Head First

*After sitting in my drafts since the end of March, I figured now would be a good time to revisit this post, add to it, and finally hit publish*

Let’s kick this off with a little math equation for you:
Covid-19 = school closure + diving head first into distance learning

Personally, I am not the type of person who follows the news and retweets all of the medical updates about what is going on in the world with Covid-19… I may have had my head in the sand, but I really didn’t believe our school would close for an extended period of time until the day our Head of School actually announced it to the parent body.

That announcement brought out many emotions… mostly confusion and maybe a tiny bit of excitement about working from home in my comfy clothing with 24/7 access to my Nespresso machine. A part of me still thought we would only be closing for a few days and then all would be back to normal.

[at the time that I had started to draft this blog post]
It has been 2 weeks since our impromptu faculty meeting where Dr. Mitzmacher told us that we were closing and it has been almost a week and a half of Distance Learning (or as I prefer to call it: #OJCSonline). I decided to write this blog post entirely for myself (so feel free to skip it). It is currently unclear how long we will be closed for and if this continues to go on for weeks (or even months) I would like to have somewhere I can go to reflect on my experiences with distance learning.

So here we go…

The first few days working from home were PD days. It was the first time all year where we had all of the time in the world to meet with our teaching teams and truly collaborate. It was fun and exciting to share ideas, build schedules, and assist some of my colleagues with technology coaching. I was glued to my laptop from the time I woke up until the time I went to sleep. It was almost comforting… it felt like I was back in University. I did feel like I was a little bit “out of the loop” as most of my colleagues were talking about sore eyes, headaches, and sore backs from sitting in front of a laptop all day… luckily, I didn’t experience any of that. I also started to realize, just like our Head of School predicted, one of my favourite parts of working from home is being only a few steps away from my kitchen at all times.

The first couple of weeks were very exciting! I had started a new novel study, found ways to connected my students online to their *somewhat* personalized Math programs, and filmed a ton of tech tutorials for my students. However, the week leading up to Passover (and our 2 week-long break in April), I was starting to worry about whether or not I had enough ideas to continue teaching online longterm after Passover. I knew we would be finishing up our novel study and I knew I would have to start teaching some brand new Math concepts… Finally, the excitement of distance learning started to fade.

During our Passover break, most of my Twitter PLN from the United States were starting to launch their distance learning programs. Participating in our weekly twitter chats inspired some fresh and new ideas (i.e. Flat Morah Lianna, guided drawing, student-paced pear decks, etc.). Very quickly (and easily) that excitement for distance learning came back! We (my fantastic teaching team and I) also adjusted the schedule to have our more rigorous learning blocks in the mornings and office hours and Arts in the afternoon. We did this in hopes that it will help students be more engaged in their learning blocks and free up some of our afternoon time to work in smaller groups during office hours with students who benefit from some extra help.

Coming back online after Passover was great. I loved having a routine again and it was very nice to see our students (even if it’s just through a screen). The updated schedule well well received and we definitely noticed a positive difference in student engagement. Once we finished our novel study, I was able to connect with the Author, Angela Dominguez, and schedule an author Q&A session in our Google Meet classroom! This was a major covid-highlight!!

Recently, I have started to dip my toes into bringing back my levelled guided reading groups and I have been using Google Jamboard as a whiteboard tool to teach new Math concepts.

While things have been going very well, I am still left with these questions…

  • What can I do to continue engaging students in their learning (in fun and exciting ways) for the last 5.5 weeks of the school year? …stay tuned for an idea I have brewing…
  • How can I find ways to bring my virtual classroom outside for some lessons or activities?
  • How can I wrap up the school year online and provide closure for our time together in Grade 2? *plug for this week’s #2ndchat on ending the school year
  • Will I be able to clean and “close up” my physical classroom for the summer?

In a time where things are so uncertain, oddly enough, it feels normal to not have the answers to all of my questions just yet.

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