Distance Learning Advice

I originally thought that I would do this post based on what I’ve seen in classes. I then realized that I should put it out to the masses. Thank you to those that responded. This is what they had to say:

  • I’ll start: take attendance and let kids in zoom/meet/teams while playing a song. Super fun! ~ MathReps
  • Brandi Cross Miller – Lisa Nowakowski my daughter’s teacher does this and I have my own little dance party (out of view) as we start our day!
  • Cris McKee MathReps let the kids pick the song. Sometimes it helps to give them a choice between 2 songs.
  • Naomi Harm – MathReps And the best way to amplify that song while you’re waiting are you using Spotify or another resource to ensure the kids can hear the music as I’ve been in a session recently that they should have had background music and they could never get it to work yet I’m assuming that they didn’t check the box prior to going live which did not enable the sound to be embedded into the playback of the webinar.
  • Cris McKee – Naomi Harm I just use YouTube videos with the lyrics in the hope that my 2nd grade friends read them!
  • Marisa PierucciI teach rsp so we only have an hour together 4 days a week – so yesterday I decided to end teaching 5 min early so the kids could just chat about whatever they wanted. They really enjoyed that time to kick back and share about life.
  • Carrie Tibbs I play music while I admit my kiddos and have them do their “bell ringer” check in. They are getting quite the education of oldies.
  • Courtney Butterfield The paintbrush roller for copying formatting in Google Slides!! It’s a total game changer!
  • Sarah Buhler Vierra Using a second monitor
  • Alicia KirbyMengel Second monitor helps so much!!! I may keep my vision!
  • Jan Mathews Remember to share your screen because eighth graders won’t tell you you aren’t.
  • Loretta Wolfinbarger -Jan Mathews, funny. My fourth graders didn’t even tell me. After throwing in an incentive, they now all that out.
  • Susana Rudy – Jan Mathews Junior High Teachers Unite! Lol! I had to make it a rule; they must tell me if they can’t see my screen, and that helps. They have to tell me, as in, unmute their mic! I give extra credit points to the first person to let me know. It’s working.
  • Loretta Wolfinbarger Spending the time reviewing “how tos.” When this doesn’t work, try this.
  • Jennifer HoytDuring our lunch – break out rooms! They want to talk to each other a lot!
  • Veronica Gonzalez Meza Pear Deck add in for PPT (or google slides too)! Total participation game changer for me. I can present and see kids answering/ working on problems. Went from 4-5 kids raising their hand to answer to 22/27 attempting math or writing a response. I love it!
  • Jan Mathews If you see “Sign in with Google” use it—its like the Magic School Bus! It takes you right where your teacher wants you to go!
  • Jan Mathews – Mackenzie Ferreira The credit goes to one of my brightest eighth graders—shout out to Alejandro!
  • Nikole Kempi Scarlett – Jan Mathews yeah, my right hand student is Carlos! Nice to have student helpers!
  • Anila Bowers Change your viewpoint on tech glitches. View them as a normal part of life rather than a frustrating part of life.
  • Susana Rudy – Anila Bowers yes. And a learning experience. Discuss the tech issues with your students. This is the world they will be inheriting.
  • Sandy JohnsonOn Friday we have free choice fun Friday. Kiddos bring toys to the last 20 minutes of class. They get to talk and visit. Some of my kindercuties have become friends as if they were in the classroom
  • Dawna HunterSaving silly faces for the end of our day.Lots of songs!
  • Angela Der Ramos This may be basic but I didn’t know you can share sound directly if you share the tab instead of the window.I put music video on to take attendance, and we’ve had two movie parties already. Think I need an upgrade on the computer though…
  • Gloria McGriff PearDeck- getting students to show their thinking, since we have to track student engagement this saves me some work keeping another form.
  • Gloria McGriff Coffee shop social – allowing 4 students to stay on Zoom call to chat – me with my video and sound off. Has been a hit.
  • MaryAlison Weintraub Trying new tech tools and doing comparison polls in Webex to see what kids prefer. Ex Nearpod vs Pear Deck, prefer Nearpod, prefer Pear Deck, either works for me, don’t really like either.
  • Gloria McGriff I have been inspired to write jingles and song bites and encouraging students to do the same: Zero is my hero, because it SAVES place value! And for exponents It’s all about the base, bout the base, and exponent
  • Angela Der Ramos Leaving video or voice feedback embedded in the kids work on Seesaw. Error analysis and Feedback is a sweet spot that isn’t easy in DL.Benjamin Cogswell showed me this.
  • Ben’s Video
  • Kristan Dm Shared google slideshow is my go to daily place for students and groups to post their solutions to math problem. Assign 1 problem from daily set to each group, let them discuss in breakout room to prepare group slideshow and insert combo of photos handwritten work and typed explanation . After class I switch setting back to view only so kids can only edit during the class period. So simple but very effective as group and class collaborative space

