We did it—my students and I got through our first week of school from home! The learning curve has been steep but, with the weekend’s respite from students, I may get beyond the feeling of treading water to actual swimming.
Half the stress of this week was due to the shock of implementing it so quickly. A day after our faculty meeting where we were told to be thinking how to teach remotely, the governor announced that schools would be closed effective Monday. That gave us Friday to put a plan in place.
Fortunately, much of the plan was already in place:
- Online class pages. Our school uses PowerSchool. Now, did students ever actually use the class pages? Of course not! That is why PowerSchool class pages had a melt-down this week. I doesn’t take a tech genius to figure out that, if a site user goes from zero views a week to over 7 views a day, things will crash. Which is why I had built in redundancy…
- Online Assignment Submission. I use Showbie. My students have been submitting documents, audio and video files, and photos regularly via Showbie for a long time. If the class page goes down, they can still look on Showbie to see what is due and when. And I can grade their work right there. Showbie is a normal routine for them.
- Online curriculum. Three of my French classes have online resources through my.hrw.com, which includes the text, audio files and videos for the students, and all my teacher supplements–which I can copy to Showbie! Without this, I can not even imagine trying to teach my French classes from home. The my.hrw.com site is supposed to be a normal routine for them, but since each student also has a hard-copy text at home, we had to reset three student passwords last Friday for students who could not log in.
I had to add one more component to my online classroom, but it was actually already in place:
- Microsoft Teams. Every class became a Team. Our tech guy, Eddie, has been telling us for years how wonderful the Microsoft Office tools were and how all our students had access to all this stuff via their school email. For the most part, we smiled and nodded while Eddie shook his head and sighed. He does that a lot.
It only took three days for Wine-free Lent to get tossed by the wayside. Two-days, really, but Day 2 was St. Patrick’s Day which has always been a feast day from fasting in my family. All the sunshine and yard work I can do is not enough to handle the stress of this new routine this week.
One colleague said she feels like an octopus, with eight arms flailing in all directions. Another feels like she is playing Whack-a-Mole with all the messages coming at her from students. Setting up completely new routines and reformatting lessons has been overwhelming. Was it just a week ago that Maryland’s Governor Hogan announced the school closures? Have we stepped into an alternate universe? Um, yes to both.
By the end of the week I look back on the following successes:
- I have a routine–I follow the class bell schedule. During any given class period, I focus my attention on that class only. I interact with those students and their work.
- My students have caught on to the routine. They check in with the Team at the start of their class period and answer at least the following questions:
- Have you posted your work?
- Have you read the instructions for what to do today?
- Do you have any questions?
- They may have also have a discussion question to post and reply to. It’s like a warm-up to review what they learned yesterday.
- I have been able to supply pretty much all resources I would have given the students in class. Except in-person me. More on that later.
- Most–not all–students are keeping up with the schedule of work. It took a bit of nudging for some. One student, who was being lackadaisical about posting his work, explained, “This was why I stopped home-schooling.” My retort to him: “This is not home-school. This is SCHOOL –from home.” One of his classmates commented with a heart. The student, I am proud to say, has been most diligent since then!
- Students are letting me know what is not working for them.
- Kahoot activities need to be done without a timer so students can think before answering. Thanks to the free upgrade to pro, I can give them untimed activities.
- Internet and wi-fi problems are making it difficult for some to post by deadlines. I need to set longer deadlines and be gracious with students who have tech problems.
- Audio and video resources are great, but there is no substitute from hearing things straight from the teacher, hence…
LOOKING TO NEXT WEEK
- Team Meetings. The math teachers jumped into this almost immediately, but it took me the week and a student plea for help to realize that face-to-face interaction has to happen. A colleague and I practiced a Team Meeting on Friday and discovered that it was actually ok! I’ve scheduled my first one for 10:15 Monday. The biggest glitch I am fearing is the formatting difference I see between the laptop and the ipad.
- More time to think and less stress in lesson planning. As I get my plans organized for this coming week, I am planning them for the online platform. Last week, I was reworking the plans that I had already organized for the classroom. I was working minute-by-minute, flying by the seat of my pants. (By the way, what does that metaphor actually refer to?) This week, my posted week sheet will contain exactly what I will post for the daily announcements. Copy and paste daily. Woo hoo.
- Reminders to self to give breathing room to myself and to the students. I asked French 1 what they were “going to do” or “not going to do” this weekend, since they learned that this week. Several said that they were going to study. I was totally fried by Friday. This was a rough week. Successful, but intense. I don’t want my students to spend the weekend doing schoolwork. So, here’s my list to myself to help us have breathing room and not burn out:
- Independent reading days for my upper level students. I may plan them all for the same day to give ME some space.
- Virtual field trips. I want to give space between hard lessons with something fun yet interesting. Versailles and Monet’s Gardens are offering virtual tours, for example. The Louvre tour might actually be better than the crowd-crushing experience of trying to see the Mona Lisa in person! Really, though, I’d like to find something more fun than a museum tour.
- Let go of the expectation of covering all the material I would normally cover in class.
- Don’t introduce too many new things at once. I can’t handle it. The students can’t either.
This week, I felt very much like a rabbit leaping off into a race. It is hard to think like the tortoise, slow and steady, when there’s COVIC-19 nipping at your heels. I recall my pet name for my students –squirrels. My students are like squirrels–all over the place in any given minute. I have to stay slow and steady because many of them haven’t a clue how to do it. This week I had only half a clue. Next week? I am aiming for one clue.