Thursday, December 31, 2020

How I Am Surviving Teaching in Covid Times

 This is my second post in the blogging initiative #MTBoSYuleBlog.

How I Surviving Teaching in Covid Times...

We teachers are in teaching every day, hybrid, remote, and live streaming (both at the same time).  The students come every other day.  Our day is repeated, which is a good thing because if I am ready for Monday's lessons, then I am ready for Tuesday's.

I spent a lot of my summer attending zooms on how to get back to school - school committee zooms, union zooms, high school zooms.  Hours and hours of my summer on Zooms in which I could not participate.  The chat was turned off or it was webinar style.  I was talked at and told what was going to happen.  

So, then, it was up to me and Thank God, my Twitter tweeps to figure out how I would teach this year.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I was going to make my videos.  I knew what I wanted, but there was a huge learning curve.  Hours spent figuring out how to best make my videos (that will be another post.)

I was thinking/doing/planning/figuring out - oh, hey - problem solving - how to best help my students this year.  It took a lot out of me and the beginning of the school year was tough trying to get it all done - convert lessons to hybrid because I was seeing them less, I had some kids at home on zoom, and I had to be ready to pivot to remote at an instant, which we have done twice now.  I had to be portable and minimal. That is why I have focused on streamlining my courses - watch the lesson video on your asynchronous day and take notes, then come to class and be ready to do a couple opener problems as a class and then independent work, at your own pace, on Desmos and Deltamath, while I walk around and help - workshop style. 

If I was feeling overwhelmed, I knew my students must be.  I wanted them to have math not be an extra worry or concern, so I have made it more like a checklist.  You do this, work at your own pace, ask for help, and when you are done, you are done.  You don't have to think about math anymore.  It does pain me a little, but right now, there is more to life than math class and that is okay.  I keep reminding myself that I am teaching with Grace this year.

If someone asks me how I am doing, I say, " I am doing.  We are doing it.  Day by day, we are making this happen. We are building the raft while on it."  Normally, I would be planned a week ahead in all my classes.  Now, I am just prepared for the next day.  That's all I can do.  I am building three new, different classes, making videos for each, finding activities for the lessons. That is all I can do and it is enough.

How Am I Surviving Teaching in Covid Times:

1.) Staying organized.

2.) Setting limits.

I am an organized person, but from the beginning of this year, I knew I would have to be super organized so that absent kids could find/get/do the work.  So that I could easily share it with them.  In the olden days, I would use 3 ring binders, one for each unit for each class.  I had my lessons, worksheet activities, answer keys, powerpoints. This year, I decided to record my lessons in a small composition notebook - one per class with a matching color folder for each.  I went to Staples and bought 3 notebooks and 3 folders. That is it.  Again, I needed to stay portable and streamlined.  I am loving it.  I have my little notebook that I start a new lesson on each page with the Lesson number, the date I will see them.  I have a little check list in the top right of each page for what needs to be done for the lesson. I live by that checklist.  

One of the pieces to staying organized is my Placemat.  This is my own thing.  We are brand new to Schoology this year, so figuring it out and building it as we go day to day.  Notice a trend?  I wanted to make a visual for my students on what they needed to do for math class.  I made a google slide.  It has a corkboard background and I change the title and the activities each day, but otherwise, it always looks the same.  It looked like a placemat to me, so that is what I am calling it with the kids.  Don't know what to do, absent? Check the placemat.  I have 1 google slide show for each class, made up of one slide per day for each lesson.  It has links right on it.  Then, I take that one slide and copy it and create a new google slideshow with just that slide.  Next, I embed it into Schoology.  That means, if I need to change something, I just go and change my 1 slide google slide and it will automatically change in all the places I put it in Schoology.  I am liking this. The kids are liking this. It is working for us.

Here is one placemat:

Videos and staying organized.  I knew I wanted to flip my class over the summer. I researched it and read up about it. A colleague asked if I wanted to split up making the videos but I told them no because I wanted to have a full set.  I wanted them to all be in my voice and all have the same feel to them.  So, maybe I can use them in the future.  When I make them, they all follow the same idea - a title screen with a joke or a meme, an agenda of what we will do, a page that says "Let's Get will need notes, calculator, and pencil" and then into the lesson. I put a little box at the top mostly to remind me if I want them to pause and try and do the problem.  I keep a google doc list of my videos for each class. I make a google slideshow first of the lesson, then I record it in Explain Everything, then I upload it to Youtube, then I load it to Edpuzzle. My google doc has all these links as I make them, all organized in one place where I can find them.  This is just a snapshot, so no live links:

