It’s hard to believe that it’s only February and yet again, I’m sometimes amazed that it is still February! Last week, we headed back into the classroom, and with that, came mixed emotions. With a new principal in the midst of a pandemic, I was hesitant heading back because change is always hard for me. Fear of the unknown, particularly during these uncertain times, is always something that I struggle with. That being said, I was also very excited to have the chance to see my students in person again. The night before we headed back, I didn’t sleep very well but just walking into the space and envisioning my students coming in, gave me a sense of comfort and familiarity. When the bell rang and students entered the building, the familiar buzz and sense of excitement made me feel right at home.
While we were learning virtually, I learned so much with and about my students. In this post, I’ll share a little about what I hope to continue as we learn again, in-person.
Time to Just Be
We all know the importance and benefits of social interactions in school. Opportunities to play and learn together – no matter the age – have great benefits for all students. I knew this but didn’t realize the magnitude until we went into virtual learning. While students were excited to see each other online and learn together through lessons, I noticed that they wanted more time to just be, together. Every day, I opened up our Meet at 8:45 am and school would officially start at 9 am. To my surprise, many weren’t interested in having the extra 15 minutes to ready themselves for the day but rather, many would just pop in early to talk or share something about themselves and to listen to others. It was an informal space to just be. Some mornings, students came up with games or Art activities to try with each other. We also did passion projects where we showcased something that we were passionate about in breakout rooms in Zoom. The smiles and how much they looked forward to having some “downtime” together made me realize that although learning together in the classroom has its social benefits, these moments where students were just themselves and having fun, held much value also. Since heading back to the classroom, I know that we have recess but I’m trying to figure out how we might incorporate these times – even if they are short – throughout the day. Less structured, while remaining safe and valuing more of what students choose to bring into the space.
During virtual learning, I really tried to balance things so that all voices could be heard and not just the ones who were quickly able to hit the “raise hand” button. I was conscious of those who often spoke up and shared. I also tried to encourage those who were more quiet to understand that we so wanted to hear their voices. I was intentional in saying that while online, we need to ensure that all voices are heard and even if it took us an extra few minutes to pause to hear from a variety of students, we would. Coming back into the classroom, this is something that I want to be just as intentional about. We’re pausing and inviting more to share, being conscious of how much space we take up in discussions.
Technology as a Tool
Since being back, it has taken us some time to get our tech back in the classroom. We’re there now and last week was a great reminder that technology is a powerful tool that is good for all and essential for some. During our time virtually, I continued to try and have students demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways. At the end of our Financial Literacy unit, we listed all that we learned during the unit, and students were tasked with creating their own resource to teach the unit to another Grade 5 class. It was amazing to see what students created. From posters and brochures to Slides presentations and videos, it was neat to see the ways in which students took an idea and ran with it, using technology. I have always been a firm believer in open tasks. Seeing what they did independently with this task was a great reminder for me. Technology is a great tool and when given the opportunity, students will use it to create and demonstrate their understanding, if we let them.
While this learning isn’t necessarily new to me, I’ve appreciated taking the time to reflect on what was successful during virtual learning, and considering how I may bring some parts back into our in-person space.
If you are returning to in-person learning, really hope that your return to school has been successful so far. If you are continuing to teach virtually, I give you so much credit for your work. It’s challenging to do and I’m in awe. During these challenging times, I know that we are all filled with a mix of emotions. Please remember to take some time to reflect on what is going well and also to take care of yourself!