Wow. The last time I wrote a reflection here was almost two years ago....just around five months after the pandemic initially hit the United States. Since my toddler still takes an afternoon nap, today is the day I've chosen to sit on my shaded patio to revive my blog just a bit.
There has been so much to weigh educators down in recent years. So much so that it would be easy to lament the struggles we have faced in the classroom and the repeated insults to teachers and the teaching profession of recent times, but I would rather focus on the silver lining; that is, what worked surprisingly well in the face of adversity. To that end, I will share what changes I've made since 2020 to better suit my learners' needs.
1. Post all notes and resources to the LMS daily. Organize content by week and thematic unit.
Pre-pandemic, I posted content online when I wanted to save paper or for "easy" reference, and it was all grouped in a long list by unit rather than week and day. There was often a number of students who didn't know where to find what they needed, but now there is much less confusion. Documents, links, images, and so on are all posted in a more clear and organized manner by week and day. Furthermore, folks who are absent can just get online, and locate the day's work at the top of the course modules page. There, they can access what they need instead of waiting for an email from me with a breakdown of the lesson. There have been times when I have forgotten to email absentees, so this routine essentially eliminates that error. With our LMS, we can copy modules over from year to year, and just tweak them as needed -- sweet!
2. Make short video tutorials on key concepts.
The Loom video-making tool was my best friend in August of 2020. I made numerous videos so that learners at home could still move along with us if it was their virtual learning day. I'm not really sure how often those videos are viewed on the LMS now, but I offer them as an added resource if clarification beyond the shared documents is needed. As an added bonus, I am much more accustomed to hearing my own voice without cringing as much. :)
3. Keep track of attendance on paper.
We were required to keep paper copies of attendance back when we were on an A-B schedule because we could not input attendance for the at-home learners until the next school day. It was a messy document full of A-B notations, but once the hybrid schedule moved to in-person five days per week, it was a neat visual of who was in school. I continue to take note of attendance on paper with one of my many clip boards because I prefer the visual when I need to go back in history to see who was out on a particular day. It's an extra step that really isn't necessary, but I am much more likely to look back at data for attendance trends with my paper record. Time is of the essence, and sometimes paper just makes sense.
4. Allow learners to make up or redo assessments during class time.
As a district requirement in 2020-2021, educators had to allow for makeup work and reassessments during class since we only saw our students in-person two days per week. Pre-pandemic, I offered extra help and time to make up work during FLEX (time embedded in school day for learners to visit any class for extra help) or after school. It seemed like students had ample opportunities to meet with me. For most, I'd say that is true, however, I often found that the students who need to see me the most are needed just as much in another classroom. By offering the opportunity to do makeup work during class, work gets made up much quicker.
5. Arrange the desks in rows.
If you asked me three years ago, I would never, and I mean NEVER, have agreed to move my desks in to rows. In fact, up until August 2020, I had never once arranged my desks in traditional rows. A year passed with mandated rows, and then this past year went by with the same classroom setup. Much to my surprise, my learners seemed to like this traditional arrangement, and I found that they seemed to be more attentive and focused overall in this way. That said, my windowless, small classroom looks much better when the desks are pushed together in quads to form "tables," if you will, but keeping learners facing each other every single day, with the inconvenience of the angle of certain desks, seems less appealing at this point. I'm not sure exactly how I'll design the room this coming August, but I'm leaning towards rows with tennis ball feet at this point. We move around, and collaborate/discuss in the hallways often, so I think it'll be just fine if I do maintain the rows.
6. Create a student-friendly Google Form to complete when leaving the classroom. Laminate passes that say "See Google Form" along with the room number and teacher name.
I had heard about using Google Forms in this way back in the summer of 2020 when I participated in countless online PD sessions. When we arrived on campus for the 2020-2021 school year, our administration informed us that we would be using a school-wide format for paper passes to hand write each time a student needed to leave the classroom for any reason. I complied, and did so for one and a half years before I boldly created the form. There's no going back. It's more sanitary because I can clean the laminated passes, moving forward, and I don't have to halt class to write the same tedious info yet again. (Rule followers: I had an informal drop-in observation this past spring, and was worried that the newest assistant principal would be upset, but then this person surprised me, and said they liked the idea, and wanted to share it. Alrighty, then. Hehe.)
If other changes come to mind, I'll come back, and edit this post later. In the meantime, I hope that you have a restful summer with a little time for reflection mixed in. What has represented a silver lining during your time as a teacher in a pandemic?