We are roughly two weeks into COVID-19 shutdowns, how is everyone doing? Have we settled in and found our new “normal” yet? Here in Utah, schools are closed until May and we aren’t even into April yet! It’s heartbreaking to see teachers and students everywhere long to be back in their classrooms.
Watching the news is crazy and full of negatives. During this time, let’s focus on the positives. Here are a few I’ve witnessed here in my community.
Teachers parading the streets their students to honk, wave, and say hi to them from a distance.
Students standing out in the rain and snow just to watch their teacher’s drive by.
Rainbows posted in windows throughout the neighborhood to remind us that after every storm, there will always be a rainbow and that it will be okay.
Copious amounts of incredible people on social media doing various things to keep our kids occupied and learning during this uncertain time. Storytimes, zoo tours, drawing lessons, free resources, and more.
Sidewalks chalked with uplifting, happy messages.
Teachers posting about how sad they are that they cannot be with their students right now, even though it may be spring break for some.
Virtual scavenger hunts.
More reading, more loving, and more time to slow down.
Right now, things are uncertain and difficult. It’s hard not to be with friends, it’s hard to be walking through the uncertainty each day brings, and it’s hard to navigate our own emotions while keeping up with our kids’ emotions as well. But we can do this. Look for the helpers, focus on the good, keep a positive attitude, and remember that rainbows always come after the storm.
If you are old enough to teach right now, there is a good chance that while you were in school you had a computer lab instead of a laptop cart. There was one room in the school with the classroom set of computers every class shared throughout the school year. Your computer time was about once every week or two weeks where you would spend an hour typing your papers, playing cool math games, or testing. And there is a really good chance that if you’re teaching now, this isn’t the case for your students.
Computer labs are a thing of the past, irrelevant to our day. We aren’t setting aside time for utilizing technology in our classrooms, we are picking up this tech and solving everyday problems with it.
Typing our written papers isn’t a treat anymore, it’s expected.
Finding learning-based gaming isn’t to kill time in the computer lab, it’s used to boost test scores and teach on a tier-three basis to each and every student.
Coding isn’t just for fun, it’s there to teach students how to plan and think ahead. Later, they will use these basic fundamental skills in their future careers as adults.
Thinking tech-minded in schools is becoming easier and easier with more technology access throughout every grade. More often than not, each classroom is equipped with a 1:1 ratio of technology to student, whether that be by laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or cellphone.
When it comes time to learn about penguins for science, we don’t line up our class and march them down to the computer lab to research the subject. Instead, we ask them to pull out their iPads, watch the videos about the habitats, read the online articles on the different kinds of penguins, create their own presentations, choose their own images, and present their findings to their classmates and friends. What used to take weeks and weeks of time to research now can take one afternoon.
How are you shifting your technology mindset from a “computer lab” to an “iPad” in your classroom or school?
Welcome to Feature Friday! A space where every Friday I will be interviewing a new educator, asking them questions about their teaching and learning, then sharing this here with you.
Why Feature Friday? Because collaboration brings results.
I think teachers everywhere can agree that some of their best ideas for teaching haven’t come from sitting in their college classes or in their conferences. They come in the copy room after school or in the teacher’s lounge during lunch with casual collaboration between one another. And being the big thinker I am, I know this can expand beyond the walls of our school with an #edtech mindset. Cue: Feature Friday.
Each Friday will be a new teacher, in a new part of the nation, possibly the world. We will see an insight into who they are, why they teach, and the resources they find most helpful. In the end, I hope we can all walk away with more knowledge as educators to move forward and teach our students to the best of our ability.
In the spirit of collaboration, if you have any great questions that would be good to ask in an interview, please comment below or reach out via email. If you are an educator that would like to be featured, again, please reach out.
Recently I went to Utah Coalition for Educational Technology (UCET) conference in Provo, Utah. A big conference for tech nerdy teachers, and those aspiring to be. It was incredible.
We started each day with a keynote speaker- Matt Miller @jmattmiller and Richard Culatta @rec54 where each spoke about technology in the classroom, the benefits, and how easily accessible it can be. Richard focused on digital citizenship and the responsibility that it entails.
During breakout sessions, they had options to learn more about everything tech imaginable spanning from Google Drive, Google sheets, to Nearpod, to Skype and more. Technology is advancing and we as teachers are here for the hype.
The timing of the conference could not have come at a better time with Covid-19 shutdowns all across the world. Teachers, coaches, and administrators walked out of there with the tools they needed for schools being based online and at home for the foreseeable future.
After being surrounded by AR, VR, Microsoft, Google, Apple, iPads, laptops, and more, I am feeling fired up and ready to put these ideas to use! But wait…. I’m not teaching right now! That’s where you will come in. I’ll share my findings on this space over the next few weeks and YOU can implement them into your classrooms and then share with me.
Next year if you’re in the area, check out this UCET conference and learn more for yourself, your school, and your students about technology and digital citizenship, it won’t disappoint.
This is not a drill. This is the ultimate test for honoring child-directed learning.
And it turns out I failed the first round.
How many times have I written about working from a place of love instead of fear? Yet I’m afraid that fear has been at the helm far too often over the last week. But I’m going to be kind to myself as I decide to try again each day through this crisis. Meanwhile, here are some of the lessons we’ve learned so far:
#1: Schedules & Routines are valuable, but remember to co-construct them with your children!
Here was my first attempt:
At first, I felt pleased because I had my daughter write and post it for our family. But it was still entirely conceived by me, with no input from my children. And it, um…didn’t go well.
The timetables didn’t work for all 3 kids at the same time, with some finishing fast, others experiencing boredom, and others feeling anxiety to do something that was arbitrarily placed later in the day. I struggled to get any of my own remote teaching done as I was constantly interrupted by “I’m done; what can I do next?”
