When I first posted about the pandemic in March of 2020, I never dreamed I would still be posting about the pandemic in February of 2022. The reality is, we are not through this yet and the impact of this pandemic on our families, students, society and ourselves, will be felt for generations.
As dramatic as that sounds, and as much as I acknowledge the impacts of this pandemic, I am also a pragmatic person. I try not to dwell on problems, but rather find solutions and move forward. So in this post, I am going to share 1 of the things in my teaching this year that has really worked in this new reality:
I know many of my colleagues and I have discussed the level of anxiety we are seeing out of our students right now. It appears in different ways, in different children. We see constant questions, the need for reassurance, a need to know what is happening and an inability to wait. We see children who have limited tolerance to even the smallest of problems. A broken pencil, a change in routine, or a task that demands sustained attention, can lead to tears. Social troubles between students abound as students work to learn the social skills they missed out on during the past few years of isolation.
As are we, students are living in a world where there is no certainty. Society has lost patience for the pandemic and hate, intolerance and selfishness are bubbling to the surface. Even the most skilled parents, educators and community supporters can not shield children from the ugliness that is surfacing in our society right now. The fallout of this pandemic is indeed great.
Our students have lost privileges, routines, security and in many ways the innocence of childhood. However, as I list these challenges, the optimistic realist in me knows they are not insurmountable.
What are we going to do?
We are going to do our best to provide security, routine, strategies and tools.
So brace yourself for the strategy I am going to share with you. It isn’t groundbreaking. It is actually something most of you are likely already doing, but this year highlighted the importance.
I am checking in with my students every morning.
I know…your mind is blown. 😂
One of things I’ve started this year is a daily check in on paper. I know many people do something like this in their classroom, and have done it for years, but in the past, I always felt that I had the time, space and ability to verbally check in with my students. This year, I needed something more concrete.
At the beginning of the school year I started a sticky note check in. I would put a sticky note on each desk and when students arrived they would write me a message. As the year progressed, it evolved into the small slip of paper seen below. When we returned in January, I added the school screening question at the top.
As I do attendance, students complete their check in and as they complete a daily Bell Work task, I walk around and collect each slip, responding to each student’s check in slip verbally.
“Tired” - I understand, I’m tired too.
“Hungry” - Would you like to take your lunch into the hallway, remove your mask and have a snack to start your day?
“Anxious, Sad, Worried, So So” - What’s up? How can I help?
“Happy, Silly, Excited,...” - I am so happy you feel that way! We are going to have a good day!
Through these check ins I have been able to answer questions, reassure students, meet basic needs, and find out about special events and celebrations at home. Students have shared about why they are tired, what is bothering them, and things that they identify as making them anxious or worried. I’ve learned that what appears to be “attitude” in the morning is sometimes a rough start to the day or a tough night.
Again, not groundbreaking, but this is one thing that is really working for us this school year.
What is one thing that is working for you?
This school year has been unbelievable.
Have you seen the series of videos Canadian Comedian Julie Nolke has done about talking to her past self?
To give context, I have been teaching remotely since the spring of last school year, first with my home school, and since September, with our School Board's Elementary Remote School. This year I am teaching a class of 31 Grade 6 students completely online.
What would I say, if I was talking to my past self...
1. HOLD ON...this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Hey past teacher self, if you thought the missed days, lack of extracurriculars & field trips, picket lines and general turmoil in education of the last school year was as bad as it could get, hold onto your marking pens, you are in for a bumpy ride. Never in a million years can you imagine that by this time next year you will be teaching completely remotely during a stay at home order, due to a global pandemic....that being said, don't panic. Although bumpy, you can do this.
2. CREATE ROUTINES & SET YOUR LIMITS.
Hey past teacher self, in the past you have proven you have sometimes struggled to clearly define your limits. You've pushed yourself to the point of exhaustion because you so desperately want to do your best for everyone, sometimes to the detriment of yourself. This year you will need to set those limits like never before in order to exercise self-preservation. You will also need to encourage your colleagues to do the same and advocate for those who are worried to speak up. Develop routines for yourself, your students and your family. Routines are safe and familiar. Post daily schedules in your online classroom, so students and parents know what to expect and you feel organized and grounded in a routine. Schedule daily or weekly Google Meet/Zoom calls with colleagues to debrief, commiserate and laugh...yes laugh!