I’m Worried

It’s that time of year when schools start back up. There have been many heated debates about how this should happen during the Covid-19 pandemic. I assure you, no matter what you think, it’s a bad idea. Go back with social distancing: teachers fear contracting it, no collaboration, isolation while in the same room as others. Hybrid model: similar issues as going back live with the added stress of creating asynchronous lessons. Keep things locked down: the kids lose in this scenario. Then there is the virtual model. THIS is what our district is doing.

This was like a multiple choice quiz with NO right answers.

A little background. In July, our school board made the tough decision to go back virtually. They were faced with nothing but wrong choices. This was like a multiple choice quiz with NO right answers. This was preceded by several weeks of debates, parents and teachers giving public comments, a previous meeting at which the decision was postponed. My point is that our board took this decision seriously. Then, here in California, the governor created guidelines based on Covid numbers as to which schools would be teaching virtually and which could entertain the idea of going back face to face. Then began the task of figuring out how to do this.

Of all the conversations that were had: how to do all virtual? What will it look like to young learners? How will we do OT? What will intervention look like? How can we prepare teachers in 3 days (all the PD we get normally with the calendar)? How will we get students the supplies needed? How can we get books into kids’ hands? What impact will this have on students’ mental health? How can we keep kids engaged? We also needed to adhere to the compliance pieces that the state rolled out. And so many other questions and discussions. No where in there did we – district or nation – address the mental health of educators. This is probably one of the biggest oversights of this situation.

It will take time and adjustments to get to a place of greatness.

This virtual thing, on such a mass scale, is new to everyone. While districts are communicating, each has come up with their own plan. Some are doing it better than others from what I’ve heard, but I don’t believe anyone is doing it with great success. That is not a criticism, rather an honest statement. How can anyone or any entity do something with great success the first time? It will take time and adjustments to get to a place of greatness. The key will be to adapt as we go along. The districts that stick to their original plan will most likely fail.

This is the schedule our district has adopted. A/B groups for TK – 5 and whole groups for 6 – 8.

Our middle school has done this for four days and our elementary has done it for a day or two. Teachers are drowning. Let me be clear on this. While teachers feel overwhelmed and underprepared, they are giving it their all. There isn’t a teacher in our district that is taking it lightly or giving up. They are all looking for the silver linings. I am in awe of our teachers.

Not only are our teachers struggling with this new model, but our families are too. Many teachers don’t see how this model is sustainable. Our teachers are online most of the day. They are exhausted and then have 1/2 hour to have office hours, check work, give feedback, and contact families, and plan lessons.

Now, let’s compound the virtual learning issue by adding Covid-19 Slide to it. It’s like the summer slide, but Covid related. According to a research firm, “The report estimated that, on average, students could lose seven months of learning during the pandemic, compared to 10 months for Black students and nine months for Hispanic students. ” (Georgia State University). So for a district like mine – Title 1, 100% free lunch, and a high percentage of Latino students – this is even more stressful. That means a 5th grader coming into this is really more like a beginning 4th grader IF they were at grade level before the pandemic hit. If that 5th grader was below grade level before March 13, the gap is even larger. Not only do we need to teach the standards, but we need to fill gaps. Then, there is the dreaded state test. NOW would be a really great time to explore their actual importance to education (Hint: they’re not. They only are important to the test makers because they make money. It’s a racket.) If you worry that your child/student is behind, don’t worry. This is a global problem. All kids are ‘behind’. And let’s face it, they are arbitrary measures to begin with. The kids will be fine in the long run. Point being, the teachers have to teach the standards/content that students have difficulty accessing.

Photo by ATC Comm Photo on Pexels.com

So what can be done? If you’re a teacher, be kind to yourself. You don’t need to do it all. If something isn’t working, speak up. You might not be the only one with those thoughts. Know that it will get easier. Rely on others, collaborate. If you’re district administration, listen to what your teachers are saying. They are the boots on the ground and are experiencing it in real time. Better yet, shadow a teacher for a day or week. Experience what they do daily. Don’t even think of uttering the phrase, “Fidelity to the curriculum.” Reach out to teachers to find out what is working, what isn’t, and where more support is needed. If you are a policy maker, for the love of all that is good, cancel all standardized tests for the foreseeable future! Create policies with actual teacher input.