As I fell asleep last night, I realized that in my fear of making sure my kids got all their physical, emotional, and intellectual needs taken care of, I was neglecting the key ingredient: autonomy. And with it, the peace and confidence that’s fostered by purpose & ownership.
I resolved to do better the next morning, and I fell asleep thinking about all the years and ways I have tried to help my children visualize and own their schedules & routines…
…and I decided to sit down with each of them to talk about what they hoped the day would bring.
#2: Take time to truly listen, early and often.
As a result of our discussions this morning, I learned from my 9 year-old that writing time slots with her schedule created tremendous unnecessary pressure for her. She preferred to write a sequence that could be flexible. I also learned that she preferred to finish all her difficult tasks (like cleaning her guinea pigs’ cage and homework) first thing in the morning.
And from my 5 year-old, I learned that he wanted me to draw pictures next to each item on his list, talking through each one so it made sense to him.
Setting the tone for listening first thing in our day has fostered more meaningful discussion, self-awareness, and self-regulation throughout the day. Words like, “When I do __, it helps me feel __.” And we all need this kind of mindfulness now more than ever.
#3: For the schoolwork coming home right now, try to make it as independently accessible for your children as possible.
For my 9 year-old, this looks like creating a Google Keep note with checkboxes, sharing it with her, and then adding any additional tasks I hear from her teacher to this one document as we go. That way, tasks don’t slip between the cracks, and I don’t overwhelm my daughter by telling her again and again, “Oh, and don’t forget this other assignment!”
For my 5 year-old, this looks like having a designated folder on the counter where he can access all the materials he needs each day. He doesn’t have to wait around for me in order to get started each day, which helps us both tremendously!
I still have work to do to improve this situation for all three of my children and myself, but our home feels more peaceful than it has in days. Now that I’m working toward child-directed learning again, the ship is righting once more, and we can look toward tomorrow with greater confidence and hope.
My very best wishes to families and teachers everywhere at this time! Remember to hold onto what you value and cherish most, and to be kind to yourselves through this stressful time!
Your time is finally here, you did it! You made it through.
You survived the endless group projects.
You walked the hallways and sidewalks of your school’s campus for years, and now you’re walking them for the final time.
You created new relationships.
You slacked off at times and worked hard at other times.
The hours you clocked doing homework, staying up late studying for tests, and re-watching powerpoints have finally paid off.
You are applauded for your dedication to your education.
You are inspiring others to push on to graduation as well!
You are our future.
Our future doctors, electricians, lawyers, agriculture scientists, professors, journalists, and more.
And now you’re about to embark on a journey none of us have had to go through before. You are pioneering a way for us all, stepping into the unknown.
Because of the Coronavirus shutdowns, many of you aren’t finishing your schooling in a traditional way, and your graduation ceremonies have been canceled. You are packing up, heading home, and resorting to a completely online platform to finish.
There won’t be a day for you to zip up your graduation gown or put on your cap, which is absolutely heartbreaking and scary for most. It seems unfair, and it truly is. But please know this- Just because you were robbed of your opportunity to walk at graduation does not make you less.
It absolutely does not mean you are any less of a student or graduate.
It does not mean you didn’t work incredibly hard.
It does not take away those endless nights of studying or editing papers.
It’s hard to go through something so big in your life and not have the proper recognition for it.
It’s scary to be the first, and maybe only, that has to go through this unique situation.
Here’s your recognition, while not sufficient, please know that we recognize you and applaud you. We see the hard work you’ve gone through and the time you’ve put in. We see the hurt you have for not being able to walk at graduation.
You pushed through the hard times and made it here today.
I know you’re stressed, we’re all walking in uncharted territory right now. Schools shutting down left and right, or if your school is still open, very few students showing up each day. How do we help our kids? How do we help them not regress during this stressful time? How do we calm their nerves as well as our own?
It’s hard to be in the situation we are all in. It’s hard not to see your student’s faces every day, and have to worry about if they have enough food or if their behavior will regress (again) once they are back. So many variables for so many different situations.
Luckily, we’re all going through this together and there are resources out there for us! Our community is banding together and helping where we can. Here is a quick list of the fun things you can send home to your parents for your students to do during their time away from school.
Mo Willems is doing lunch doodles every day with kids. His first episode was 22 minutes long, his most recent episode was 27 minutes long. They are at 1 pm Eastern Time every day on YouTube, or they can watch them whenever they like later.
On Instagram, @macbarnett is doing a live read-aloud of his books every day at noon PST.
Cincinnati Zoo is doing a live video on their Facebook page each weekday at 3 pm Eastern Time. They will be highlighting their favorite animals and sending kids off to do an activity from home.
At nps.gov kids can download special interest books.
Our local library here in Utah is live-streaming their storytime on Instagram live every weekday at 11 am MST and a boredom buster for kids at 4 pm. You can follow them at @provolibrary
Utah’s Hogle Zoo is doing a Facebook and Instagram live every day at 11:30 am MST featuring their fun animals and educating them on each one.
Search around on every social media platform and you are certain to find a variety of posts and live videos geared towards educating kids because everyone can see the need right now. Also, a simple post to help parents make it through as well.
Other resources you most likely know as a teacher, but maybe haven’t mentioned to parents yet:
GoNoodle, Khan Academy, Newsela, National Geographic Kids, PBS kids, Starfall ABC app and Starfall.com, VOOKS, Virtual Field Trips, and Lucid Charts. Also, remind students they can still collaborate with peers via Google Drive.
Guys, we can do this. It’s going to be hard and uncomfortable for most, but we can band together amidst the chaos and confusion.
What other tips and resources do you have for parents and teachers? Let’s start a list together, we can go further with collaboration!