3. GET OUTSIDE, MOVE, STRETCH & EXERCISE.
Hey past teacher self, I hate to tell you but your hockey league is going to be cancelled, as are your daughter's swim practices and your husband's baseball league. Being online full time you will need to move more than ever! Sign up for online exercise classes, go out for walks as a family or alone. Do some yoga, go for a jog! You need to get outside and move! You also need to encourage your students to do the same. Incorporate breaks into your regular class routine with opportunities to stretch, do yoga and dance. Talk to them about getting outside safely at the end of the day. Encourage them to do all of their school work during the time you give them in class, because homework is the last thing students need right now.
4. CAMERAS ON DOES NOT EQUAL ENGAGEMENT.
Hey past teacher self, you have always seen your students when teaching in person, that was a given...now let's talk about teaching in the 2020/21 school year. You might think having cameras on in a Google Meet or Zoom meeting would also be a given, but it is not. You will quickly realize that there are so many factors that prevent students from turning on their cameras. Of course you will invite them to turn their cameras on, and some will jump at the opportunity and feel safe and confident enough to do that, but many will choose to not use their camera. You may never actually see some of your most engaged learners. You will need to learn ways to measure engagement using the tools you have accessible to you. Google Meet Polls will become your friend. Choose the set ways you wish to communicate with your students, as too many methods can become difficult to track. You will be able to engage students without seeing them.
5. YOU NEED A TEAM & YOUR STUDENTS NEED A TEAM.
Hey past teacher self, you have always taken for granted the ability to walk next door and talk to a colleague. This school year, you will physically lose that ability, but you need to create those opportunities online. Meet with colleagues daily or weekly to collaborate. You will need to create content and activities like never before due to the new format. Join online teacher communities on Twitter and Facebook to share ideas and strategies. Share the load with a teaching partner (oh, and past teacher self, your teaching partner is online with you...so don't panic). As much as you need a team, so do your students. You will work with parents and families this year like never before. You will send messages when you are concerned or want to celebrate and appreciate their insight and responses. You will celebrate other staff members and administrators who pop into your Google Meet and strive to give your students a sense of community within your Remote School by having live streamed assemblies and school wide events.
What would you say to your past teacher self?
Those are just a few things I would say to my past teacher self...but I bet you have a list as well.
Stay Safe & Well Friends.
...holy crap! There is a whole bunch of learning that needs to happen right now. Not just for the students, but for many of us as teachers. This is not our regular classroom. I think many of us are in the same boat right now. We are either transitioning to online learning or already there.
As I am planning to teach online, here are some things I have been thinking about. What would you add?
1. This is my plug for Twitter & Facebook during this time. If you can, create a Twitter or Facebook account to use to collect & share ideas for online teaching. There is a huge variety of ideas out there that people are freely sharing. You have an amazing #PLN at your fingertips. You'll be amazed what happens when you ask questions and people immediately respond with ideas & support.
2. Don't get stuck on the tool. If you see something cool, there is likely a way to do that within what you are able to use within your district or board. Brainstorm with others & figure it out. We are stronger together.
3. Be flexible & allow choice. Remember that families will not all have the same access to tech or support from a parent. Some families have multiple kids sharing the same device. Other families don't have access to a device or wifi. Assess the needs of your class & provide options.
4. Build community & set rules. Just like a real classroom, you need to establish the norms & rules, and a feeling of community. E.g., set times you will be available for immediate response (e.g., "office hours"). You could use email, Google Classroom Comments, Video conferencing (if allowed in your district) or a document to respond to students.
5. Try to balance online & offline activities you make available to the students. Remember that they are often sharing tech, paper tasks might be helpful. For example, provide them choice to finish something on paper & take a picture to email to you, share to you on the Google Drive or upload to the assignment in Google Classroom OR allow them to use a program like Docs or Google Drawings to complete it online.
6. Try to bring the routines from your classroom into the online classroom. A wise woman once told me (she knows who she is) that the kids would feel a lot better if they have some continuity and familiarity during this crazy time.
7. Start small. Don't throw a huge amount of work at them each day. I'm sure you are noticing when you talk to your families that life is not simple & easy right now, just like it is not for us. Our priority is making sure these students have a little bit of learning, a little bit of structure & a feeling of connection to the school & their peers to make them feel less isolated.
Those are the thoughts I have gathered...what would you add?
Things are changing so quickly and I wanted to update my resources to help where I can.
