It’s week 4 of what I have been calling, “Distance Learning”. I can’t believe the time has been going so quickly and yet it feels as though we haven’t been in the classroom in what seems like forever. I write this post from my “classroom” in the basement and will use it as a reflection of my time management in teaching over the weeks since the March Break.
I have to admit that I started out this journey very hesitant but willing to give it my all. Knowing that this was something totally new, I knew that there were going to be things that failed epically – like my Kahoot – and that scared me. Not because I fear failure, but rather because I was most fearful of failing my students and their families. With direction seeming to come from all angles, I decided that my start would have to be with something that would work for me and my students. Early on, I realized that there is no one, cookie-cutter way of making “Distance Learning” work and that it would look different in each “classroom” and possible for every student within that “classroom”. With this in mind, I started to take what I could from the suggestions offered and left the rest on a list of what I call “Maybes”.
Routine has always been a big part of my life. If you look at my Google Calendar, every little detail is added and if it hasn’t been added, chances are, I won’t remember it until it’s too late. This pandemic threw my whole routine out the window. My sleep was off as I worried about meeting needs, all while worrying about being sick. I found myself online all the time with multiple devices giving me notifications so that I wouldn’t miss anything. After about a week of this, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain things long-term. I always talk to my students and their families about balance and during week 1, I was definitely not practicing what I was preaching. Something had to give.
I knew that I had to get back to what I know works – planning out a schedule and getting back to my routine. I was already doing this for students in our weekly planner using this template, but I needed to come up with my own weekly planner. So starting on the Monday of week 2, I came up with the following plan:
- On Mondays, I plan for the following week while checking in with students online in Google Classroom and through email. I usually post a question asking students how they are and from there can gauge whether or not I need to do a phone check-in with some. Now, I’m not doing this at all hours of the day. I get up, get ready, and head to “my classroom” for around 8 am to begin most days. I’m online until about 4, taking a break for lunch and a workout.
- On Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I meet with students in small groups on Google Meet from about 10 am until 2 pm, with feedback happening before and after. During our Meets, we do a planned lesson or activity together and use it as an opportunity to check-in on the work that we have been doing. It’s definitely different not seeing student’s faces but hearing their voices and sharing our learning has been a big motivator during this time.
- On Thursdays, I head back into “my classroom” and record short videos to accompany each of the lessons for the following week. I also reflect on what I have planned in order to determine whether or not the lessons are relevant based on where students are at. I also upload everything into Google Classroom for the following week and often have a division meeting that I choose to attend.
- On Fridays, it’s catching up on feedback and I have Meets with students at the same times as Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Last week, we tried our first whole class Meet and while it was fun, I felt as though it was so different from us all being together in the classroom. The awkward silence as someone waits to share or figuring out how to jump in to speak without interrupting someone else. We’re working on it and I hope that we have more of these times together because there is great learning happening through these challenges.
So far, this is what has been working for me. I’m finding my balance and trying to define clear boundaries between work and home. It hasn’t been easy but I’m getting there. I would love to know how things are going for you. If you have tips or ideas on how to effectively navigate these times, I would love to hear from you. Please feel free to share them in the comments below. Wishing you all continued success through these challenging times of distance learning. Please continue to take care of yourselves and your families.