To all of my teacher friends, I am here for you. To parents, please be kind, forgiving, patient, and understanding. Teachers are human. They have families. They are worried for your child’s education, too. They really are doing their best.

We Appreciate You, Teachers

So today President Trump tweeted that schools should open.

Okay, so I take issue with what’s been said in his tweet. As per usual, there is a hint of truth with a larger dash of fake news and divisiveness. Oh, and then there’s the insecure bully at the end.

Let’s break some of this down, shall we? First of all, Europe had leadership that took the virus seriously. They shut down, wore masks, listened to science. With the exception to Sweden who conducted their own experiment and didn’t do those things and relied on Herd Immunity. As a result of Sweden not modifying class sizes or other larger changes, several teachers have died as a result of Covid-19 (article). Secondly, the US hasn’t had leadership to direct us through this and as a result folks think that they will die because the CO2 from our masks will kill us. Medical professionals are still scratching their heads over that one. What I’m trying to say is that science is hard for some, including Trump. Next, we look at the idea that the Democrats are using this as political gain. WHAT???? Which leads to the next point of divisiveness. Who is trying to use this for political gain? If you said Trump and the GOP (they allow him to get away with this nonsense), then you get a gold star! ⭐️

Back to the issue at hand: opening schools. Let’s get somethings straight. Teachers, parents, kids, administrators, everyone wants schools to open. However, most of us acknowledge that this is a virus with no cure, vaccine, and known long term effects. I’m all for science; I just don’t want to be involved in an involuntary science experiment. One that could leave me dead!

Remember in March when teachers were hailed as heroes? Where the nation couldn’t believe that we rolled with the closures and changed everything overnight? I miss those days. You promised us anything we wanted in the fall. You said we should get raises. Everyone got our of our way and we got sh!t done! So instead of politicians and administrators telling us how we should get back to school, why not let educators deal with it. We have clearly proven that we can do a far better job (again, see Spring 2020).

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

If you truly appreciate teachers, like you all claim you do, then do it the right way. You can appreciate us by giving us Covid-19 or by listening to us and funding schools properly. Oh, and get rid of state testing. There will be little learning going on. Our students, and teachers, are dealing with trauma. We need to deal with that before any real learning can happen. So what’s it going to be? Covid or true appreciation? The choice seems simple.

And one final thought: dead teachers can’t teach.

Jammin’ on Jamboard

Collaborate on Jamboard

Oh, my, word! I have been a fan of Jamboard this year. I played around with it pre-Covid-19 times. Nothing major, just getting a feel for what it can do. However, I have really started using it during this distance learning thing we are doing. Now, this picture may not look like anything special. Until you realize that two students are writing on it at once.

I had a few students stay after virtual class today. They wanted to get some extra help with math. Okay. I gave them editing rights. We discussed how to find a common denominator. Then, I had two of the students write the multiples. They each took turns finding equivalent fractions and finally, added them. The writing isn’t super easy as they were using a touchpad on their Chromebooks, but it was enough to be able to collaborate and solve.

I also enjoy the laser feature. While I am explaining or correcting, students can see exactly where I am. I was elated to find that I could assign a Jamboard to each student in Google Classroom. This really is an underutilized tool.

There are some drawbacks. It doesn’t track revision histories. So, if several people are on it, issues can arise. Not that 5th graders would ever do such things. Jamboard is not in Google Drive. You need to go to jamboard.google.com to create them. This is also where they are stored. However, if you recently opened one it will appear in your ‘Recent’ in Google Drive. It was pointed out by Melissa Hero that Jamboard is indeed in your drive. Another thing to watch out for is if several people are writing on a post it or dropping an image, they will all drop in the same location. Unlike a tool like Padlet where each new response is in it’s own location. This can get messy. I recommend when setting it up, assign students to a page using the post it tool.

Overall, I really do like this tool.

I’m Over It

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That’s it. I’m done! I’m over this whole ‘remote teaching’, ‘distant learning’ whatever you want to call it thing. It’s been 2 months since I’ve been in the classroom with my kiddos. They are over it. That’s not to say that I think we should ‘go back to normal’. I mean, there’s still this whole pandemic thing happening.

I have class daily, and that is probably part of the problem. Or maybe it’s not. Today in class one student commented that no one ever turns on their camera anymore. The student was right. I don’t blame them. When I have meetings with adults, I often turn my camera off. So I get it. This whole thing has gotten to us all.

