Tuesday, September 1, 2020
I have mixed feelings about writing this post. It makes me incredibly sad. I guess I want to remember this time in my life, though? And, maybe this will also help some parents and other teachers out there? Anyway, let’s jump right in. You can take a pass today if you want to! Ha!
First, a little back story. I started teaching when there was NO INTERNET! I even remember my first school still had a mimeograph machine – I think we called it – the thing that made the purple copies of my childhood – ooooh the smell of that fresh purple ink. I am also the girl that sniffed her markers and put glue all over her hands so she could peel it off. So satisfying. Maybe I should do the glue thing now for self-care?
Anyhoo, don’t judge. This is my 27th year and the new methods and technologies I have learned in that time period is simply mind boggling. I remember using a typewriter for my handouts my first year because I didn’t have a home computer. I can remember thinking how bizarre it was that I was given such a big job at age 22 and absolutely no resources. I had to buy my own everything or take handmedowns from other teachers.
I have some strong thoughts and you may or may not agree with me. I am also going to be talking about high school level – the only level I know as a teacher. Good teaching has not changed. There – I said it. I still use some of the methods I learned as a student teacher. Kids have not changed. There – I said that, too. In the 90s they passed notes and now they send Snapchats or group texts. They are the same content, though, for the most part.
High school kids want teachers that care about them. In fact, they can’t learn until they know that the teacher cares and they can’t respect a teacher unless the teacher shows them respect, too. They don’t want to be talked down to. And, we shouldn’t. Teens today are smart, sensitive, compassionate, creative, funny, and so much more. If you don’t believe this you shouldn’t be teaching high school. Now, there are a few tough kids. I have been cussed out and I have been made to cry – only once and it was in the bathroom. I have had to have a pretty thick skin. I have also made the point to many a colleague that women have to be tougher than men in this gig. Some things kids will try with a female teacher and not with a male teacher.
I also think that maybe the tenants of teaching a language may have stayed the same – you still need to be immersed in the language. You still need to memorize things. You still need a community to speak with and who will listen to you.
Our first experience with distance learning in April and May was pretty basic. We could hold live classes or Q and A sessions but we couldn’t make it mandatory and there was no school schedule. We mainly posted 3 things a week for kids to do for our class.
This time around, we have a set schedule. We have a 7 period day and the kids go to 4 classes one day and the other 3 the next day and then they do it again. So they will meet with each class twice a week.
During our 2 weeks of training so many apps, platforms, websites, and ideas were being thrown at us. My colleagues were spending 8 hours making a Bitmoji classroom. I was intrigued and I was listening but it didn’t feel like me. In fact, it was really stressing me out.
I knew that I wanted to use Zoom so I could see all their faces at once. I teach Spanish III and AP so I wanted an interactive and communicative virtual class. I am really lucky that my district is letting us teach from our classroom or home and they are really letting us decide how to teach. I love that autonomy.
I decided to try to teach as much like we were in person as possible and to keep as many of my routines and traditions as possible. We are currently supposed to go back October 6, but most of us don’t see that happening. We think it may be January or February at the earliest.
I actually had a great first week. I would say I taught old school style using new tech. I called roll and had them pick a Spanish name. I had them write on paper to answer their daily journal question and then some volunteered to read. I had them do a mini presentation of objects that represent them. They were willing to turn cameras on and speak. I showed a short video clip by sharing my screen. I posted handouts on Google Classroom.
Once I decided to be me/do me/ teach my way I was more at peace. Teaching is really an art form and we don’t all have the same style – nor should we.
The best thing was getting to “meet” many of their pets. We always talk about pets during the school year but I’ve never gotten to actually see so many! The worst thing was not getting to see each other face to face, ask about summer, compliment them, talk to them one on one, and feel that energy that a new school year brings.
I had almost perfect attendance! I have to keep my live sessions engaging and worth their time. We still are being very sensitive about equity – some may not have WIFI or devices and we can’t really penalize a student.
So, the teaching part and the student part was great!
Here is what was not so great….
We were told we could use Zoom or Google Meet (we are using Google Classroom so Google Meet is a part of this and flows really well with it but it has some limitations). I chose Zoom for day one. At the end of the day we were told we had to use Google Meet. I switched to Google Meet for day two. At the end of day two, we were told we had to switch to Microsoft Teams by Monday. We had a few students in a few schools that shared links and went to classes that weren’t their and did bad things or showed bad things on camera. So, a few bad apples are ruining the whole bunch.
Microsoft Teams is the worst of the three I have tried in my opinion. On certain devices, you cannot see more than 9 faces. I have classes that range from 22-31 kids.
Whew – I am tired! I’m sure I forgot something! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments. I would love to hear from other teachers!