Resources for Parents/Students:
The Ministry of Education in Ontario and local school boards and districts are now offering a variety of online activities and resources for home. Prior to this happening, educators across Ontario, Canada and the World started sharing amazing online resources that I compiled into resource lists. These lists are here to support you as well. I also created sample plans for my daughter, my family & friends to show how these online resources could be used to plan your week.
Resources for Educators:
As we move towards online learning, many people may be anxious about what that means. I have a variety of resources that might help you plan ahead, particularly for school boards or districts that use Google for Education.
Check out my *NEW* Google Meet page, as well as all of the Google Resources, including Google Classroom help.
As well, don't forget the importance of Digital Citizenship at this time! Check out the variety of resources I have to support you and your students.
Lastly, although the resources shared above were geared towards helping parents & students, please check out the resource lists and sample plans, as they might be helpful...or if you see that something is missing, please send me a message, as I would love to learn more.
Let me know if there is anything I can do to help. I believe we are stronger together!
Stay safe & stay healthy!
I have begun to collect a variety of resources that can be used by parents and students for home learning. I am just providing an option for those who might be looking for activities.
Stay safe, happy & healthy everyone!
HOME LEARNING OPTIONS
Let's do this!
For the second year in a row, I am SO excited to be working with a fantastic team of teachers and IT professionals on the #BIT19 conference committee. Last year I was asked to help out and had an exhausting blast! This year, I know it will be the same.
Reasons I love #BIT19!
#1 You get to see, hear and meet people you likely follow online AND/OR (for my non-twitter folks) find people who INSPIRE you!
#2 You get to hang out with people who are as PASSIONATE about education as you are!
#3 You get cool tips, tricks and resources! If you are very lucky, you win PRIZES!!!
#4 You leave feeling excited, and if you are like me...somewhat behind on the times, WHICH only makes you STRIVE to be a better teacher!
#5 You leave knowing that you are a part of a COMMUNITY of professionals who are there for you...all you need to do is reach out and say "hello!".
On a side note...if you are at #BIT19 today, please stop in to see Marcy Dubuc & I present about our STEMBounce project. We are very excited to share it & see what you think!
Marcy & I are pleased to share STEMBounce with all of you today.
Click here: STEMBounce Website
Please take a look & let us know what you think.!
I think my excitement and passion in teaching comes from taking risks. I love trying new things, be that strategies, lessons or technology. I have been prone to "wing it" and go off script, often improvising on the spot.
I tend to jump into the ocean that is teaching with GRAND ideas, and then scamper back out, solving problems as I go...thank God for a teaching partner who is skilled at validating my ideas, refining them and then diving in with me with all of the proper equipment. (Love you Marcy!)
Two years ago, Marcy & I took a risk by adding a designated STEM period in our schedule each week. We designed challenges and created teams. Each week the students would rotate to a different challenge. It worked well and we were excited. You can read about the start of that journey in this: blog post.
This school year we took a huge risk when we decided to spiral our math program. That was terrifying, a lot of work, thrilling and well worth the effort. It has completely transformed math in our classrooms. We saw huge benefits! That journey is meant for another blog post coming in the near future.
This blog post is devoted to our current risk. Our precious baby that we are preparing to launch into the world on August 6th, 2019!
After spending a year doing STEM challenge rotations, we started this past year off with a change. Again, we created a variety of challenges to get the STEM teams working together. As the year progressed, Marcy observed that by we, the teachers, creating the challenges ourselves, we were stealing some of the learning from our students. She had an awesome idea and from that STEMBounce was born. We were lucky enough to receive support from colleagues within our school and school board to make this happen.
Please follow @STEMBounce (click here) on twitter and join our Facebook group (below) for updates and hints as the August 6th, 2019 launch approaches.
We are very excited to take this risk...and nervous... and scared... and even more excited!
Thanks for reading & BE KIND ? ?
Those of you that know me, know that this past year has been a difficult one for many reasons. By the end of the school year, I was running on empty.
I start this school year with a reflection about "What I know" as an educator.
What I know #1: An important question is: Are you okay?
Are my students okay? Are my coworkers okay? Am I okay?
When I first started teaching, well-being was important, however it was often second to deadlines and performance. I have a tendency to push myself and therefore those around me.
I think my time as a school librarian gave me time to connect with students and staff in a different way and therefore changed my approach with others in my school community. Nothing gets done if you aren't okay.
