Spring Break, Quarantine Edition began today. I was able to catch up with so many of my favorite people throughout the day. This is definitely a perk of being in isolation…you have time to talk to people without being too busy. Silver lining!
My morning started off in Texas with Lisa, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew, Randi and Logan, where I got to hear about how their week off from school has been going. Lisa’s a teacher, too, so she has the tough job of teaching online while homeschooling 2 young children. I can’t imagine how she’s going to do all that and stay sane!
Next up in Vietnam was Michelle, whose birthday is today. It’s such a bummer that she doesn’t get to properly celebrate it now, but she is getting together with a small group of friends later tonight. We commiserated about online school and how much we miss having our kids in the classroom and debated whether it was safer to go back to the states or stay abroad. The verdict was it was probably safer to stay rather than braving the trek home.
Late morning took me to Canada to see Shaggers, who also just finished her first week of online learning, and like me, is on Spring Break. With both her and her husband teaching, Marlowe (their 4 year old daughter) is struggling to understand why her parents are preoccupied and not able to devote all their attention to her while they’re home. They’ve been working on an alternating schedule to make sure she gets what she needs. I imagine that’s a tricky line to walk. Of course, we also talked about Marlowe, her budding writer!
This afternoon I got to catch up with Annie, my temporary roommate, who moved back to her place once the self-quarantine went into effect. While we are both glad we have a week off from school, we both plan to take advantage of the week to get ahead for the next week of virtual school. We also weighed the pros and cons of going back home during this uncertain time. The verdict’s still out.
After Annie, Vanessa was on deck. Since we usually chat on and off during school days, it was weird to not talk to her all day. We briefly chatted about her fun family day spent in PJs, where they watched movies, ate yummy food, and played Monopoly. Everyone is glad for a brain break from school!
Wendi, my friend I originally worked with in Albania and who now works with me here in Jakarta, called to talk through whether it’s best to stay put or go back home. She’s got more to consider, with a baby and a dog, but no matter the reasons we came up with, there was no clear answer. She’s going to sleep on it tonight.
Rounding out tonight was my parents in Texas. We discussed whether or not I should come home (sensing a pattern?), but again, there was no clear decision. I have to weigh up whether it’s safer to stay here, where I am quarantined in my house, or risk the airports, airplanes, and long lines once I arrive, plus the 14-day quarantine in a hotel once I am stateside. I’m likely to catch it on the way home, but the medical care is better at home, I’d be near my family, and I’d be guaranteed to get out of Indonesia. Who knows if/when flights in and out will be shut down…with so many unknowns, there’s no easy answer. Our conversation ended on a positive note, where we talked about non-Coronavirus topics, which was pleasant.
I never thought we’d make it, but Friday finally came! Today was an even more TGIF moment, as it was the start of our spring break. While this is not the week off I had planned (so long Australia, hello self-isolation in Jakarta!), I am so thankful for this week of respite. After 3 weeks of virtual school, and 11 straight weeks of school without a day off since winter break, it’s much-needed!
Just like the last day of term in real school, we had some fun today! We met as a class this afternoon on ZOOM to have a check-in. We chatted (usually all at the same time) about whatever we wanted, shared how it was going, talked about what we missed about not being together, asked each other questions, showed off our pets (a kitty, a dog, and a hedgehog!), told jokes, sang our favorite song from camp, and laughed a lot. I was reminded of how much I love this group of students. We all needed a bit of fun and to take a step back from the demands of school.
Following our ZOOM meeting, we continued chatting in Teams, sharing funny videos and memes. Here are some of our favorite videos:
My friend and colleague Vanessa is a mentor for one of my students in his Exhibition, and after their meeting, she called to ask me how she could support him, but I was on the other line with a student, so she left a voicemail. The voicemail on Teams has a feature where it sends the voicemail and a written version of their message using their text-to-speech feature. Vanessa is British, so her accent didn’t entirely translate to the written version. As I listened to the message, I was following along/reading ahead on the written version. I laughed so hard at this…
“I said, what are you struggling with what can I help you with? He said his grandma and so I’m more than happy to support him with his grandma…”
I was so confused! The message said he was struggling with his grandma, but she said he was struggling with his grammar! I immediately called her back to tell her what happened, and we were cry-laughing about it. We needed that laugh today!
