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!

Amy

14 thoughts on “My Take on Distance Learning

  1. Amy the world needs more teachers like you. I love your perspective on good teaching and how the kids haven’t changed much other than personality. So much I get from teachers at our schools has been negative. I have a gifted bright fourteen years old who will challenge a teacher. But he is fiercely loyal to those who treat him with respect as well and appreciates him as a human. It’s hard to hear all the negative as a parent and very little of the positive. Your kids, school and community are blessed to have you.

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    1. Thank you Paige. I really feel like a dinosaur sometimes. Your words made my day! That was not the intent of my post; I was not fishing! Haha! I think sometimes we make it too complicated. I like routine and I know the kids like it, too. Some of the old school methods work best!

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  2. “Teaching is an art form” I love that and it’s so true! It sounds like you’ve had a great first few days. I’ve never even heard of Microsoft team (which means nothing 😂 I hadn’t heard of zoom until March 😂) I’m thinking October back to school isn’t happening either…but I hope it’s not too far after 😢

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    1. It really is! Teams is built more for business and college. I had only heard of it because the boys’ college used it for orientation. Tom’s work uses it, too.
      I want to go back badly but at the same time it scares me because of all the risks! It’s so hard right now!

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      1. Yes and once we get the hang of virtual school, I think people will be more open to it if we need to do so longer. I don’t want to go back to school just to have it called off…I’d rather go back when it’s as safe as possible…and I hope for my kids that’s soon. Also- your “ teaching before the internet” made me 🤣 I can’t claim the same but I certainly didn’t start incorporating technology into daily lessons until I guess 10 years ago or so…it’s crazy to look back on my 19 years and all that has changed

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      2. That is true! I’m a hypocrite because I want my kids to have in person classes but I’m afraid to teach in person classes! I can still remember my friends in the business department at Woodford Co. HS calling me in the room to show me the internet! Lol!

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  3. This is truly a learning experience for students and teachers. I teach in a Kansas middle school (80-100 per grade level) and we have been in-school for two weeks. The kids are doing great and are so happy to be together. We have 5-7 students in each of the grades who have chosen remote learning That is probably the biggest stress for teachers. We are using Schoology and it is a new platform for teachers and students. Last spring we relied on Zoom and expected very little of kids educationally. The remote students are having trouble understanding how to use Schoology and it is hard to help someone remotely. There is also the possibility they aren’t trying that hard! Some teachers are also struggling to learn a new platform. One thing I thought I would never say, “Wear your mask correctly”.

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    1. It really is. I am so glad you are in person. My sister is in the same boat in Indiana – responsible for both in person and virtual and she is about to lose it. two of my colleagues like schoology. I know – you never thought you would have to talk about masks – so weird! Keep up the good work!

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  4. Oh, there is so much to learn! We are using Google Meet with students and Teams for teacher meetings. Our first day is 9/8 and I am hopeful that it goes smoothly. I am taking deep breaths and trying to smile. I am going to do my best to teach like me online too. I plan on singing and dancing with my younger kids (and sometimes the older kids too). I teach kids for 6 years (the whole elementary school time) so I think all the routines I can continue will help them feel the most comfortable. How wonderful to have the autonomy to teach from home or school. We have that too, but are strongly encouraged to teach from school. Keep going strong! It sounds like you are a wonderful online and in person teacher!!

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    1. I know! It is simply overwhelming! That is weird that you are using Meet for students and Teams for teachers. Let me know what you think of Teams. I hate it! Yes, I have been singing but dancing is a bit harder from a seated position! It is so sad!

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  5. Never heard of Microsoft Teams……bummer you can’t use Zoom, because that sounds like your favorite. I teach kindergarten and we use Google Classroom/Google Meets. We are starting school September 8 in Minnesota and we are doing a Hybrid. I have half my class Mon and Wed/ the other half Tues and Thursday, then ALL Distance Learning on Fridays. However, we do not enough chromebooks for every Kindergartner, so Distance Learning will be paper choice boards on Fridays UNTIL we get chromebooks at the beginning of November. Whew. It’s all crazy.
    Our daughter went to college in St. Paul and is now home quarantined in the basement because she was exposed to COVID off campus. We have had zero contact with her, however we still took the COVID test yesterday to make sure. Bottom line: COVID sucks. I hope your boys will be safe of COVID this fall!!!! I hope they’re doing great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry for your daughter. Did she get tested? I hope she remains asymptomatic and I hope your test is negative. I feel so bad for our young people.
      I heard that there are no chrome books to be had until November- like they are manufacturing them as fast as they can!
      Many of our local private schools are doing the hybrid and it seems to be working well and it is a good compromise. My district is public and so big that I don’t know if we will be able to do that. We are supposed to go back Oct. 6 so they better start working on a plan! Most of us don’t think that will happen.
      I would be fine with Google Meet but Zoom is better. I love Google Classroom.
      Best of luck and stay safe!!!

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  6. I am so nervous for my son to do virtual classes; in two weeks when his grade leaves their in person shop classes and go to virtual academic learning they’ll have to log in each day to all 7 classes keeping their traditional schedule. I just keep hoping we don’t have too many computer/tech problems and that we can figure it all out quickly. It sounds like most everything will be run off of google classroom/meet but we should know more once he gets his Chromebook and passwords.

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