Welcome back to the blog. I thought I'd share some lessons learned during our first week back on campus with our learners as well as some reflections on my experience and plans for moving forward before I have to get a corner of my bedroom ready to film some teaching on this Saturday morning.
Let me begin by saying that we began the year with an A day/B day hybrid model that we plan on continuing until Covid spread dictates otherwise. I did not experience a single day of eLearning last spring because my sweet baby boy was born 10 days before South Carolina schools shut down on Friday, March 13th. The kids didn't even say "See you soon on Zoom!" because we were told that we'd try to head back to school in early April. Lolol. Little did we know that I'd be enjoying maternity leave while helping my -- at the time -- 9 and 12 year old children succeed at virtual school.
Flash forward to August of 2020, and here we are.....still living the pandemic life. Last week, during our teacher work days, I had the good fortune of attending most meetings via WebEx and then there were very few of those, so I had lots of time to work in my classroom. Despite the generous amount of time we had to prepare ourselves, I was working Friday evening, most of Saturday, and all day on the eve of the return to campus. It was like the first few years of teaching relived. Noooo. But here I am still making it. It's all going to be OK. Here are a few items I want to share about my week:
1. It is best (and required by our district) to have EVERYTHING ready to go on our LMS (Canvas) before Monday rolls around. I spent way too much time during planning making sure I had published what I needed to have up and ready each day during this first week of school. (This chaos happened this week because of necessity, but it also drove it home to me that there is no time to post lesson work as we go. No time.)
2. I just spent this entire week writing personal emails to each student with the exception of three people who still need to submit their Google Form student info sheet to me. (I must note that we can have a maximum of 12 students in each class, so I don't have the load I normally would in a given here. Writing each and every child takes a ton of time.) I ask at least one question in each email after I comment on the books, TV shows, hobbies they like. I also commented on their goals and/or concerns about French class. Reply emails have been rolling in, and the conversation continues, at least with some students. I've received photos and memes and been told that I taught a brother or sister or cousin. This has taken forever to accomplish, but I am THRILLED that I took the time to do it, and I now realize that I want to make an attempt to do this every year --- not just during this pandemic. In the past, I often wrote a quick email to students who wrote a question or something I needed to address on their student info sheet, but didn't write to everyone or engage in conversation with them about much of what they wrote. In the past, the getting-to-know-you work happened live and in the classroom, of course. That will still occur, even in this pandemic, but I felt it was worthwhile to reach out to each and every young person right away.
3. I want to touch base with each parent or guardian next. This is a lot, but so important.
4. A great result of this pandemic is the scheduling of classes. At the high school level, students can begin entering the building at 8:30 a.m. with first block beginning at 9 a.m. Our day ends at 4 p.m., and everyone seems to be doing fine with that schedule. It also feels like school is not moving at the rat race pace it normally does because we have to stop and clean, for example. We also have to travel farther to use the restroom and to fill up water bottles. We must slow down. This is nice.
5. Pandemic school challenges us every day to recognize what doesn't work and what we could do better. I'm designing the course as if it's all digital so that we will be at ease (hopefully!) when the schools shut down again, therefore, I'm making videos of all concepts to teach as well as words to pronounce, beginning this weekend. These accompany live instruction on days when learners are on campus with me. I look forward to seeing what impact this has on learning because I rarely made lesson videos in the past due to time constraints.
6. As for the structure of our hybrid model schedule, I've decided to teach concepts every day which means eLearning day learners will watch my lesson videos and do the practice on their own. When they are on campus the next day, we will relearn that material if need by (It's likely.) AND learn new material when needed, before working one-on-one with me as much as we can. If this fails, of course, I'll come up with a new plan, but that's my vision for our semester for now.
7. Boundaries. I'm going to try to log off from school every day at 4:15 p.m. It's a goal I really believe I need to work towards, so we shall see if that happens. It didn't happen this week, but that's OK.
Best wishes to all of the educators across this country and world wide who are trying to get it all done so that our learners can succeed while we all work to stay safe during this pandemic.
If you've already seen your students on campus, what have you learned? Please do share your tips!