This evening, after school was a distant memory, several of my colleagues and I got together for a virtual happy hour on ZOOM! It was nice to see everyone and talk about things other than school (although school creeped into the conversation a few times…we are teachers, after all). Lots of laughs and silliness was the perfect start to this week off!
Hope I can continue to see the fun in virtual school and self-isolation…it’s going to be a while! 🙂
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about productivity, time management, and scheduling. Working from home has never been a strong suit of mine. Whenever I need to get a lot of work done on the weekends, I always have to work somewhere else…school, a cafe, Starbucks. If I don’t, I am so distracted by things at home that I just procrastinate all day until I stress myself out and end up staying up late on Sunday night and then don’t even get half of my list done!
What started me thinking about time management was my students’ reflections on virtual school last week. All but one said the hardest part of online learning was time management and managing distractions. Same for me, guys. To help them learn more time management techniques, I went on a deep dive on YouTube, because let’s be honest, I’m not the model for this skill! I found 2 really good videos (here and here) for them and they’ve been using the new techniques to create a daily to-do list and schedule each morning, which they submit to Seesaw. I’ve seen improvements this week in their ability to submit assignments in a timely manner. If we are still online after spring break, I’ll tackle the distractions element!
While researching for my students, I came across a YouTuber named Amy who is a time management, scheduling, morning routine, and productivity expert. I’ve watched way too many of her videos this week! With tomorrow being our last day of virtual school before a much-deserved week off, I’ve been reflecting on how I will improve how I approach the planning and execution of virtual school and how I will take some time for myself on my isolated spring break. Here’s what I’ve planned so far.
Things to do during Spring Break
Daily: -Exercise -Blog/Slice -Read -Skincare routine -Sleep well
Fun: -Puzzles! -Try new recipes -Catch up on my shows -Movies and popcorn -Coloring books
Organize: -Clean out closets -Cook and freeze meals -Create a daily schedule for Spring Break -Create a daily schedule for virtual school (if it continues after next week) -Decide what to pack/move and what to donate
Work: -Plan ahead for the next week -Film all lessons for the next week -Student feedback -Catch up on curriculum work -Brainstorm how to do an entirely online PYP Exhibition (if it comes to that)
I’m hopeful for next week and want to be productive, not succumb to binge-watching Netflix every day, because we all know how easy that would be!
This video from Amy is sooo helpful and applicable now! Anyone struggling with working from home should watch it. She gives great tips!
Today marked Day 16 of self-quarantine. Sixteen days that I’ve been cooped up in my house. When the decision was made on March 2nd that our entire community would go into self-quarantine and begin virtual school, I was in shock. That shock turned to bitterness and resentment a few days in, grumpy and frustrated to be a prisoner trapped in my own home. By about day 5 or 6, I was downright depressed at the fact that I couldn’t leave my own home. However, once I passed the first week mark, I had accepted it. While I dreamed of freedom, looking forward to waking up on March 17th and getting to go out to dinner with friends, drink a hot chocolate at Starbucks with a good book, or just do a bit of walking around in the mall, the closer it got to my freedom, the less excited I became.
In the days leading up to my day of freedom, talk of social distancing and staying at home to not only protect yourself but vulnerable populations began to emerge. Reflecting on the what-ifs, I came to the decision that I would continue to remain indoors and in isolation. My newfound acceptance made the decision that much easier.
But today I had to leave my house. I didn’t want to, and it certainly wasn’t for something fun like a dinner date or to hang out at the coffee shop. My teeth had been really sore for several days, and I needed to go to the dentist. I feared that my wisdom teeth might be coming in and pushing on my other teeth. If you’ve ever had tooth pain, you know it’s not something that can easily be ignored. So I made the appointment.
When it was time to go, the nerves set in. Why am I so nervous to leave my house? It’s not that big of a deal. But the number of cases here in Indonesia has been increasing at a rapid rate. And the President said yesterday that he’s intentionally withholding information from the public about the actual number of cases and deaths so as not to create panic. My worry about catching the virus was heightened.
I debated over whether I should taxi or Go-Jek it. Which is the safer option? Is it literally touching the person who’s driving me but being in the open air or sitting in a confined space and breathing the same air as the taxi driver? I opted for the Go-Jek, but wore my pollution mask just in case. Armed with hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and tissues, I headed out.