If students aren't feeling safe, learning doesn't happen. If they don't trust, learning doesn't happen. If you don't connect with other educators in your building, learning doesn't happen.
What I know #2: We need to put the mask on ourselves first...
Funny enough, as a person who has HUGE flight anxiety, I am going to use the oxygen mask metaphor.
When the cabin loses pressure, put the oxygen mask on yourself first.
I must always take care of myself, and as an extension, my family, my teaching partner and my students first, before I jump into other commitments.
What I know #3: I love to open the door...
Literally and virtually, I am a firm believer in sharing - for free.
Don't get me wrong, if you sell your stuff on Teachers Pay Teachers go nuts! I'll even buy your stuff! No judgement here.
I LITERALLY love having people in my classroom, so come for a visit. See what I am doing, give me ideas and feedback. I not an expert, I am a teacher and I want to learn, change and grow. JUST SEND ME AN EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see if we can arrange an opportunity for us to connect.
I LITERALLY love sharing docs online...I only ask that you tell someone where you got the idea...and if you make it better, please share it back! WE HAVE MORE BRAIN POWER TOGETHER.
I love sharing my practice & classroom VIRTUALLY on my blog, on my personal twitter account @Melissa_Roth and our classroom account @Gr5_6TEPS
My teaching partner and I use the class twitter account to connect and create a window into our daily classroom activities. We have all parents and guardians complete an Online Sharing Permission Form, even though our school has a Media Release form that covers many of these things. We feel that it is important to ensure our families understand how we will use social media and online connections throughout the school year.
Credit to Kathy Cassidy, a primary teacher from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, for inspiring me to create this form. The "For Safety & Privacy" box is based on the structure she used in her Gr.1 classroom at the time I saw her present at the CONNECT conference in Niagara Falls in 2013.
What I know #4: There is not only ONE way...
There is not ONE piece of technology that is the "fix all". There is not ONE teaching strategy that will work. You need to have a bunch of tools in your kit, to pull from throughout the school year, so that you can meet the needs of each student and each task.
I find that I am getting ideas from people everywhere, but I have trouble remembering what they are called or where to find a particular tech resource. For that reason, I created a working document that is linked to this blog. Feel free to add to Online apps and Tools for Learning 2018. You will notice the document allows anyone to edit.
What I know #5: Every Kid is a Puzzle...
When I work with students I try to figure out what they need as a person and a learner. I am their teacher, not their friend. I know that they need clear expectations and boundaries (don't we all), but I also know they are unique.
How do they read and break down words? How do they see themselves? How do they deconstruct a math question? How can I make them feel comfortable and accepted?
How can I figure out how each student learns and share it with them, to help them take ownership of their learning journey?
Happy September. Thanks for reading & I hope we can connect.
P.S. Below is my classroom door. Which, ironically in this picture, is literally closed, but figuratively open.
I can't take credit for the decorations, as it is something I saw recreated multiple times online. Unfortunately, I can't give credit to the original creator...but if it was you, I love it! Let me know, so I can give YOU the credit for this awesome message.
I think one of the things that I needed to recognize as an educator, is that it is okay to say "woah" , "slow down" , "give me a minute here"...as long as you are moving forward. When I come to technology conferences like #BIT17 I feel a mixture of things.
Sometimes I am inspired, excited and ready to jump in...other times I feel overwhelmed. I'm not typically overwhelmed by the technology, but more so by they possibilities they present. There is never enough time! How can I possibly present all of these opportunities to my students...in 1 year no less? How do I accomplish all of these things and teach curriculum, assess students, identify needs, help my struggling learners, meet with parents, write reports, run extra-curriculars, etc, etc, etc,....
I believe the answer is to take what you can and try something new. Keep moving forward. Recognize where you are and where you want to be. Set small goals and take small steps forward.
Right now, #STEM is new learning for myself & my teaching partner. This year we decided to devote 1 period per week to doing #STEM rotations. Is it smooth? No. Have there been issues and growing pains? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes.
Here are the rotations we have created...is there something better out there? Absolutely. I just wanted to share an example of how a couple of regular classroom teachers are trying to make a go of it. Perhaps you might get some ideas about things you would like to try:
STEM ROTATIONS - GR.5/6
STEM CHALLENGE CARDS
WELCOME to my blog!
Please follow along on my journey. I am an Ontario elementary school teacher who loves to learn new things! I love to share, collaborate and learn from others, so please keep in touch!