Dusting Off the Blog in the Pandemic

A New Kind of Teaching and Learning

It's been so long since I've blogged. I think about it. I draft posts in my head. For many reasons, blogging gets pushed back to the bottom of my priority list. I will say that it feels good to get back to writing.

So, here we are in the midst of a pandemic. We are teaching in unprecedented times. Literally, overnight, we are now teaching from home, while our students are learning from home.

It has not been at all what I thought it would be. I thought it would be a seamless transition. I've been using technology in my classroom for years. My students are savvy when it comes to using tech. It's been a huge part of our writing workshop this year. The students are not afraid to jump in and try new things when using technology. I wasn't worried when we got word that schools would be closed for the next three weeks (that timeline has since been extended).

Like many of my colleagues, I began collecting resources that were so generously being shared by authors and other leaders in education. I added them to my "Online Learning" Padlet. I chatted with friends. I began to think about what my students would do in this new eLearning situation. Teachers had two days to plan for kids' work and then we had three days of "online school" before having a week off for spring break.

A Surprise

The first day was busy, but fun! I prepared a short video clip to connect with the kids and the kids were enthusiastic about jumping in.  I created a Padlet so the kids could check in each morning since we wouldn't be able to have our morning meeting. Each child posted their Zone of Regulation color and shared what they were looking forward to. We worked through glitches of navigating our LMS and figuring out how to submit assignments. I answered questions from kids and parents and in the end, we successfully made it to the end of the day. 

The second day, a sadness quietly crept in. 

A sadness I didn't expect. 

I felt a keen sense of loss and missed those little things I took for granted. I missed hearing all the stories kids start the day with as we are getting ready for school to begin. I missed the giggles and whispers in the background. I missed the back and forth of conversations as we built our learning together. I even missed having 5 people talk to me at once!

On the third day, I knew we needed to connect. Our district is using Zoom video conferencing to connect with students and colleagues. I had never organized a meeting before, but I decided to give it a try. I quickly sent out a message to kids, not knowing who would be able to show up.

A Welcome Relief

About half of our class was able to join the impromptu meeting. With each "ding" that announced a new person, squeals of delight could be heard from the others already there. "Hi Charlie!" "Hey Reid, how are you?" "Maalong, where did you get that?" 

It felt so good to hear their voices and see their smiling faces! I think we all felt it. 

Now more than ever I understood the importance of connection; of the social part of learning. So how were we going to continue? 

Just as I do when we are in the classroom together, I asked the kids. And just like it happens in the classroom, they had fabulous ideas.

They asked if I could be on Zoom for them to pop in and ask questions first thing in the morning. (Yes)

They thought it would be better to have our morning meeting on Zoom. (Yes)

Could they have time in small groups on Zoom just to chat? (Yes)

Would I do read aloud live on Zoom instead of recording it and uploading it to our LMS? (Yes, with the addition of uploading a recording for those who cannot attend).

We are in our fourth week of Pandemic learning at this point. I've implemented all of their ideas and continue to think about how else we can connect. 

I am staying on Zoom after morning meeting and read aloud to work 1:1 or do small group work to help with math assignments. I am also going to implement some small groups for writing and will be adding some virtual book clubs for those who want to join.

In The Grand Scheme of Everything

In the grand scheme of everything, I want to acknowledge that this is hard. Everyone in their own ways is grieving the loss of what is normal. Parents are juggling working from home (or being laid off) and at the same time, helping their children with school. I want to honor that we are all doing our best at this time.

In the end, I want to come out of this experience knowing that I did everything I could to help my students keep those important relationships they've built in our classroom. I want to provide that opportunity for us to be together, even if it isn't the way we are used to. It is through those connections that we can find a little bit of solace and comfort, knowing that we are going to get through this together.


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