During this time at home, we are all probably having positive and negative learning moments. From seeing students thrive for the first time to having zero assignments turned in, the highs and lows have been a rollercoaster over the past few months. However, during this time for my sanity, I need to focus on the positive ones. I would love to share a few from my experience teaching grade eight online.
- Removing student anxiety: Many of my students have had a hard time in the classroom this year due to certain factors that make them extremely anxious. Attendance issues have made it hard for some of them to learn this year and that has always been something I have struggled with, how to reach the students who do not attend. Even the students who do attend have anxiety issues related to noise in the room, other students bothering them or starting the day in a terrible mood. My class is super respectful so I always had a hard time understanding what the exact factors were, but I came to realize it was just a feeling they carried with them and could not be easily fixed. With online learning, these students have submitted work daily and have been involved on our online teams meetings. They have been thriving in this environment and for the first time, I am learning so much about how intelligent they are and how much they have to share. The online platform has given them a voice and a chance to accomplish things.
- Reaching all learners: Now that the school day exists at all times, I can answer all questions at once without there being a physical line up or a limit on the amount of students I can help. When someone online needs help, I can help them right away as the odds that another student needs help at that exact moment is slim. Although my students are working at all hours of the day, I had informed them that I would be available (virtually) from 9-3 everyday. They keep their questions for the most part within these hours and I love that I can respond to them right away. Also, I am able to help students via platforms that work for them and I am so thankful that my students have downloaded all of the new apps that have been made available to us.
- Continued differentiation in a new and unique way: With the help of google classroom, I can assign specific work to every student at the click of a button. I can modify every assignment and make special ones for my students that go directly to their google drive. When creating an assignment or learning material, I can tailor the assignment to how they want to learn, what they want to learn and give it directly to them. I was already doing this in the classroom but I am happy I can continue to do it online. I was nervous about assigning work online and how I could make it specific to students so with google classroom I was happy to see it was an easy process. Then, once my students finish an assignment, I can assign them more work at their own pace. Right now I have students completing work at 25 different rates and I need to be able to keep track of what they have/have not done. Google classroom allows me to look at what they have handed in and then direct them to the next assignment.
- Small groups style learning: My favourite thing about teaching online is creating small groups live meetings. We have been using the apps “Teams” by Microsoft and it was has been an amazing way to teach in small and medium sized groups. Every Tuesday, I have a live math/literacy class with my students. I invite all of them but usually I only get half the class. From there, I create smaller groups to teach them the topics that they still need help with or to move them ahead in the unit. I also have a meeting on Wednesdays with my ESL students where we read a book and answer questions together. We also work on math topics and play simple word games. On Thursdays, all of the other grade eights meet together to play games and reminisce about the year. This Thursday, they will be sharing their favourite writing piece from the year and will be sharing to their classmates their strengths as a writer. Small groups is something I had done in the classroom but online now more than ever I have implemented small groups in a way that really reaches all learners. I really hope to bring that into the classroom at a new level more successful than ever before. That is my favourite success from the online learning environment.
Although there are days when I feel like I may be posting to no one, I know that there must be students who are benefiting from it. The online meetings have been such a blessing during this time as hearing their voices always remind me of how special this profession is and how lucky we are to have technology to help us through this time. I am desperately looking forward to the day where we can teach in the classroom again but for now, I am happy to have these successes to think on and to reflect about how they will make me a better educator. I hope everyone else has some moments that they can look at and reflect positively on.