And, no, I don’t want to go back to ‘normal’. ‘Normal’ was me being the outsider in all this. I was the ‘techie’ one. I do see this as an opportunity to push boundaries and rethink how we teach (with 30 kids in the classroom at once). I’m figuring we won’t have 30 kids in our class at once which leaves things looking different in the fall.

Another student said that they were ‘tired of doing work online’. I couldn’t agree more! And I’m a pretty extreme introvert! I want to see my students. I want to do a ‘normal’ 5K run with my friends at some ungodly hour on the weekends. I want to go to my friend’s house and hang out, in the house, not worrying about social distancing. I want to close all my rings on my watch and stop getting fat! This homebound thing is killing me. I run on the treadmill, but struggle to close those damn rings. And I even miss my extroverted friend dragging me to the beach, and concerts, and where ever. And sushi! I want sushi damn it. I have to drive an hour to get to a place.

So, while I’m over it all, I will continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, obsessively sanitize hands and anything I touch outside my home (looking at you shopping carts and keypads).

How are you all doing? Have you cracked yet? It’ll get better, this I know, but right now it’s just sorta hard.

Tales From Quarantineland

This week started online learning with my 5th-graders and I continue to learn new things about life, myself, and how to pass the time.

Google Draw RabbitMy students and I are getting used to the new format. We are doing fun things this week. Yesterday we did a small scavenger hunt. Today we drew rabbit pictures in Google Draw. We will continue to do fun things as a group. For those that are unable to join us, there is a video of the lesson. They also have the opportunity to earn badges.

Again, my dogs are loving life! We have been going for walks daily. We have even been on two walks on some days! I love hanging out with my pups! I also do yoga daily with the puppies, of course. I’ve also been able to run, still looking for the motivation to do that more.

Then there is the bad ‘reality’ tv. I have been known to binge-watch train wreck shows such as Bridezilla, 90-Day Fiance, and Vapid Wives of Where Ever. Okay, the last one isn’t a real title, but you get my point. I do have standards, though. None of the K family nonsense. My current binge is 90-Day Fiance Happily Ever After? This is so bad, I’m hooked! Where do they find these people? And it’s clear that some of the scenes are scripted.

Finally, I speak to my dad daily. He’s in the high-risk category with severe COPD. He hasn’t left his home in over a month. My dad and I are not big phone talkers. It’s not uncommon for one of us to announce, “I’ve got nothing else to say, so I’m going to go.” So we have come up with a game. Each day one of us comes up with a topic: Simpsons, 6-Star General, Board Games, whatever strikes our fancy. Then the next day, we report out and try to outdo one another. I’m having fun learning new things.

Well, that’s all for now.

Our At-Risk Kids & COVID-19

Since the beginning of this, I have been in constant contact with one of my students. Student A has a rough home life. Student A (SA) is what I call a trauma kid. There is trauma in SA’s life.

I have connected with SA this year. SA has come such a long way and I couldn’t be more proud of SA. Our district hasn’t moved to Online Learning yet. We are a week behind most as our Spring Break was the first week – March 16. So for the past 3 weeks, SA and I have been emailing back and forth. SA reached out. SA reaches out often asking many questions. I have been able to provide guidance and information.

SA has contacted me about where and when to get food. What they should do if a police officer stops them (there was a rumor going around town – untrue). The breaking point came this week. Students were able to pick up computers. Upon hearing this information, SA was excited but nervous. I asked if they wanted me to meet them at school. SA replied, “Yes, please!” Okay, I have a soft spot for them, so I said that I would.

monochrome photo of girl crying
Photo by Mateus Souza on Pexels.com

Today was computer pick-up day. SA called as they left their house. I packed up the pups and off we went. We got there at about the same time. I almost didn’t recognize SA. The spark was gone. In its place was a sad, withdrawn, scared-looking child. We chatted while waiting in line (social distancing the whole time). SA is home alone for a part of the day while mom is at work and the younger brother goes to the babysitter.

SA is not the only as-risk kid. This got me thinking. We talk about equity and the pros and cons of online learning. Yes, there is most definitely an equity issue in our nation. Students with no internet. Rural areas with no or poor access. Equity concerning students with IEP’s. And yes, those are important and should not be overlooked. But what about students like SA who NEED to be connected? Those students who are suffering alone and in silence. They NEED to have the opportunity to connect. I am happy that SA can connect. I’m really hoping that the simple daily meeting help SA.

Please reach out to all your at-risk kiddos. They may not be doing as well as you’d hope. I’ve also had former students (all at-risk) reach out to me.

