Never in my life did I think that I would ever be teaching fourth grade from a computer in my living room. Life is weird. Yet here I am, about to hit one year since my district was shut down. With rumors of returning hanging in the air, teachers find ourselves yet again in limbo. But before I head back, I want to pause and reflect on what this crazy experience has meant to me. At times I have hated it, and yet I know there will be parts of it that I will really miss (like the mute button!) This week, I’m focusing on the best parts of online learning as the first in a two part series.
Things I Love About Teaching Online
It’s normalized constant parent contact.
It is weird to think that this is something that I used to be afraid of, or at least something that made me very uncomfortable. But now I am squawking away about phonics and reading comprehension in everyone’s living room and homes every day, as well as messaging constantly with families to try and get the kids signed on, or to tell so-and-so that they have missing assignments, or to send a positive letter home. Going forward, I know that I will never be as apprehensive about reaching out to families as I used to, and that is a win for the pandemic. (These are few, so let’s make sure to count the ones we have!)
It forced me to become familiar with online curriculum
I didn’t use the online learning component of our new curriculum much before the pandemic, since kids didn’t have 1:1 devices, but now I know it like the back of my hand, and am learning more each week. This has exposed me to so many different resources. As a result, my phonics instruction has improved because I now have easy access to 1st and 2nd grade level materials. Hello phonics groups! I can also access a library of ebooks so I can assign ebooks at their instructional level, as well as books just for fun to kids that don’t have many at home.
I discovered so many new apps and platforms for increased student engagement.
I have learned so many new ways to share content or make my lessons more interactive for my students.
- Seesaw lets me assign virtual worksheets
- Google Classroom is ideal for posting material and assigning quizzes or tests.
- Pear Deck is an add-on to Google slides, allows every kid to respond by drawing or typing responses.
- Kahoot lets me create fun quizzes where I can directly review content. This lets me address misconceptions right then and there before the quiz in a game format. The kids love it.
- Jamboard lets kids all work together on one document using virtual post-its, text, images and some limited drawing.
- Videos: I’ve found so many more videos to enhance science content, like songs or experiments. Bill Nye is always a classic, but my co-worker discovered Curious Crew and they are amazing too. It is funny to think that finding a supporting video for each science lesson wasn’t something I was doing before.
- (There are SO many more. These are just the ones I use on a regular basis.)
Increased focus on social-emotional learning
Because of the impact of the pandemic on mental health, our district has been pushing an increased focus on social emotional learning. My professional learning community has been researching different methods of teaching some of these concepts since the beginning of the year. As a result, I have taught lessons on stereotypes, growth mindset, personal strengths and weakness, empathy and problem solving, to name a few, and brought a new focus to building relationships and community in an online setting. Sanford Harmony is free and my favorite!
Video parent teacher conferences
I want to offer this option every year! I loved being at home and having parents sign on to a video meet. My conferences are sometimes short, so I loved being able to give parents what felt like a more convenient option than having to drive to the school.
And now for the speed round:
- The bathroom is ten steps away, as is the microwave.
- My commute is gone.
- No recess duty
- A mute button for students was something I thought only happened in my dreams. I can teach without getting interrupted or having to wait for everyone to be quiet.
- For some reason, we decided to shift our start time from 7:40 to 8:00am. Love the extra 20 minutes in the morning
- District professional development from my hammock/couch
- And yes, of course, occasionally teaching in my sweatpants is a rare but fantastic occurrence.
It has been a challenging year for me professionally, and as much as I have learned in these new circumstances, I can’t wait to get back in person and get my figurative hands on these kids again! I am so proud of how my co-workers have pivoted and adapted and are still pumping out quality lessons and showing up for their kids. Next week, I’m tackling the challenges and things I can’t stand about online learning, aka, the things that make me want to poke out my own eyeballs with a chopstick.
Teachers, what did I forget? What else are you loving about online learning? And remember, next week I’m writing about the worst parts of teaching online.