The first thing I noticed was the ease in which we were able to drive. The usual bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, weave-in-and-out, drive-up-on-the-curb-just-to-get-ahead traffic was a thing of the past. Clearly the message to stay home had reached a large number of people. What would normally have taken an hour to drive (yet it’s only about 7km away) took about 20 minutes.
As I walked into the office tower, I was acutely aware of my surroundings and my actions. Don’t touch your face. But my nose itches. Don’t do it, Jennifer. You haven’t washed your hands since you left home. I walked slower to avoid walking near someone else, trying to keep at least 1 meter distance between me and other people. Having a bit of extra time to kill, I popped down to the ATM. Using my sleeve as a glove, I typed in my PIN. The change in withdrawal limit from 3,000,000 (about $200) to 1,000,000 (about $65) meant I had to make many additional withdrawals. Sanitizing my hands, I headed upstairs.
After my dentist visit, where I learned that I have two impacted wisdom teeth (oh, joy!), I stopped at the grocery store nearby to pick up a few things. My temperature was taken upon entry. As I wandered around the store, my fellow shoppers and I avoided one another like the plague, the unwritten rule being that only one person was allowed per aisle. After checking out and applying more sanitizer, I headed home.
Once back home, I breathed a sign of relief. While I had my first taste of freedom today, all I wanted was the comfort of my little bubble. I don’t think I’ll be going out any time soon.
I’m back for another installment of advice for virtual learning. If you haven’t read Part 1 or Part 2, you might want to start there. Part 1 gives tips for Student Wellbeing and Part 2 delves into Staff Wellbeing.
Virtual Learning Tools
Before I launch into my recommendations for virtual learning tools, let me let you in on a little secret. I’m no expert in technology. There are probably definitely a million more blogs for you to get great ideas from, but in an effort to get you started, here are the tools I’ve been using the past 2 weeks with my students that I’ve found to be the most helpful.
An invaluable tool for our school during this period has been Seesaw. Seesaw is an app that students already use in the classroom to document learning, which serves as an online portfolio with photos, videos, and work samples. Students can also complete tasks set by the teacher in the ‘Activities’ tab. Parents are connected to their child’s account, and just like Instagram, they get a notification whenever a new item is posted so they can like and comment.
Since this is a tool we have been using for a couple of years at my school, it made it very easy to transition to this platform when we started online learning. Students’ and parents’ familiarity with the app helped ease the anxiety of learning online (a little bit, anyway). Check out the quick tour of Seesaw below.
If you haven’t tried FlipGrid yet, try it now! No, seriously, I’ll wait. I was fortunate that I had already introduced FlipGrid in the classroom as part of tuning in to our Exhibition, so my students were familiar with how to access it and create videos, but if you haven’t tried it, I’m confident that your students can pick it up quickly, as it’s rather intuitive (and let’s face it, they are way better at technology than us anyway). Students are highly engaged when creating videos and certainly enjoy sharing their learning this way!
FlipGrid is basically an app or website that allows students to create videos of various lengths (you set the time limit, with a maximum of 5 minutes) about any topic you set. You can create different ‘grids’ for different topics. So far I’ve created grids for International Day, where students made cultural videos to share with the class after we missed out on the event due to the school closure, and a few grids connected to our Exhibition (Action ideas, weekly reflections, UN Sustainable Development Goals). What I love about it is that students can customize the videos with stickers, text, photos, inserting clips of other videos, etc. They can also pause the video as many times as they want while filming, which is different than when recording traditional videos on the iPad or on PhotoBooth.
Once the students post a video on the grid, everyone in the class can view the videos and create video responses. All videos are secure on FlipGrid’s site and students have to enter a ‘Flip Code’ and an ID number to access the videos, which makes me feel relieved that not just anybody can access them. You, as the teacher, have control to delete, hide, or download videos. Teachers can also give feedback to the student using a rubric and/or written comments, in addition to video feedback, which I use often.
Here’s an example of an introduction video for FlipGrid, where you let the students know what the video they will create should be about.
I don’t want to share a video with my students’ faces, but here’s a FlipGrid one of my students made when reflecting on last week’s virtual school experience.
