Did you start remote learning this past week like I did or are you getting ready to soon? I am writing this post to share how my first week went, what I learned, things I would do differently and unexpected successes. I am sure all of you will have your own story to tell too.
Preparing for Remote
After learning that I was going to begin teaching remotely I did my own personal survey of my technology tools, what my students likely had access to and other tools I might need. I discussed many of these in my last post: Simple Ways to Plan Remote Learning! But once I got into action things evolved quickly!
I jumped in head first. After preparing all my digital resources; I prepared my Monday email to students and their families, scheduled my Google Classroom posts for all my classes with directions, and included the resources they would need to complete their assignment. Then Monday came and by 8:30 am, emails began to roll in, 50+ to be exact. So I began responding to parents and students who had questions. Instead of filling overwhelmed, I thought to myself wow–look how many of my students are on and engaged. Then at about 12:00 pm I realized I hadn’t eaten–so I quickly ran to eat. Then I continued to respond to emails and had a Zoom meeting with my team. By the end of the day I was still energized, feeling pretty successful, but knew I was going to have to make some adjustments to make the next few days better.
Realizing the first day was a little messy since I spent so much time at the computer going back and forth, I knew I needed to organize differently and make a schedule. Something I went back and added to my previous post as an amendment. So I prepared my student and family email and scheduled my Google Classroom post, this time with a schedule and Zoom meetings (zoom.us). I noticed a decrease in initial emails and to my amazement about 20 kids per class showed up for the zoom meetings I had made optional. I was able to go through the assignment and answer questions. Each meeting lasted about 30 minutes as I was showing them the features and figuring out how to help them manage participation. Overall it went great. But again with back to back zoom meetings, it was lunch time before I realized it and now emails were rolling in, assignments were being submitted for review and the day flew by. I also took notice of students (as I have about 100 middle schoolers) who had been on or had not, who turned in work and what their work was looking like when I began reviewing them.
Even though I realized I needed to make adjustments I continued with the skeleton schedule I made on day 2 with zoom class meetings and going through emails, submitted work and providing feedback. In addition I had a team meeting each day, staff meeting and district meeting with zoom. And like a crazy person I signed up for some webinars that I came across for nearpod (nearpod.com) and an online school that a friend sent me. By Friday at 4 pm, I told my computer I didn’t want to look at it anymore. Overall I felt like the week went pretty well and I learned a lot.
My Learning, Failures and Successes:
So having shared all this, you are probably wondering–what are the secrets? What did you learn? What did’t work and did? If I could start all over, here are the things that I would have done differently.
- I think I would have started my first day with students like we do on the first day of school. Do a classbuilder and something fun to adjust to this new territory. Use Zoom or other collaborative platform for this. Instead I jumped right in and continued like it was just another day. The truth is, kids and families are going through a lot–so a simple “fun” activity and Zoom meeting could have helped a lot.
- Have a realistic schedule. At the beginning I did not have a schedule. The rest of the week I made one, but I’ll be honest—I didn’t stick to it with the exception of my scheduled meetings.
- What was really powerful and I realized this after my first zoom meeting, was kids were so excited to see me and talk to me. They wanted to interact and talk. I learned so much more about my students as their siblings came into the our meeting, a cat walked across the screen, and much more. I was building relationships in a new way. I knew I had to continue face to face time virtually.
- Something I viewed as a failure was that at the end of the day I only had about 50% of the assigned work from my students. So I realized I needed to reach out to those I had not heard from at the end of day 2 and also probably assigned to much. I reminded myself I need to go slow to go fast later. So what you think you would normally do in a regular class period, cut that in half.
- Also in lieu of workload I think I needed to look at how I can make the lessons more interactive and either use my zoom meetings as a mini lesson, or video my mini lesson and then use zoom for question/answer.
- What I did do by day 5 was add the classbuilders in. I let them know that it was Pajama day and we would do a fun zoom activity in pajamas. We had a lot of laughs and reflected on the week.
So now I am on spring break and like many teachers I am really not taking a break. I am thinking how I can make this better moving forward. So I am working out how to make my schedule more manageable with 5 classes of students and how to help students manage their schedule too. (Get FREE Scheduler here) I am also having to work with my team in other subjects to make sure we don’t overlap critical times as we want to have zoom meetings with our classes. I will likely be creating some videos with Screencastfy so there is always a personal touch, making lessons shorter with varied activities, and will likely maintain a specific format for my lessons using Google Slides as the major structure for daily work. Because I am a perfectionist, I will likely look at testing out some of the FREE digital resources that are being provided to teachers and attend some more webinars. Kids are amazing, resilient, and want to be in our lives. So it is all going to be wonderful as we learn together!!