Tag Archives: COVID-19

Feeling it today

uncertainty breeds fear
the unknown
makes you question
whatโ€™s the right thing
to do

when youโ€™re not given
accurate information
or itโ€™s being withheld
anxiety sets in

should i stay
or go
what would keep me
safe

over two weeks of
isolation
no end in sight
loneliness
a new way of life

the need
for human contact
growing stronger each day
all i need is
a hug

Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 3

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.

Seesaw

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.

FlipGrid

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.

FlipGrid has shared tips for Remote Learning on their website.

ZOOM

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! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 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

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.

Microsoft Teams

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!

BrainPOP

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!

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

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.

Here are a couple of my students’ Exhibition websites if you want to take a look:
https://izzieexhibition.weebly.com/
https://koreenaexhibition.weebly.com/

Loom and Screencastify

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!

Suggested Further Reading/Additional Resources

15 Strategies for Online Learning When School is Closed

Online Learning

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!

Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 2

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.

For my advice around student wellbeing during this virtual learning period, have a read of Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 1.

Staff Wellbeing, Including Your Own!

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.

Self-care

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!

Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 1

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.

Student Wellbeing

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.

Student Limitations

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

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.

Workload/Expectations

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!

Click here for Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 2

Click here for Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 3

My *NEW* Morning Routine

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).

My new office/classroom

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.

What meetings are now like…

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.

Today’s Been Tough…

Today’s been especially tough.

Even as I write this, the screen is blurry, as my eyes brim with tears. Maybe it’s the isolation. Maybe it’s the extremely long hours. Maybe it’s the feeling that no matter how hard I work, I can’t seem to feel like it’s enough. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m constantly letting my students and staff down when I can’t get back to them quickly enough. Maybe it’s because this virus thing is really real to me now. Maybe it’s because I’m sleep deprived. Whatever the reason is, I’ve come to a breaking point.

Last night I worked until past 11:00pm (again), and when my alarm went off this morning, I dragged myself out of bed, knowing that I had people depending on me to release today’s lesson information and videos. After way too many cups of English breakfast tea, I started to get into a groove, but sadly, that was short-lived.

Mid-morning I had a meeting with two other members of the leadership team about how we can better support our struggling students, and for some reason during that meeting, I started panicking about the PYP Exhibition. The high standards I put onto myself, coupled with the (perceived?) expectations of the community, had me worried. How will my students complete their work in time? What about the ones who need more support who are at home fending for themselves? What about the ones with no Internet access? How in the heck will we collaborate on a shared presentation piece as a class when we are all in isolation and learning online? Voicing my fears helped actually, and I was able to move forward with the day, supporting my students through meetings and text conversations.

But this afternoon, while I was on a video conference with a student, one of my teachers called me. I answered, worried that something had happened. He asked what today’s staff briefing would be about. I assured him it would be mostly routine things, but he hesitated, mumbling something about some news his wife mentioned, but he didn’t say much else. I told him I was busy with a student but that I’d get back to him as soon as I could.

I finished the call with the student and clicked on a few chat notifications to catch up on what I’d missed. In our leadership team chat, someone had posted a link to an article with the announcement that Indonesia had had its first Coronavirus-related death today. As I read the announcement, my heart stopped. The gender and age were the same as our teacher who tested positive for the virus a couple of days ago and who is in hospital in isolation. That, along with the fact that the article stated it was a foreign-national, made me fear the worst. With my heart in my stomach, my hands shaking uncontrollably, I typed, “Please tell me this isn’t our teacher!”

With bated breath, I waited for the reply. A simple “no” came back with no explanation. Shortly after that, we received confirmation that someone had spoken with them on the phone. Relieved that they were still alive and doing okay, I still couldn’t shake the fear that gripped me. What if it had been them? What would I/we do? What does this mean for our community and the wider community? I don’t have answers, but I will say that while I wasn’t afraid before, I am today.

Today’s been especially tough.

Virtual Read Aloud

Read alouds are those magical times in class where you can share your love of reading, come together as a group to listen to and discuss a shared text, and model good reading strategies, such as reading with fluency and expression, stopping to think, making connections, making predictions…the list goes on and on. Creating a shared experience like this is much more challenging when your students are quarantined at home and you only have a computer screen with which to interact with them.

For those of you who’ve been following along with me this month, you know that we closed our school last Tuesday due to Coronavirus, are all in self-quarantine for two weeks (today’s day 6), and have been teaching virtually since Wednesday. It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us, but we are doing our best to engage our students in learning.

