“Disused school building” by David Chatterton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Okay, so I’ll admit that the above photo is a bit of an overreaction! I am fully aware that the school I work at, or any school for that matter, does not look like an abandoned ghost town; however, there are days I feel like it has been years since I’ve walked into my classroom. Walking in that classroom door first thing in the morning was my favourite part of each and every day. The room was BURSTING with energy, and the excitement from my students was contagious. Then, in the blink of an eye, it all disappeared.
Pandemic. COVID 19. Social Distancing. These terms rang through the empty hallways as schools closed. Fear and uncertainty now filled my classroom that was once filled with joy and laughter. Teaching, as I had known it for 9 years, would be forever changed (even if I didn’t know it, or want to acknowledge it, at the time).
It has been almost 8 weeks since I last walked into my school, and I still feel like I am learning and adjusting to this new way of teaching (and living). I have never claimed to be a “techie” person; however, with COVID 19, and remote teaching, I am pushing myself to try new things and expand my knowledge and skills. I have traded a white board for a keyboard, and face to face interactions with video chats.
SeeSaw has been a lifesaver for me! It is now the space I call my classroom. Teaching grade one, I have found SeeSaw to be a user friendly platform for my littles to use. There are tons of activities to choose from, as well as the capability to create your own activities. I also really enjoy the fact that it allows me to comment on my students’ work, and send messages to families.
Google Meet has been another tool I have become familiar with. Now, the thought of meeting with 20+ grade one students TERRIFIED me in the beginning. I will be the first to admit that the first meet was a complete disaster. I went from feeling like a professional educator to a zookeeper trying to keep the attention of 21 chimpanzees in about 2.5 seconds!
“Zookeeper 8805 Lego Minifigures Series 5” by brickdisplaycase.com is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
However, with some practice, and constant reinforcement about proper Google Meet behaviour with my littles, I think I finally got the hang of it! We meet once a week, for about half an hour, and each meeting has a different theme. So far, we have done Show and Tell, a virtual art show, and invited a couple special guests (fellow teachers) to do read alouds.
Although it may not be seamless, I enjoy the more personal aspect that comes with a Google Meet. It brightens my day to see my littles’ faces light up as they watch their classmates pop into the meeting. We feel like a family again, and, suddenly, the distance between us doesn’t seem so massive.
As I had mentioned earlier, I am not super comfortable with technology, so these are really the only 2 tools I have relied on this far. That being said, being in EC&I 830 has already started to introduce me to so many amazing other tools and platforms that I am excited to dive into, and attempt to implement with my students in the future.
I’m not sure when our “normal” will come back, whatever normal was, but I am also trying to look on the positive side of this somewhat-scary new world we are in. This pandemic may be keeping me away from my students physically, but it has allowed me to use technology to stay connected with them, and, for that, I am grateful!
Hello Amy. I work at a Grade 6-12 High School and I have to say, that I really appreciated reading about an elementary school perspective. We have some similar challenges but I have often wondered how an elementary teacher would engage their students in remote learning. You definitely would have more parent involvement that’s for sure. We are using Microsoft Teams at our school and teachers are reporting that trying to have large groups on at one time for live lessons is also terrifying. Lots of dead air. What we have found is that weekly plenary sessions and daily small group engagement even for 5-10 minutes has been working. The biggest problem is that each household has a different schedule and they are often sharing technology. But you are absolutely right – it is the connections you are still able to have with your students through technology that matter now, and the new knowledge we gain we will be able to apply to whatever classroom we find ourselves in, whether on line or in person. Stay positive!
I really appreciate your honesty and your candidness. It would have be interesting if we could have given students a couple days of intensive remote learning training before they were sent home. Looks like your use of SeeSaw and Google classrooms have been very useful even if you had a little bit of a learning curve. But as a true professional you are persevered. The engagement level looks pretty high and it looks like you’ve learned a lot of skills that you can use no matter what our new normal is. Thank you again for sharing this.
I will echo Seesaw is an amazing application that can provide a lot of learning opportunities for your students and the ability to track their growth. I am in the same division as Sherrie, and as she said we are using Microsoft Teams. I am curious how are you structuring your online meetings with students? What have you found works best for your kids? As you continue to expand do you have other tools that you are interested in exploring such as Epic?
Great post Amy!
To be honest, we are still learning the structure of our meetings! And, as time goes on, they are getting smaller and smaller in the number of students that join. As of now, I send out a link to the meet on my SeeSaw, and, like Alec did our first class, I use the grid view to call on students to share (or see when they raise their hand). We have worked VERY hard on learning how to mute and unmute our mics, which is helpful!
I have used RazKids in my classroom, but not Epic. I have looked into it, and it is something I definitely hope to try in the future. I have also started introducing a BrainPOP Jr classroom this week, so the kiddos have more variety. So far, it seems to be working well! Thanks for taking the time to read my post and leave your thoughts :).