ZOOM is a video conferencing tool that allows up to 100 participants at a time, so you can have all of your students online at the same time. I’m fairly new to this tool, as I only held my first class ZOOM meeting today, but it’s fairly easy to figure out. I suggest you first try it out with some colleagues, as I did with my staff last Friday. We played around for half an hour and left feeling confident to try it with our classes today. The students were so excited to see everyone again and enjoyed chatting all at once. The ‘Mute All’ feature came in handy for that! 😉 I’m going to try this out tomorrow to hold a class discussion about our collaborative performance for Exhibition and later this week for a live read aloud. We created essential agreements for how we will use it. I suggest you do, too. The video below is a tutorial for how to set it up.
Padlet is a virtual way to collaborate and share ideas. Padlet is one of those tools that has been introduced at many professional development workshops I’ve attended, and I’ve always thought it was cool, but I never seem to find time to try it when I go back to school. Last week I used it for the first time in virtual school. I wanted students to share their ideas for their math component for Exhibition, but thought that having them post their ideas for everyone to see would work best since those students who were less confident could see some other ideas before having to decide on their own. I then gave them feedback in the form of questions to help them strengthen and improve their ideas. The downside is that students can’t sign in without email addresses, so all posts come up with ‘Anonymous.’ Just try to remind them to include their name in their post.
A tool that we already make use of at our school is Microsoft Teams, which is a messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing system. While I much prefer to use the Google Suite, I’m getting used to using Teams. I had not yet used it with my students prior to the school closure, but when we closed, I quickly got them set up on it so that we could have one-on-one meetings and chat easily, two features that Seesaw doesn’t offer. We ran into difficulties setting it up remotely, so if you are still at school, I recommend setting up all technology tools with students prior to the closure (if you can). As with anything new, we are having some teething issues, such as students messaging too much in the group chat or annoying one another with incessant chatting in the private messages, but they are learning. Again, create essential agreements from the outset. I had to backtrack and create them, as I didn’t think of that at first!
Many of us are familiar with BrainPOP, a popular source of informative videos presented in bite-sized chunks. During our school closure, I’ve used it as a tool to reteach concepts I’d already taught in class that students still need practice with, such as citing sources, researching, and note-taking skills. With my students in the middle of their PYP Exhibition, they are all researching their topics at the moment.
My school doesn’t have a subscription to BrainPOP, but BrainPOP has generously offered free access to all schools that are closed due to COVID-19. I suggest you sign up for a free account. I signed up for one account for my school, and we are all using the same username and password. Click on the screenshot below to sign up.
Kahoot! is another tool I’m sure you are familiar with, as most of us have created fun quizzes to use in the classroom as a review for a test. I am going to use Kahoot! for my math lesson tomorrow to have them practice mean, median, mode, and range. I’ve never tried it individually (there’s no time limit and you can see how they performed later), but I think they will enjoy it. Kahoot! is another company who has offered their service free to schools who are closed due to COVID-19. For a free account, head to the homepage and click “Learn More” in the yellow banner at the top. It’s a great resource, loaded with tons of teacher-created content!
Weebly is a free website-creation site and app. I love using Weebly because it’s easy for students. You simply drag and drop the items that you want (headings, text, images, videos, etc.) and rearrange them however you want. Weebly is a tool we had already been using in class since each student is responsible for creating a website to document their Exhibition process. If you are looking for an ongoing project, would like students to learn how to create a website, or perhaps you are looking for a way to share lessons with students during virtual school, I think you should check out Weebly.
Two great programmes for creating tutorials, teaching using slides, or reading aloud from books online are Loom and Screencastify. They both work similarly, giving you the option to record your screen, with the option to include a video of you in the corner of the screen, however, I prefer Loom because it has more free options. With Screencastify you are limited to creating 5-minute videos on the free version, but with Loom, you can create much longer videos (at least 20 minutes, I’ve found), adjust the size of the webcam video, and move the video anywhere you want on the screen. Both are easy to install, as they are simple Chrome extensions.
Here’s a Loom video tutorial I made for my teachers to show them how to schedule a meeting on ZOOM.
Free Online Books
Many of us already use EPIC in our classrooms, and while the app is free at school, but not at home, what I’ve discovered is that it’s free at school due to it being free during school hours, which means students can access EPIC books at home, Monday-Friday 8.00am-3.00pm. So get those kids reading!
Another website for books is Open Library, a website with thousands upon thousands of free books. If you want to read a book aloud but you don’t have a physical copy, use Loom to record your screen and read a book from Open Library!
I didn’t get time to give advice about creating a daily schedule/organizing your day and parent wellbeing and support, so I’ll have to do that next time! If there’s anything else you’d like me to share, or if you have an idea that works for you, please comment below. Thanks for reading!