Quarantine Day 348

55282260-7616-4E30-9406-2D73445B52F8Okay, it’s not really day 348, but it sure feels like it. I’m starting to get into a pattern/groove. My dogs are still loving life. I’ve learned a few new things.

 

 

 

  • My extroverted friends are struggling. To them, I send virtual hugs. I understand the virtual thing and phone calls don’t fill your bucket.
  • Routine is key.
  • Hygiene is still optional.
  • Rolling out of bed and slapping on a hat to have a meeting is GOLD.
  • Former students are reaching out. I have heard from a few former students over the past week. They just send a quick note to say, “Hi.” These students have been seriously at-risk kiddos. They are struggling. They need connections. We need to be there for them.
  • My butt is sore from sitting on a 1940’s dining room chair. They seriously lacked cushioning back then.
  • Getting outside for a walk is GOOD! Not only do my dogs love it, but it helps to make things feel ‘normal’.
  • As I’ve suspected, my dogs sleep all day.
  • The teachers in my district have been amazing. They have tried to do their best to step up and dive into this new way of teaching/interacting.

While things are not ideal, we will get through this. Stay home as much as possible. Social distance when you do go out. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay connected.

What I’ve Learned From Quarantine

I’ve only been out of my house 3 times in the last 10 days. And those were limited. As a homebody, introvert, I’m good with it! However, a few things have begun to emerge:

  • Personal hygiene has become optional – I’m pretty stinky.
  • One armpit is stinkier than the other.
  • My dogs still love me, no matter how stinky I am.
  • I finally found the time to clean some things.
  • I suck at dealing with paperwork.
  • I got started on clearing out my garden in preparation for the upcoming year.
  • I’m way more like my dad than I care to admit.
  • This week has made me more serene.
    • Homebody
    • Dad: Now that they told me I can’t go out, I want to. (re my rebellious side)
  • My extroverted friends went nuts after 3 days.
  • I do need to walk outside every day; even if it’s to check the mail.
  • I’m still doing laundry regularly. Go me!
  • I will either come out with a drinking problem or being able to run a 10K.
    • Yeah, some of you may think I already have/do both. You’re half correct. But which half? haha
  • I need to step up my stretchy pants game!

 

The Other ‘F’ Word

The other ‘F’ Word

Anyone who knows me knows what my favorite ‘F’ word is. I say it a lot! But this time I’m talking about the Other ‘F’ Word: FIDELITY to the Curriculum. How many times have teachers heard this in staff meetings, PD, newsletters, or collaboration? I know I have heard it A LOT the last few years. And it makes me want to hurt someone.

And here we are living in a very different world than we were just a week ago. California schools are not in regular session, we are all hunkering down in our homes, and districts are scrambling to figure out what to do and how. You know what I haven’t heard? “Fidelity to the Curriculum’. That has been a nice change.

I have seen teachers mobilize, create and share resources, and rise to the occasion. I have been actively brushing up on apps, watching my feeds for ideas, and listening to others. I am amazed at how awesome teachers truly are. One thing I haven’t heard is ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’. And you know what is happening? Awesome things. Creative things. Inspiring things. Innovative things. Teachers are AMAZEBALLZ! Yeah, with a Z!

What can the education world: nation, state, county, districts learn from this?

we got this

Get out of our way! We don’t need curriculums. We got this! We don’t need you to micromanage every minute of our day. We know what we are doing. We are better together. We have banned together to create great things for our kiddos. WE are getting it done. WE are leading the way. What can the education world learn? Teachers will lead. Teachers will get it done. Teachers wait for NO company.

Get out of our way and let us teach!

We have proven to be the leaders in this. We can’t forget the companies that have stepped up to help us out. Although, I am giving them the side-eye. They’re like the crack dealer getting you hooked then wanting money. I haven’t seen one curriculum company step up. I’m sure the testing companies are sad not to tell us how much we, as teachers, suck. We, the teachers, got this. Get out of our way!

Moving forward

So what will this look like in a year from now? My biggest hope is that real education reform will happen. We will change how we deliver content to students. I’m not talking about distance learning. I don’t think it would work well in my community. What I’m saying is that we will move away from ‘Fidelity to Curriculum’ and more to creativity and teacher autonomy. Can you imagine teachers working together to create innovative and exciting lessons? That’s what’s happening now! It’s across districts, counties, and states. I really want districts, counties, and states to take note and make changes.

Believe in your teachers! We are proving day after day that ‘we got this’. We don’t need no stinkin’ curriculum.

Keep being awesome teachers! We got this!

Credit to Kim Voge @KVoge71 for the title.