On Friday I posted a video of me reading from our read aloud Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech that we started before the closure. I read with as much expression as I could muster, stopped to think about tricky vocabulary, and made connections to what had happened earlier in the book. At the end of the read aloud, I asked students to make some predictions and post them as a comment underneath the video post on Seesaw. I was so excited to read their comments and see their thoughts about the chapter. They were so engaged! ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are their comments on the read aloud:

When I recorded the video for Chapter 10, I started by discussing their predictions and sharing my excitement over their engagement with the story. I hope that their enthusiasm continues as we begin week two of virtual school tomorrow.

In case you’re interested, here’s my video of Chapter 10…

Day 2 of Virtual School was a bit easier

My title is somewhat misleading. While Day 2 of our Virtual School was easier, the fact is that it’s 6 minutes to 11:00pm and I just finished my work for today. My to do list is still quite long, but I finished the work that I absolutely had to do to be ready for tomorrow morning. I’ve still got to film my Morning Message video in the morning before “school” starts at 8:00, but I look a bit worse for wear at the moment, so I thought it better to wait until I at least had a shower and put on some makeup.

My second day wasn’t as frantic. People were starting to get the hang of things, and while I had a steady flow of messages, texts, calls, and emails to attend to, I wasn’t completely bombarded like yesterday. Based on feedback from the students and parents yesterday, I scaled back the workload today. It’s difficult to gauge how long something will take students to do online and at home. In the classroom you just know, but online it’s so different. Something I think will take them a few minutes takes 30 and something the art teacher set to do over two days they did in an hour. We are all still finding our way.

I really enjoyed my 1-on-1 video conferences with my students, where I was able to chat with them individually about what they’ve been working on, what they needed support with, and what their next steps were. I was able to connect with 12 of my students today and I’ll be speaking with the remaining ones tomorrow. They seemed less nervous and awkward on our video chats today.

Something I hadn’t expected when this all began 3 days ago was that I’d end up being IT Support. I’m tech savvy enough, but I wouldn’t call myself a specialist or anything. However, this unique situation of being thrown into virtual schooling with no prior warning given to parents and students and very little preparation of staff presents some challenges. Students trying to figure out the ins and outs of the various platforms we are using while not physically being with me means I then need to troubleshoot issues remotely with a 10 year old. Of course, there were also some issues with loading resources and videos onto Seesaw. With everyone on all at the same time, some videos wouldn’t upload or wouldn’t play after being uploaded. We are learning patience and work arounds for the issues we come across, such as loading videos at night, when it’s calm, and saving them as drafts to be released in the morning.

On a more personal note, I didn’t take the breaks I’d intended to take today, although I wasn’t as worked up since it was quieter today. I managed to snack a bit during the day, but didn’t manage to eat lunch until 4:30. No wonder my stomach is hungry now…the late lunch/early dinner didn’t tide me over that long. Based on a suggestion from a fellow slicer yesterday, I managed to get a car over to school to pick up my standing desk, which was a definite win for today. After being at work for 12 hours, I had only managed to get in a measly 1,258 steps. I took a break and went for a half hour walk to get in a bit of exercise. I think that starting Monday I’m going to figure out how to get in a walk in the morning and the evening. With 11 more days of self-quarantine to go and at least that many days of virtual school, I’ve got to figure out a way to move more (and not go crazy!).

For those of you interested in what it’s like, here’s a sample of the things we’re doing with the students online.

I made my first YouTube video today of me reading a chapter from our read aloud for their library lesson tomorrow, where they will listen to the read aloud, comment their prediction underneath the video in Seesaw, and then do some independent reading.

Here’s a sample of our daily learning overview for tomorrow. My situation is unique in that we are in our PYP Exhibition, so rather than have lots of lessons, they have more time for researching and working through their Exhibition checklist, tasks, and blog.

Lastly, here are a few pictures of things that some of our other teachers have been doing in the virtual classrooms. I spent some time this evening going through and looking at their videos and work they’d loaded so I could give some feedback to them in our group chat.

Early Childhood Maths Activity
Year 1 (Kindergarten) Science/Unit of Inquiry Activity
Year 2 (Grade 1) Math Lesson
Art Lesson
Year 5 (Grade 4) Unit of Inquiry/Language Lesson

Looking forward to Day 3 tomorrow…and the weekend where I can rest and get ahead with videos for next week’s learning!

Day 1 of Virtual School…Check!

Despite the craziness of yesterday and utter exhaustion I felt, my mind was racing last night and I didn’t fall asleep until after 1:00 am. The call to prayer at 4:00 followed by my alarm at 6:00 were very unwelcome disturbances. After peeling myself out of bed and trying my best to cover up the tired on my face with makeup, I made a cup of tea and got ready for my day. First up was a meeting with the Academic Leadership Team, followed by posting all my videos, lessons, and communications to students and parents.

