This is my 4th installment for the #MTBoS2020 blogging initiative that I thought it would be fun to do for the year 2020 on the 20th of each month. If you want to sign up to blog or to find more blogs to read, click here: #MTBoS2020 I didn't see this coming, but it is definitely a year of reflection. Happy April.
In this post, I am going to share about my teaching experiences and a little about my personal experiences on this 20th day of April, a little over a month into our school closure due to Corona.
First, and this is said in jest, I feel like I felt this whole thing coming.
In October, I got my first every flu shot because I told my husband, "I just have a bad feeling about this flu season."
In November, I started a daily journal. My first page of my journal includes this: "I have been feeling unsettled. Someone said in order to change, you have to get uncomfortable. People who are comfortable have no need to change." Followed by, "I am committing to journaling all that the end of this decade holds as we head into 2020."
All school year I have been saying I have the best classes this school year, great kids, no discipline issues and shhhh, small classes. I didn't want to jinx it, but now I miss them.
March 2nd, I just drew my calendar on the board and welcomed the students to March saying, "March is always the longest month of school, but we can get through this together." Little did I know March 10th would be our last day of this school year. I snapped a picture when I went back in to get my stuff. It was eerie.
March 11th was the 1st day of no school for us. I can remember it because it is my husband's birthday. I am knitting a temperature scarf, one row each day for a color for the given temperature. When one of my family members has a birthday, I am pearling that row (a different type of stitch), so now his birthday marks the start of this time for us. My finger points to March 11
We did two weeks of remote learning that was optional and did not count towards grades. It was all review, so no teaching new. Our school likes to be on the forefront of educational ideas, and for a while it was like that with technology. We were an early adopter of 1-1 computers for our school. They would encourage us to go to conferences and learn tech and bring it back and teach our colleagues. I was blazing the way until it came to a stop about 2 years ago when concerns about student privacy became clear. So, we pulled way back and were barely allowed to do anything. So, I stopped using most tech. I stopped listening to new ideas because we probably wouldn't be allowed to use it.
Fast forward to March 2020 and we are dragging out all sorts of technology and that was what I spent those two weeks doing. It felt like wading through quicksand as I tried to sort out what tools might work best for me. For some reason, I got stuck right off the bat on videotaping new lessons. I jumped in feet first. I ran to Walmart and bought all the stuff to make a lightboard so I could tape cool lessons of me actually writing and teaching.
I did 4 of those lessons successfully using Loom (not Zoom, but Loom). I had a production schedule.
I made my own teleprompters. Thank goodness I grabbed little and big whiteboards from my classroom.
I did those one Tuesday. Then, Wednesday I woke up to try to make more and the editing tool wasn't working for me. It kept getting hung up. That is when I started the awful spiral falling down the rabbit hole and feeling worse and worse. I tried screencastify (wouldn't flip my video). I looked at some Hippo thing. I looked at Explain Everything. I just keep trying and trying. My husband was helping out from his microsoft world. Finally I had to regroup. There was so much more I had to do. I had to set up some sort of class platform. I had to make new homeworks and answer keys and assessments. I had to figure out how to get work to kids so they could do it. I was assuming they didn't have printers. That is after I went out and spend $80 on ink for my printer. I had to figure out how they were going to do the work so they could get it back to me. Then, I had to figure out how I would give them feedback on that. It was so much easier to have students with pencil and paper right in front of me. That was an overwhelming day.
The next day I refocused. I let the video go. I started working on the other stuff. I was testing new technology. I wanted to find things that worked for me and the students without too much of a learning curve. I decided on Google Classroom and have been very happy with that. I gave the students the code and they all joined up. I also tried to be organized right from the start. I found some old school supplies at home and I got a notebook and folder for each of my 3 preps, color coded of course.
I tried to be organized on the computer as well. I decided to name things by the week. We would meet each class twice a week, so I had Week 1 as a topic and then referred to things as Lesson 1A, hmwk 1A, answer key 1A.
I learned how to use Notes on my iphone to take a picture, air drop it to my computer, click on it, click File to save as a pdf, and then I can upload the answer key to google drive to get it to google classroom. Yes, everything was about figuring about the usual 10 keys to do something.
I figured out Zoom. I haven't tried breakout rooms but I hope to soon. I do a lot of group work in my class with students at the board and I so miss the conversations. Now, I have tired faces all on mute staring at me.
I have resorted to making Google Slides, very long, drawn out, showing one step at a time on each slide so that I can screencastify with it and I talk over it for the lesson. So, I am back to direct teaching but that is how it goes. The students can rewind me, fast forward me, whatever they have to do to learn the lesson. Then they do their homework, take a picture and upload it to google classroom.
