January: A Month Online

Tomorrow, after being out of school for 7 weeks, 4 which were online, we return to our first full day of in-class learning of 2021. I am expecting that I'll be completely exhausted with a hard crowd to work with (most of my students are not looking forward to be back in school), and oxygen deprived (as new restrictions mean we must have masks on in class and during recess outside). But before we look too far ahead, let's look back.

The past month of remote learning has been in many ways quite a gift. I had wondered what killing momentum for the winter break meant when it came to starting up school again, so to go from no school to only about 50% was a good step up (we only had 150 mins of synchronous learning each day). Teaching the upper grades meant my teaching time was in the afternoon from 12:30-3:30 which meant I didn't have to get up at 6 or 7, and didn't need to drive in the dark to set up my classroom. Teaching from home paused all the recess duties and dealing with social and friendship conflicts, and it also meant I could force mute students as required. At the same time, the school staff noticed minor changes like quiet students being more talkative, and we actually had some really great discussions as a class about perseverance and theology which I was pleasantly surprised by.

Remote Learning can never replace in-class learning and a big struggle I had was feeling like I still had the same responsibilities and expectations while having less control. I felt like I had all this curriculum I was expected to get through but half the time to do so. Students could (and did) get away with doing no work and keeping their videos turned off; it was incredibly hard to assess and gauge where students were at in their understanding. What was the most frustrating was the internet issues I faced periodically. With Zoom just shutting down and having to restart, or students commenting that I was frozen or couldn't hear me - I could only do so much as tech support. 

However, I did eventually get settled and I was quite pleased with my setup. My laptop for zoom, my desk monitor for sharing my powerpoint, and my old iPhone dangling above me as a makeshift document camera which I could spotlight as I needed when using a whiteboard or sketchbook to teach certain concepts. The short classes flew by and I even got to workout regularly. Finally, I felt like I was working normal hours and there were days that by 7pm I was free and could do whatever I needed. I confess that on announcement days, I found myself relieved and celebrating when I heard that remote learning would get extended another week or two.

But Wednesday's announcement was different from what we had heard the previous weeks. It was originally slated that we return to school mid-week (Feb 10), but they chose to send us back within 4 days of the announcement (Feb 8 - tomorrow!). I had partially got the next two weeks planned for at home learning already! I immediately felt stressed and as if my entire life was taken from me. 6am mornings, planning until 10pm, the memories of my first term of teaching came flooding back. One week I'd be teaching remotely for 10-11 hours a week and the next I'd be teaching (not including planning) for 30 hours. Having to pull curriculum together and get the classroom set up; it's currently 9:11pm the night before and I don't know how prepared I am. And yet I could work myself to the ground knowing that I can always do more...

I am hoping I won't be jumping back into that unsustainable life back in the fall as this season of teaching begins. I pray I'll have wisdom to know when to stop, and grace to teach faithfully each day. I am thankful that God has slowly change my heart this weekend - I need to stop grumbling about these new circumstances, but rather rejoice and be content with the hand I am dealt. I look forward to seeing the students again but I just hope I wake up on time tomorrow. Here we go!

Teacher Reflections

- my makeshift document camera
- mental math challenges and exercises (some students really enjoyed this surprisingly)
- Bible discussions on theology

to improve
- not trying to plan everything from scratch and reinventing the wheel, giving myself permission to use pre-made curriculums and not having to figure everything out myself
- learning how to better facilitate and prepare large class discussions - using Socratic Dialogue
- planning more efficiently (I recently discovered I was doing my weekly plans four different times - just in different settings - day planner, weekly ppt, week at a glance etc...)


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