The excitement of the morning, with eager students ready to check out this new way of learning, energized me, the fatigue no longer wearing me. We all went live at 7:30 and encouraged one another through our various chat groups and channels of communications. By mid-morning, I felt like a yo-yo, bouncing around from platform to platform, approving students’ posts, fielding questions from students, teachers, and parents, responding to emails, reacting to situations we hadn’t thought of yesterday, and creating video tutorials on the fly when students weren’t sure how to access this or that.

Throughout the day I was messaging with students on and off in our Teams chat, checking in with them, answering their questions, and encouraging them. A few of them didn’t understand a math concept or were confused about how to get started, so we video chatted so I could work with them 1-on-1. Their reactions were adorable! They were shy, giggled a lot, and commented on how weird it was to see me on the screen. They’ve just seen me two days ago, but I guess the newness and strangeness of talking to me through a computer screen threw them off. It’ll get easier as we go, as they become more comfortable.

Welcome to my new classroom ๐Ÿ˜Š

I was a little better at eating today, snacking every few hours, but the incessant screen time and lack of movement wore me down. A little after noon I noticed my mind wasn’t as sharp, I was not as motivated, and I had a hard time getting things done. Pushing through only made it worse. At 2:00pm I had to step away. I messaged the students that I needed to take a break and laid down for a 30-minute power nap. I definitely didn’t want to get back up, but I have to say, the nap really did help. I was able to get back to students and teachers and finish up my lessons and videos for tomorrow.

Throughout the day, I was reflecting on how it was going, what I needed to do differently tomorrow, and what new techniques I wanted to try. This is the most intense PD I’ve ever had. You’re learning all the time, out of necessity. You know how you hear about this new tech thing or that new teaching strategy and you think, yeah, I should learn more about this or try that out? Well, this is forcing me to learn so much and by the end of it, I’m going to be a much better educator. Gotta look on the bright side, right?

Meetings look a little different these days ๐Ÿ˜‚

For me, the hardest part is trying to balance everything. I’m not taking breaks or caring for my physical or mental health like I should. This year is a unique year (understatement of the century) and I’ve taken on many new roles, which if I’m honest, I wasn’t balancing well even before this virtual school started. Officially I’m the Head of Primary at my school, but due to a staff reduction in October, I took on the role of PYP Coordinator, and then when a staff member left suddenly in November due to health issues, I took on a full time Year 6 (Grade 5) teacher role, too. So while trying to balance virtual school with my own class of 20 students who are in the midst of the PYP Exhibition, I’m also supporting my teachers and support staff through the process. It’ll get easier, I know it. It’s just going to take a bit of time. Fingers crossed for a negative result and quick healing of the teacher in question!

For those of you who are new to my blog, check out my last 2 slices, which give a bit more about the situation (Coronavirus is here and Prepping for Virtual School in a day).

Today I…

For those of you who read my slice yesterday, you know that my school is now closed for a minimum of 2 weeks due to Coronavirus. It’s now 11:30pm local time on 3 March, so all I’m going to be able to do today is a “Today I…” slice. Here we go.

Today I was in crisis management mode all day.

Today I sat in front of my computer and worked nearly nonstop from 6:30am to 11:30pm, only stopping to pee and take 20 minute walk outside.

Today I toggled between email, video chats, What’s App messages, phone calls, group chats, and Seesaw messages as I tried to respond to the hundreds of messages I received.

Today I forgot to eat, until my tummy started rumbling. Lunch at 5:30 is normal, right?

Today I blew my screen time out of the water.

Today I learned so much about this new world of online learning we’ve been thrown into, but know there’s still so much more to learn.

Today I prepped for all my lessons tomorrow. At least I can go to bed and not have that on my shoulders!

Today I typed about a gazillion words. On a positive note, my typing skills have greatly improved!

Today I realized what I’m made of when faced with a crisis.

Today I realized that I can really focus on something when I need to. No breaks for social media, TV, or reading for me today.

Today I logged a whole 4,005 steps, and that’s with taking a walk to clear my head when I was going stir crazy. Man, this is going to be a long ride.

Today I realized that this whole self-quarantine thing is no joke! I need to be more balanced and move my body so much more tomorrow.

Today I realized that rumors spread faster than wildfires.

Today I realized that when push comes to shove, my team comes together and just gets it done. We really played off one another’s strengths and pitched in where needed.

Today I realized that working at this pace is not sustainable. With that being said…it’s time for bed!