I still keep a paper gradebook and I am glad I do. I give them a check mark if they are attending Zoom which means I am taking attendance as I let them in from the virtual waiting room. I know I can get attendees after the meeting, but that is another step. I am giving them credit for doing the homework. I do like how it is organized in Google classroom so I can just scroll through the different students' work. I have asked them to make notes on it or circle things, so I can take note of where they were having trouble and we can discuss that in our next Zoom session.
I tried Classkick.com because I wanted something for a formative assessment I could do during a Zoom class and see the kids working to check for understanding. I got permission to use it and jumped in. I am happy to report it had a low learning curve and was perfect for what I wanted. I worry about finding a wrong tool and spending time learning how to use it only to find out it wasn't what I needed and now I have wasted precious time. However, Classkick was good. I made the lesson, 6 questions and gave the kids the code. We were in Zoom so I could talk live to them. I could see them working on the questions. I could see everyone's work on one screen and check to see if it was correct. If they had a mistake, I asked them to come back to that screen with me as I drew on it to show them the correct solution. I will be using this again.
I needed a tool for assessment. In our first two weeks of review learning, I tried a google form, but quickly decided that wasn't what I wanted for actual tests. I landed at Edulastic. There are a lot of premade questions in there. I could add my own questions. I can upload an entire test and then add "buttons" (my word) for where their answers should go. It has some nice math equation editors that the kids can figure out how to enter fractions and pi, etc. I made a geometry and an algebra 1 quiz using questions that were from the question bank. I was super delighted with the teacher dashboard. I can see their score, see how long it took them to complete it. I can go in and change the points if something was a little bit off but still correct. I can type feedback at that question. So, I went in and regraded everything and recorded it.
For Algebra 2, I just assigned their first test in Edulastic. First, I made it in google docs and then uploaded it to Edulastic and added the answer buttons. It is on graphing trig and trig inverse, so pretty tricky math stuff to get across. I hope it goes smoothly for them. One thing that I am not crazy about is for each new question I enter and for me, it was about 39 different buttons on this one quiz, I had to click about 6 buttons to add math standards for each question. So, just when you think you have successfully made the test, you need to add all the standards. Not fun.
In Algebra 2, we will moving into trig identities which are multistep problems that I need to see every step written out. These are not fun to grade in person on real paper. I am going to try using a Chrome extension called Kami. I had our tech people push it out to all the student computers. I created a homework in google doc, added Kami and then the student will do it through Kami, through google classroom and finally I will be able to write on it, circle it, provide feedback, I think I could also leave voice comments. I haven't gotten work back in it, but I am hoping it is the tool I am looking for.
A TIP: When I am assigning a quiz to be due, I am making it due at 2 pm, not midnight. Students will always have last minute questions and I am not awake to answer them at 10 or 11 pm at night. 2 pm has been working for us.
Emails are constant. Hours are long. I am constantly thinking about school work especially as I am trying to fall asleep in bed. My husband's work hours have changed to 2:45 pm to 11:45 pm so he is gone all afternoon and evening. I could easily just keep working away but I have to force myself to stop working. Hence, why I do a jigsaw puzzle. I just finished my fourth. I am also loving Schitt's Creek on Netflix. They are like my Corona time best friends. I am almost finished with it and I might go back and watch it again.
I am still keeping up with my daily habits. I go for a run each morning, then do a workout. I enter my time into the #fitbos tracker because I am aiming to get in 190 hours of exercise this year. So far I am doing great. I will often walk with my husband if the weather is good and then again, 6 feet away from a friend. So, tons of exercise to hopefully balance what I am eating. I love to bake. I am forcing myself to only bake 1 thing each week so I don't eat it all. I do Weight Watchers, so I record my daily food. I am doing Duolingo, so I do my Spanish daily. I knit my one row of my temperature scarf each day. I journal each day. Before all this, I didn't have much to journal - school was good and I exercised. Now, I have a lot to write into my daily journal and it will definitely be great to go back and look at in the future. I am making dinners every day because 3 of my 4 boys are living at home and I try to have left overs for my husband to take the next day to work.
Overall, we are all still working and making money and staying healthy. It is hard to keep that in perspective.
I dyed my hair purple, definitely is more pink and already faded from this. But, I figured why not?
I am sad for my students who are now seniors and missing so much. This group of seniors is fabulous. I know them from math class and running as part of my cross-country team and from 3 years of leading youth group and mission trips. We have been to the Adirondacks, to Houston, and our harrowing trip to Philly last year. They are awesome kids and I wish them the best as they maneuver through this time.
And, lastly, my son was supposed to get married on Friday, April 17th. I am sad for them that they couldn't get married on their date. They decided to have a pretend wedding at Cape Cod on the beach on Friday and took beautiful pictures, but we were not with them. They bumped it to May 17th but that didn't last as this thing grew, so now they are at November 15th. My mom says, "Third time is a charm" and "Good things come to those who wait." So, we will celebrate in November.
Thanks for reading. See you on the other side.