take the days slower, read a lot more, exercise, clean a little more and plan. I will use the quiet mornings in my house to think, process, look ahead and plan. Our governor just announced that schools will not reopen until May 20th. We are set to start all new units next week. I need to process on what that looks like in this new format.

This new format includes balancing the amount of screen time. It includes knowing that not everyone has a printer or has printer ink or even paper. What supplies are at home? People cannot run out and grab what is needed. Also, in grade three, I try to balance independence. I try to give students things they can do on their own. I love planning. I love the thought of creating new and exciting lessons, but using only the computer is really challenging me. Usually I am planned a week at a time, now I am relatively a day or two at a time. I have a vague idea of where I want to go, but I need next week to solidify.

This year, we had been fortunate enough to be selected for a program called #kidsneedmentors. In this program, classroom teachers are paired with published authors. My class has had the amazing opportunity to be paired with poet/author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. (Amy has written fabulous poetry books of Read, Read, Read and Write, Write, Write.) Our connection with her has been amazing. She Skyped with us in the fall, surprised us with a visit in winter and wrote us letters throughout the year. She taught us how to write poetry for our characters. She is also currently doing a free online Writing Notebook course. She is amazingly wonderful. Well, April is poetry month, so for the first time, I had all the children work on the same document to create a poetry “book” for our beloved Miss Amy. Below are some of the poems they created.

We also have been using Flipgrid a whole lot more. In Flipgrid, students leave short videos. Kelsey (my daughter, coauthor of this blog and first grade teacher) helps to push my thinking. For two days this week, I gave the students choice on fractions. There were a total of 9 different activities they could chose from. Students then had to go onto Flipgrid and explain to the class what they did and the fraction behind it. They were incredible!

I have also finished my read aloud, The Wild Robot Escapes. So, I had students create the main character, the robot, Roz using whatever they had at home. They then had to go onto Flipgrid and explain to the class about their Roz. Very creative! Flipgrid gives them a vehicle to comment to each other. They actually get to see each too.

The stress I am putting on myself is incredible. I constantly worry if I am doing enough to control the things that I can control. Are my students okay? Are there families okay? Am I doing too much?

I survey the students at the end of every week. For the students that answered, they are good, the workload is fine, they like being in their pajamas, they miss school and they miss their friends. I am not detecting they are feeling any stress from this pandemic and that makes me happy.

Then, the other night, I get this sweet email. It was only two words but to me it meant so much..