Tag Archives: remote learning

What I Keep Learning: NPM20 Day 4

This piece in progress was inspired by What I Learned this Week by Angela Narcisco Torres. While it doesn’t yet feel finished to me, it does have some ideas that I am happy to have captured.

What have you been learning as we all do our best to shelter-in-place? Those of you who are teachers, what are you learning as you work to support students through some kind of remote learning?

What I Keep Learning

What matters when your students are names on a screen

Rather than physical beings that you see and interact with each day?

When you hear the echoes of their voices 

Through typed comments

That pop up continuously throughout what used to be the school day.

Quiet students are still quiet

Rarely leaving a trail of their thoughts or needs

And body language is no longer

A text to be read

The chatterers still chat

Loud and long, filling my inbox

With every possible question, ‘sup, and emoji 

They tap their chat to me, to each other, to themselves

Filling empty ears with imagined sounds of school

Assignments matter now more than ever

I see the ways the mundane

Assignment-for-assignment-sake

Deflates, dissipating energy

Leaving us all unsatisfied and wrung out

Like that washcloth left on the edge of the sink

We need learning opportunities that connect us

Build on experiences and passions

Each student holds close

Allowing ideas to soar and words to take flight

Writing matters, that’s what I keep learning

®Douillard

SOLC Day 30: Urban Pinecones

With April right around the corner, I launched the poem-a-day challenge with my class today. I am practiced at this launch in the classroom. I know just how to motivate my students, get them engaged with language play, give them feedback on their early attempts and keep the momentum going throughout the month.

But this year, as we all know, is different. I made a short video of myself explaining the challenge. I sent my students out around their homes today in search of “tiny perfect things.” I asked them to pick one of those things and create a list of 10 great words related to one of the tiny perfect things…and then introduced a mentor text poem.

Today’s poem was one I thought would be highly accessible. Things to do if you are a Pencil by Elaine Magliaro Is vivid and fun, and encourages the use of strong verbs and metaphorical thinking. In the remote learning environment, I realized that my examples became even more important and that my feedback was necessary to push students toward more detail and elaboration.

I’ve asked my students to both keep a physical notebook for their poems in progress and to post them on a slide deck that I started for them in Google Classroom. Here are a few examples of student pieces on day 1.

I love that they each found something they cared about to use as their subject. I’m thrilled to see traces of the mentor text, and that there is strong language use even in these first drafts. I am excited to see what day 2 brings.

And here is my poem for the day:

Urban Pinecones

Be tough and hang on tight as cars whiz by

creating a storm of dust and wind.

Prepare to roll

kicked by joggers, bumped by strollers,

slobbered on by neighborhood dogs.

Listen to the stoplight chatter

“Wait”

and heed the warning.

Hope to land above the curb

where the soil awaits.

Hear the echoes of squirrels and coyotes

and the caws of the crows.

And dream of forests

from your pile on the side of the road.

SOLC Day 26: It’s the Little Things

The days feel long right now…and not in that endless summer kind of way. Being homebound means that each day feels a lot like the one before, experiencing little change in scenery. With the beaches, parks, and trails closed my walks involve treks around the neighborhood. I get my cardio exercise, but inspiration and scenic beauty are sorely limited. I’m enjoying the cool crispness of early morning walks, but I don’t find myself motivated to stop and pull out my camera to snap a photo or two.

Zoom meetings, student comments, lesson planning, emails to writing project colleagues, clearing that inbox that has building up all week…the hours vaporized and the knots in my back tightened (is there something called Zoom back?). Around 3:30 I noticed an email from a dad of one of my students…and much to my delight there was a short note…”A” wanted to send you this photo she took today. As I scrolled down the image emerged! An egret perched on a chain link fence overlooking the seashore.

I felt a surge of pure joy! I love the photo–and seeing the egret and the beach were a shot of nature that I have been missing since the beach closures earlier in the week. (I have been staying away–trying to do my part to keep the virus at bay.) And it was heartwarming to know my student knows me so well. After almost 2 weeks of remote learning, this student knew how to share some remote caring. She knew I would love this photo…and she is right! Thanks A…you made my day! It really is the little things that matter most.

SOLC Day 23: Making Connections

We’re still at it–the “it” being remote learning while our schools remain closed. On our 6th day I’ve learned some things that I didn’t know when we started this last week.