More and more schools announced closures over the weekend; even my sister-in-law’s school in Small Town, Texas has announced that they will extend Spring Break by another week, at least. The Governor of Jakarta stepped up this weekend and announced that all schools in the city must close for two weeks beginning tomorrow, and they must offer online learning. For us, nothing changes, as we aren’t planning to open until 30 March anyway, but I am glad that the government is taking this situation seriously and putting measures in place (finally!) to reduce the spread of the virus.
With these closures, many of us are left scrambling to figure our how we are going to teach online, a concept new to the vast majority of us. I’m definitely not an expert by any means, but I have been doing it for the better part of two weeks, so here’s my advice and observations. I hope that they are helpful to you.
What they don’t tell you about virtual school is that it’s WAY HARDER than real school. As in you can work 12+ hour days and still feel woefully behind. The pressures you now face are overwhelming, to say the least. You are learning so much, so fast, but there’s no time to process that new learning or consolidate it before you are asked to implement it. It’s pretty much a crash-course PD, where you are constantly adapting and trouble-shooting and finding new ways of doing the same things you would do in the classroom. One thing I’ve learned is that something that would typically take a few minutes in the classroom can take 30+ minutes to accomplish online, especially when you’re trying to remotely support young students on how to use the new online tools.
In addition to the pace of learning and insurmountable tasks you now have on your plate, most of us have to contend with self-quarantine and isolation from others. Extended time alone, a dramatic increase in screen time, and a decrease in movement result in exhaustion. You will expend an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy throughout the day, and most likely you will do so on far less sleep than you are accustomed to, at least at first. Your patience will be put to the test, and your emotions are likely to bubble over from time to time. It’s all normal and expected. Be easy on yourself and know that it does get better.
Schedules and Routines
All of this is to say, you need to look after yourself and your family. Setting a schedule for everyone will help establish routines and cut down on chaos. Set boundaries for yourself. If you don’t, you’ll never step away. There will always be another notification, Seesaw post to approve, email to answer, text message to respond to, video chat to answer, etc. Take regular breaks throughout the day and set a start and end time for your days. Allot some time on the weekends to get your work done and get ahead for the next week, but take time out to rest and spend time with your family.
Get Some Sleep!
My biggest hurdle is not getting enough sleep. As I said, there’s always more to do and the guilt of not getting it all done is real. I’ve found myself staying up late most nights working, often not getting to bed until 11:00-12:00. The lack of sleep means I’m less effective during the day, meaning I have to stay up late that night to catch up. It’s a vicious cycle. Learn from me. Set a bedtime and keep it. Another thing is that you can’t just work right up until you are going to bed, because staring at a computer screen messes with your brain, and you’ll be so wired you won’t get to sleep. Try to put some distance between the end of work and your bedtime, such as a shower, cup of herbal tea, and some reading (in a real book!).
Connection and Collaboration
Virtual school is lonely and isolating. It’s a strange concept; you are connected digitally all day, yet you don’t feel a real sense of connection. One way to combat this is to reach out to your colleagues and friends throughout the day. Message one another in your school’s online platform (ours is Microsoft Teams), call a friend or family member on the phone during a break or in the evening, video chat with your students and colleagues, take a walk outside (but keep some distance between you and others). Reach out to other online communities you have. Do whatever you can do to establish and/or maintain that sense of community.
Collaborating is key to making virtual school a success for others. We cannot do it alone. We need to share what’s working and what’s not, ask for help when we need it, and share new ideas and resources we come across. When we do this, we all win, and more importantly, so do our students. At my school, we have taken the consistent approach across all classes in the Primary school. When we find something that is a good idea, we all implement it. This cuts down on comparisons between classes (and complaints) when it comes to parents.
We have a ‘Virtual School’ channel in MS Teams where we all load ideas and suggestions for virtual school. It’s a feed of ideas that we can all revisit when we have time.
We also have a Primary group chat on WhatsApp where we collaborate, ask for feedback, discuss concerns or issues, send announcements, and share links with one another.
Our students feel the same way, too. They crave connection and miss their friends and the daily interactions they have with their teachers. Reach out to them on video chats to help them feel some sense of normalcy. Listen to one of my students’ reflection on the week. You can hear how much she misses the connection with her friends that she has at school.
