Navigating distance teaching during a Pandemic has been mostly trial and error. Personally, I felt relatively prepared since I have had experience teaching at a cyber school. But, those cyber school families signed up to learn from home. This is different and has many additional challenges. It took awhile to find my footing and I still have many rocky days.
But now that I am 7 weeks into all of this, I have a good idea of what I need to do each day narrowed down into 6 tasks: record videos, daily bulletin, digital copies, give feedback, lesson planning, connect & communicate.
Of course, other responsibilities continue to pop up as weeks go by. I keep track of extras (meetings, Zooms with class) using a weekly list. Maintaining this to do list the first few weeks helped me realize what was repeating every day.
The first thing I do everyday (after pouring coffee and making my own children breakfast) is sit down to type my Daily Bulletin
. I send it out via Seesaw to highlight the most important information and reminders for parents and students. Since we switched to new content, it always includes a link to our 2nd grade lesson plans. I also share about Zoom meetings, enrichment opportunities, fun videos or read alouds and reminders.
I have a couple Instagram videos explaining more about how I create this in PowerPoint and save as a PDF to preserve the hyperlinks. I think this simple form of daily communication helps parents stay organized. In a sea of emails, this one page simplifies what’s essential.
This has been my favorite part! It was a little weird at first since obviously there is no interaction but I enjoy recording these videos. Right now, I use Screencast-o-matic to record my screen + webcam (I have a video about how I use it here). I paid for this early on in a panic and then later found out about Loom which does the same things for free. I made a PowerPoint with 3-5 slides about the topic to keep me on track. Then, I upload the video and include the link to it within my lesson plans I send out to families.
Just like at school, I make copies every morning. Except now, I don’t have to deal with that gosh awful machine. To simplify this, after my team finalizes our lesson plans for the week, I save everything as a “JPEG” file. Or, if you are using a PDF file, you can choose to save just ONE page of that file to upload. Now, I can easily add the response pages into Seesaw as an “activity”. My students can type, draw or highlight directly on them and then submit!
Lesson planning certainly looks different. On Mondays, I start outlining my plans for the following week (maybe you did this pre-Pandemic–I am not this organized to plan so far in advance!) Throughout the week, my teammates send me their contributions since we split up the subject areas. I compile it together and then Thursdays, my team Zooms to give a final look at all of the components put together! Our principal shares our plans with families on Fridays now so they have time to prepare for the following week.
Here’s what our daily schedules look like.
This is probably one of my least favorite parts but there have been some things to make it a little better. I feel this guilt for all the work my students are doing and turning in–it’s just not possible to give helpful and meaningful feedback on every piece. Typically, in school, they wouldn’t be turning every single thing in so it just feels overwhelming (but also great) that I am getting 4-5 pages from each student every day (some photos of papers and some digital).
I found these digital stickers I can add to Seesaw assignments. It makes it a little more fun!
You also have the option to “like” students work, leave a comment or a voice recording. I have been doing a mixture of all of the above. It’s hard to prevent falling behind on giving feedback for all the work so I try to check work for 20-30 minutes in the AM and the same in the PM. We are not taking grades–just tracking engagement–so it’s a little less pressure than grading.
Finding ways to connect with students and keep consistent (but not TOO much) communication with families has been important. I hold a weekly Zoom meeting with my class that is informal. We just share what we’ve been up to. One time, I invited our music teacher to lead a song. Another time, we played a game. School and the City had the GENIUS idea to play students in Prodigy Math
so I set that up last week and I will be scheduling a time for us to “meet” on Prodigy each week.
In addition to connecting with families and students, staying close with my colleagues has been a priority. They are the people who understand what is going on the most. I have my group texts, meetings with my team and a group of us meet on Zoom weekly to catch up and play Jackbox games
together (if you haven’t done this–I highly recommend). Maintaining human connections is challenging but necessary.
Distance teaching is tough. I know it’s cliche but take care of yourself. Allow yourself to take breaks, close your computer and walk away. Lean on each other for guidance and support. You are doing your best and that’s all that can be expected. 🙂