  1. Remote learning is not the same thing as teaching. I’m able to push out learning activities and provide feedback, but I’ve yet to get the teaching part in order.
  2. Technical glitches are a given. There is a constant barrage of technical questions from my students and their parents. Where is the attachment? It says file not found! My attachment won’t load. Where do I do my writing? My stream is gone!
  3. Related to number 2, we are lucky to have responsive tech support in my small district! Today my email cries of help were met with a productive Google Meet session with one of our tech team members. I got help troubleshooting, established a reasonable work around, and even squeezed in an extra question about Google Meet!
  4. I love Flipgrid! Posting a prompt each day–both written and as a video that I make as an invitation–allows my students to show each other a glimpse of their interests at home. They seem to enjoy it…and so do I. I just wish there were a way to comment that wasn’t limited to making a video back. (If any of you know a workaround for this, please share!)
  5. My students love to chat! I knew that they loved to chat–as in verbalize–in the classroom. But I learned quickly last Monday just how much they love to chat (like texting) on the Google Classroom pages. Which also means that I’ve been thinking about ways for them to connect that are less annoying that hundreds of emails in my inbox.
  6. So today, I decided to schedule an impromptu classroom meetup through Google Meet. I posted a note on our classroom page, letting kids know a couple of hours in advance that I would post a link to Meet…and gave brief directions about how to get on. I decided not to email parents this first time, just see who would come and figure out from there how it would work. Right on time, about half my students along with my co-teacher and our science teacher starting to pop onto my screen. At first with no volume…but eventually at full volume. I was able to get them to all mute themselves and then I called on them one by one to unmute and tell us all how they were and what they were doing. They absolutely loved being together…and then toward the end of our time one student discovered the chat feature–so I explained where it was to all of them and let them go wild chatting. Emojis began to fly along with the Hi and I’m here kind of posts they seem to love best. I gave them a one minute warning on the chatting and then wished them all well and signed off. I’ve already had an email from a parent thanking me for making her child’s day!
  7. I still haven’t figured out how to get everything done–including my report cards–in a reasonable time . But I know more about how to manage this new learning context than I did last week. I’m thinking about how to use our Meet tool in two different ways–one for a sort of “recess” like today, and another to support student learning in more specific ways. I’m still worried about the kids who are not as present, staying on the fringes of this remote learning thing. Are they having tech problems, are their parents too busy trying to work from home to help them, are they home alone without help? I hope to answer some of those questions in the days to come.

What’s happening in your learning context? How’s your homeschooling or remote learning going? What is working for you? What isn’t? What connections are you making?

SOLC Day 19: Searching for a Second Wind

Is it really only day 4 of the school closures? Today the lift felt heavy. It’s not actually my teaching day, but that doesn’t alleviate feelings of responsibility: to my students, their parents, and my colleagues. And then to top things off, our Google Classroom has decided to stop loading the stream. Students starting commenting that their lessons had disappeared and soon after a parent emailed confirming that they could no longer see anything past March 17th.

My immediate response was panic. How could our lessons go missing? We had put so much work into creating them. And while I, too, could not get my stream to load, I could see the lessons/activities in the classwork section, Phew! Our district Ed Tech Coordinator is working to resolve the issue, soon I hope.

So instead of student responses today, I found myself in hours of video conferences. All were worthwhile, but they add up to lots of time sitting in front of a computer. And that is exhausting. I am really glad that I selfishly took some time when it wasn’t raining late this morning for my daily beach walk.

I rushed down the beach, feeling the cool breeze in my face as I noticed the mounding white clouds in the distance. The tide wasn’t low yet…I couldn’t wait til then, there were video calls scheduled during that time. (And as it turns out, it was raining then too!) I came across a group of sandpipers dancing in the surf. They raced in toward me with each wave and headed toward the water as the water receded. I danced with them, my camera low, trying to catch them in motion.

Taking time for myself is essential during these stressful times. I need that walk on the beach more than ever: the time to let my mind wander, to breathe deeply, to appreciate the beauty of nature, and to move my body. I found a bit of a second wind. I know I’ll need another walk tomorrow to refill that wind supply!

SOLC Day 13: In the Upside Down

I could feel this day coming, but there’s still no real preparing for it. Life and all the routines that keep it steady and grounded have been disrupted.

I knew when I heard from my colleague this morning that Los Angeles Unified School District would close their schools beginning on Monday that I would get a similar message before the day was out. And it was literally only minutes later that the email arrived.

Because of my Writing Project buy-outs, I don’t teach on Thursdays and Fridays so I was working from home when the message arrived. I texted my teaching partner to learn that the principal had called a meeting during recess. I couldn’t be there by that time, but as soon as my Zoom meeting finished, I headed over to school. I knew I wanted more information, I wanted to see our students, and I wanted to support my teaching partner in getting materials and information ready to send home by the end of the day.

And while we are prepared…as prepared as possible for an impossible situation, there is no roadmap for closing schools for a global pandemic. It feels like the whole world has flipped over and we’re now living in the upside down.

So…my students will be learning remotely for at least the next two weeks. They went home with their iPads today, knowing that they will find lessons and activities to do at home beginning on Monday morning. And importantly, they know that their teachers are on the other side of their apps…planning for learning and expecting to see evidence of learning coming back to them.

So will this move flatten the curve? Tamp down the spread of the virus? Keep us all safer and healthier? I hope so. And I know I will be ready for the world to flip back upright–knowing that our routines will likely continue to be disrupted even when our schools re-open.

Let’s keep washing our hands and keeping our spirits up, the kids out there need us!