I’ve already touched on some aspects of self-care, such as getting enough sleep and setting boundaries. Another aspect to consider is eating healthily, ensuring that you have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Being at home and under a huge amount of stress has led to me eating more snack foods and desserts, which only leave me feeling even more sluggish. I’m working on eating healthier. Drink lots of water all day. A plus to working from home means you get to go to the bathroom whenever you want! So drink water with wild abandon.
Move your body several times during the day. It’s sooooo easy to get stuck in your chair, hunched over the computer all day, but you’ll be paying for it later. Take a walk outside for a few minutes on your breaks or after school. Do a yoga YouTube video when you wake up. Play the Wii with your kids after lunch. Whatever you can do to move, do it.
Take some time away from screens. Do something you enjoy offline, such as reading, knitting, working on a puzzle, coloring, cooking a meal, trying a new recipe, listening to music, dancing around your living room, taking a bath, taking a nap, playing a board game, etc. Whatever it is that you enjoy, spend time doing that. You are no good to anyone if you’re run down.
I came across a *FREE* PD on Designing Online Learning this morning and I’ve signed up. The PD runs from 23-30 March. The catch is you have to sign up by Sunday at 7pm ET if you want to take advantage of this offer!
I still have lots more to share…so there will be a Part 3 tomorrow. Stay tuned!
Hi everyone! There’s a FREE online PD course, Designing for Online Learning, that will run from 23-30 March. They say it’s about a 45-60 minute/day commitment. Normally the course is $150 USD, but it’s free to all educators who register by Sunday 7pm ET, until it’s full. I just registered! Go to this website if you are interested:
Many people around the world, myself included, have found themselves in an unusual situation. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down our schools with little to no warning. We are now tasked with teaching virtually which, for the majority of us, is a completely foreign and intimidating task. We have probably been asked to do this with no training or time to prepare.
For those of you who are in this situation, I am sure you feel lost or unsure if you’re doing the right thing. This is a normal feeling. If you are focusing on what’s best for kids, you’re doing it right. You’ll find your groove, learn what works for you and your students, and find successes. It just might not feel like that right now. Be easy on yourself. I know you have high standards and expectations, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take it one step at a time. Reach out to colleagues, both at your school and abroad. We are all in this together!
I’m new at this, having completed Day 8 of virtual school on Friday, and I’m still learning and improving each day, but here is some advice that might help you as you navigate this new way of teaching.
First and foremost, we have to think of the impact this change is going to have on students. There are many aspects of student wellbeing to consider.
Our students are not used to learning at home, and we need to be mindful of the limitations that some of them may have. Some may not have access to a device or a consistent internet connection. Some may not have an adult to help them with their assignments at home. Some may not have books or basic supplies, such as notebooks, pencils, and art materials. Some may have learning differences, such as a special need or limited English, that will prevent them from accessing the lessons and assignments. We must prepare ourselves for the fact that some of our students will fall behind. Think about ways to support your students through this. Is there a way to loan a school device to them during the school closure? What about sending home extra library books or student packs of materials? Can you set up 1-on-1 video chat sessions with them to re-teach a concept or check in on them to see how they’re doing? How will you differentiate learning for your students? A one-size-fits-all approach will not work.
Movement Every Day
Students typically have opportunities to exercise each day at school, whether this is through PE lessons or recess. When quarantined at home, they will likely not get as much exercise. Assigning daily PE lessons (minimum of 30 minutes/day) in the form of good quality exercise videos is a good way to ensure they burn off some of their pent-up energy. Providing a variety of exercise options each day of the week will ensure they aren’t bored. They could dance on Monday, do yoga on Tuesday, cardio and strength training on Wednesday, etc.
Screen time is also a consideration. We all know the research that says it’s important to limit screen time for kids. Teaching virtually puts students in front of a screen for an extended amount of time each day. We need to be mindful of the time we are expecting students to be in front of a screen each day and how long each stretch of time online will be. Consider the students’ ages when deciding on how much screen time to expect. One way to reduce the amount of screen time is to break up the learning throughout the day, scheduling in brain breaks, time for movement, etc. Another way is to assign offline activities, such as ongoing projects, science experiments that can be done with household items, hands-on math activities, art activities, free reading and free writing.
