Hello, friends! It's officially week four of the school year; how did that happen? I started this post before school started and clearly didn't have the time/energy/motivation to finish it. I'm feeling a wide variety of emotions, as I know all other teachers are. Somedays I feel completely fine and other days my stress level suddenly creeps in and I quickly become overwhelmed.
At my school, students are completely virtual for the entire first nine weeks. We (staff) all report to the building like usual (with social distancing practices in place). Our students are split into two groups, "Group A" and "Group B."
Group A: Monday and Wednesday
Group B: Tuesday and Thursday
Friday is used as a day for the staff to get caught up on everything, as well as professional development opportunities. Students work independently on Friday on their assignments. Friday can also be used as a day to have one-on-one instruction/tutoring with students who need additional help.
Our schedule is a morning prep, three courses, lunch, three courses. So I will have six courses each day. Students will "float" from one virtual classroom to another via Google Meets. I am still teaching the same content areas: English 1 (freshmen) and English 3 (juniors), but my classes doubled with the "A" and "B" groups. If/when we return to in-person instruction, students will remain in these groups to assist with our class sizes.
I wanted to share a few tips, lessons, and just some encouragement for you in your current circumstance.
Add-ons/Google extensions I'm loving. If you click above, it will take you to my YouTube channel and a recent video about all the tools I'm loving for remote learning. I am sure you are familiar with many of these but there might be some that are new.
Back to school life. This is another vlog I made the first weeks back in the building if you want a more detailed look at what I was up to.
Remember to rest. It's so easy right now to blur lines of work/home. Make sure you are focusing on keeping your mental health a priority. I know how quickly I can fall into working when I should be resting. Also, don't forget to stretch, wear blue light glasses, and move around. I don't know about you but sitting at my desk for most of the day is super weird. I have to remind myself to get up and walk around some.
You're going to have lesson flops, technology glitches, awkward moments, and overall weird vibes. This whole thing is super weird for everyone. I am sure you are accumulating interesting stories from online learning. I've been embracing those moments and giving myself, and the students, an abundance of grace. Don't be too hard on yourself or your classes. We're all in this mess together, and it's perfectly ok.
Ask for help or brainstorm with other educators. There is no shame in needing help from other people. One thing I love about "teacher gram" world is the amount of support I feel there. Ask fellow educators for help when you need it. I believe every person has something to offer someone else. I am always looking for a new tip, trick, or idea from my coworkers. If you have to, schedule time with others to just brainstorm and problem-solve.
I also wanted to share more specific ways I am getting through online learning. Here are a few ideas of how I have been structuring my lessons.
The first section in my Google Classroom is the "Class Resources." Here I have their weekly work, which is for each class "A Day" and "B Day." I also have a link to a website we use called, "Achieve 3,000." The final section is "Check-In." I like to check-in on my students' mental health quite often. I have a question from @makingastatementinsped (her sticky-note questions you can find on Instagram) and then a few other questions.
What is your stress level (1-5)?
What is one thing I could help you with?
Would they be interested in speaking with a counselor?
Is there anything going on at home that is causing them to feel overwhelmed? If so, how can I help?
What is one positive thing going on in their life right now?
I go in and look at their responses every day to see if anyone has posted anything new.
2. Weekly Work
Here is a look at a sample weekly layout I have posted for students. Each assignment is time-stamped, which is a requirement at our school. On their "off days," students need to be working on classwork still, so we need to give them at least an hour of work to do. This part has been tricky because we do not typically assign homework. I've been using class time to go over notes and the assignments. If students don't attend the virtual class, they can still complete the work, however, they will have missed out on me explaining the materials. I obviously help them when they miss days, which creates a lot of reteaching and retelling that is completely exhausting at times.
I also think this layout is helpful for students to be able to find the week based upon the date. I copied this idea from other educators I saw online who used this format.
One of the most helpful tools I have been using on Google Meets is playing Kahoot. I have used this for years, but my freshmen are loving it this year. I have a lot of true freshmen this year, so they are super young and feel more like middle schoolers. I saw an educator (I forget who) sending their students stickers in the mail for rewards. I decided to send Kahoot winners stickers in the mail; and they are loving this!
Here are the sticker packs I ordered from Amazon.
Make sure to filter some of these for what is appropriate with your students. There is a wide variety of options on Amazon, so I'm sure you could find something your students would love that is also ok for school.
Another win on Google Meets is asking a couple to stay on at the end. I'm going to be honest, I am not making them stay and work with me the entire class time. I often allow them to log off and tell them they can jump back on if they need me. I also like to use the extra time to meet one-on-one with students who need additional help. I enjoy being able to ask certain students questions and help them with specific assignments.
Also, if you missed it, Google Meets is getting an update sometime next month. Here's an article to learn more about what it will include.
We have a couple of students who are picking up their work (paper and pencil) or receiving some kind of alternative curriculum. My brain often feels like a puddle of pudding right around 1 o'clock each day. That after lunchtime is really a killer sometimes. :) I'm having a hard time remembering all of the details I need to, so I made a daily to-do list I have on my laptop. These are things I need to do every single day, which is helping me get back into the routine of work.
Whatever your school situation looks like, I hope that you are finding moments that still bring you joy and make you remember why you do this wild, crazy, and challenging job. I think if we can make it through this school year, we can do absolutely anything.
I believe in you! I am always just an Instagram message away, should you ever need to chat or vent about teaching in 2020. You've got this, friend.