Setting Limits - This has been huge in helping me not get more stressed out or more depressed. I have a daily routine. I wake up each morning at 5 am to do a Beachbody workout.  I have a group of friends on a text that we all do this and send pictures each morning to keep us motivated.  Then, I am into school by 6:30 each morning.  I am a morning person, so this works for me.  I get about an hour of work done in the morning, without interruptions.  I rather work an hour before school than an hour at the end of the day.  School goes until 2 pm and then I have Monday teacher meetings on Zoom, Tuesday Extra Help time on Zoom, and Wednesday math team on Zoom.  I also tutor 6 kids on Zoom, for 5 hours because I tutor two friends together. I try to keep tutoring to Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  So, even though I am teaching hybrid, there is still a lot of zoom in my life.  After my meetings, I go for a walk.  Usually 2- 4 miles depending on my time.  I listen to an audiobook as I walk.  It helps clear my mind and get school out of my head.  When I come home from the walk, I do one or two school things if needed, mostly recording my videos.  Then, I am DONE with schoolwork by dinner time.  I make family dinner every night, while listening to music on Alexa (not the news).  And, my final limit is NOT checking school email after 8 pm.  I go to bed at 9pm, so it is reasonable, that I can go one more hour without dealing with school stuff.  If I read email, there will be something I have to deal with, but it can wait to morning and I can get a decent night's sleep.

I realize it sounds a lot like I am escaping and I know that because that is what I am doing.  I am two people - work Jennifer and home Jennifer.  It has to be that way this year in order to keep me going.  And, I am okay with that because my students are doing the work and they are learning.  Day by Day.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Why I Haven't Blogged in a While...

 I had grand plans for this year - 2020.  I started off the year by creating and taking part in the #MTBoS2020 blogging initiative asking people to blog on the 20th of each month.  I did pretty good up to May 20th.  I did a few posts in July and a couple in August as I was thinking about returning to school.  I have done nothing since.  I think there are 2 reasons why:

1.) I have a big mouth and I was afraid I would get in trouble. (Nothing has changed here, so I will just be careful with what I say. Yes, I will be censoring myself.)

2.) Time.  It takes so much time to get each hybrid lesson ready and I have 3 different preps.  I don't have any extra time to blog.  However, it is an important part of my teaching.  It is the reflection piece.  And, with so much different this year, I should be reflecting.  I have written a lot of blog posts in my head, but not typed anything.

Therefore, this will be my first post in the #MTBoSYuleBlog blogging challenge - 12 posts over December break.  I don't think I will get to 12 posts seeing as today is Tuesday and I go back in on Monday.  But, hopefully, I can share some posts.  

I am thinking about blogging about how I get through each day, Desmos (of course), Deltamath (life saver), how I am making my lessons, and flipping my classroom.

Just a little about our school because this year every school is so different.  Our school started late this year - mid September. We have been in hybrid all year with an exception of 2 days remote due to our first cases and then a week of remote after Thanksgiving - which coincided with my quarantine week.  Yes, I was contact traced to one of my students so I tested and quarantined.  Our students are in 2 cohorts - green and orange. They come to school every other day.  Normally we have a weird rotating schedule that I like on a normal year.  A day is periods 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  B day is periods 6, 7, 1, 2, 3, etc for seven days and seven period rotation.  We are still doing this and repeating days, so A day green, A day orange.  The kids are in hybrid one day with us and doing asynchronous work the next day at home.  I don't think this is the ideal schedule, but it, like much else, is beyond my control, so I just teach whoever walks through the door.

I have three preps.  I have college prep geometry, college prep Algebra 2, and Accelerated Algebra 2/Precalculus.  I taught CP Alg 2 years ago but I didn't even bother to pull out those binders.  It is nice to start fresh.  I have taught Acc Alg 2 since the beginning - 16 years, so I am glad I have that knowledge to build on - what do they need to know, what can I remove, how can I order it and chunk it, what mistakes will they make, what new notations do they need to know.  And, I have taught college prep geo before.  This is the class that I really need to see more often.  Geometry benefits from more practice because it is like learning a new language with all the drawings, namings, and notations, but we are making our way through.

I decided early this summer to flip my classroom.  I did it years ago when it was first a thing. I did it for 4 lessons in a row.  The students watched premade videos on systems of equations and then when they came into class, we worked on those bigger word problem type of problems.  This year, I am all in.  I am making my own videos for each of my three classes.  I will save the numbers for another post.  When the students are live in front of me, it is a math workshop.  They are doing an activity on Desmos that is usually about discovery and leads to discussion and then practicing with Deltamath and assessing on Deltamath.  I knew I wanted to streamline things this year, so that is what I have.  Our brand new learning management system - thrown at us this September (biting tongue here), making my own videos (took me all summer how to best to that), and using Desmos and Deltamath.  

The reasons I have made it teaching this far this year:

1.) The kids. They are awesome. They are doing the work and finding success.

2.) Desmos and Deltamath.  I couldn't do it without them.  So, thank you.

More later.