Another consideration is the workload for students. What might take 30 minutes to do in the classroom can take some students an hour to do at home. What I’ve learned is that less really is more. I started out assigning way too much, only to realize it wasn’t working. Since pulling back, I’ve seen improvements in students’ motivation and ability to complete the daily tasks. We can’t forget that our students are learning in a new environment, with many distractions they aren’t used to, and to expect them to do the same amount of work at home that they do at school is unrealistic. Asking for reflections from students and parents has helped me gauge whether my expectations for students were appropriate. You can do this in a variety of ways, such as surveys, 1-on-1 conversations on video conference calls, or having them create video reflections with given questions.
Connection/Sense of Community
Making the move to online teaching allows students and teachers to connect digitally, but we must not forget the need for real connection. Students will watch your video lessons and then complete work independently at home. Most likely they’ll submit their work via an online learning management system, such as Seesaw, and you will comment on it. These connections are sterile and do not replace the daily interactions we have with our students at school. They miss their friends. They miss you. How can you connect with your students? Using an online tool, such as ZOOM, that allows you to connect your entire class is a good way to keep the sense of community alive. You could read a story aloud, have a morning meeting, or teach a mini-lesson. Alternatively, you can chat 1-on-1 using video conference tools, such as Skype, ZOOM, or Microsoft Teams, to form those connections with individual students.
There’s so much more advice to give about staff wellbeing, virtual learning tools, organization and structure of your day, etc., but given the length of this post, I’ll wait until tomorrow to continue my advice. Please comment below if you have any questions or want me to include anything in my next advice post. Best of luck!
Now that we are quarantined at home and teaching virtually, my morning routine has certainly changed.
6:30- Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.
6:39- Alarm goes off again. Debate hitting snooze a second time, but decide I have to be an adult.
6:40- Get up. Begrudgingly.
6:41- Bathroom. Wash hands. Wash face. Apply eye patches to the puffy, dark circles under my eyes. Brush teeth. Brush hair. Get dressed.
6:55- Head into the office (AKA my living room/dining room/kitchen).
6:56- Make a cup of tea.
6:58- Fire up the laptop and open MS Teams just in time for my meeting.
7:00- Video conference call with the Academic Leadership Team.
7:01- “Good morning! How’s everyone today?” my boss asks, in his chipper, I’m-a-morning-person voice. Great! I’m good! Excellent! Fantastic!, my colleagues reply, as they, too, are morning people. “I’m here,” I say, still wearing my eye patches and clutching my cup of tea. I don’t pretend to be a morning person.
7:02-7:29- Continue the meeting, addressing any concerns, issues, etc. that have arisen the day before. Discuss what needs to go into our daily updates to parents and staff. Talk about other ‘admin-y’ things. Finish my first cup of tea.
7:30- Log into Seesaw and release my Daily Learning Overview (the document that outlines my students’ day of learning with a schedule, learning objectives, and assignments) and my Morning Message (a video where I outline the day, give reminders, etc.)
7:31- Start receiving messages from students on MS Teams chat, as they check in for the day. Respond to their messages to see how they are doing, if they understand the goals for today, and remind them to reach out if they need anything.
7:35- Release all of the lessons (videos, links, notes, instructions, etc.) for the day on Seesaw.
7:40-8:00- Respond to the barrage of Teams messages and Seesaw notifications that come in, as quickly as possible.
8:00- Run back to my room, remove my eye patches, and apply make-up so I don’t scare the kids.
8:10- Make my second cup of tea and respond to the messages I’ve missed.
8:14- Send a good morning text to the Primary teacher WhatsApp chat with a morale-boosting message.
8:15- Call my Teaching Assistant to check in and chat about the plan for the day. He will reach out to students I’ve identified as needing more support, keep track of who turned in what on Seesaw, and help approve Seesaw posts throughout the day.
8:25- Quickly eat some breakfast. Typically a bowl of fruit or cereal does the trick.
8:30- Have my first 1-on-1 meeting of the day with a student, where I’ll check in with them about how it’s going, what progress they’ve made on Exhibition, give suggestions for various aspects (their action, their art or math components, etc.), ask how their research is going, see how I can help them, discuss next steps, etc.
8:52- Catch up on missed notifications and emails, respond to questions, check on the Primary teacher WhatsApp chat to see if there are any questions I need to address.
9:00- Second 1-on-1 student meeting begins.
My mornings sure are busy, but I’m getting into a routine. Some mornings are more hectic than others, but each day it gets a little bit easier to manage.