I had a student message me the other day, asking how I was doing at school and if I was remembering to feed his reindeer pizza, which is apparently his reindeer’s favorite food. He also wanted to ensure that I was keeping a healthy 6 feet social distance from the reindeer as I fed it. (Long story… the reindeer was from an escape room we did before winter break.) The message made me chuckle, as he is just one of many of my sixth graders who believes that I live in my classroom. When I told him that I hadn’t been at school since we all left a few weeks ago, he replied with: “Well, I guess your classroom is your second home.”
That it is, dude. My second home. I missed my second home, my 155 eleven-year-olds, my colleagues. I missed the organizations I was in charge of, writing on my board, and even lunch duty.
Since then, many of my teacher friends have been echoing each other in saying “remote teaching is more exhausting than teaching in person.” It is A LOT more work than it seems… transforming content into digital resources, trying to reach students that have been absent from classwork, helping kids understand the lesson while miles apart. Oh, and did I mention tech issues?
Here in Pennsylvania, our state school system has shut down for the remainder of the year. That means we have 7 more weeks of teaching this way. I just can’t fathom knowing that you might feel down and out that long. So, I wanted to share 3 things I’ve been implementing that have been making teaching remotely a lot better for me.
Continue to Develop Classroom Culture
Classroom culture online?! I haven’t lost my mind, I promise. Even though your classroom is now virtual, you can still continuing learning about students, recognizing them, helping them develop social skills, and making memories together. This is my favorite part of being a teacher! I made a YouTube video for my students all about how this time would bring challenges that we have never before experienced, but that I wanted us to try to focus on something during this remote learning time that was positive as opposed to something negative. My kids know that I’m obsessed with my dogs, so I created a virtual Class Pet idea. We couldn’t have a class pet in school (maybe a fish, but I was honest and told them I have a bad track record with fish), but we can have a class pet in our virtual classroom! In fact, we can have a different one each day! All students were invited to fill out a google form where they uploaded a picture of their pet, their pet’s name and breed, and some fun facts or reasons why they are a good class pet. Then, I upload the Class Pet of the Day to show off the cool animals that the kids have along with continuing to build on our classroom community! The kids have been loving it, and I love continuing to develop this classroom culture.
Focus on Fun
In my humble opinion, this is the time to have some fun with the content, while still providing essential skills. Is there a new, fun way to teach some of these essential skills that you’ve never done before? This is the time to take a risk and step out of your comfort zone. We always do a narrative writing unit towards the end of the year, and I realized that the way I traditionally taught it would put a lot of unwarranted stress and work on kids, especially knowing I couldn’t provide them as much support as I traditionally would. So, instead of that, I found an awesome series called Pixar in a Box that Pixar made while partnering with Khan Academy. I didn’t have to reinvent the wheel, as they’ve already made awesome videos for the whole unit, and I could create content to go alongside it. Who could teach story-telling skills better than Pixar?! My kids are still learning what they need to in order to progress to the next grade, but I am taking a risk and the kids are really having a blast with the fun way I am teaching the unit.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
Things might not go the way you originally wanted. Technology can be the biggest help and at the same time the biggest hindrance to us. This morning, I had set this week’s work up to be completed in chronological order. This has worked for me in the past, but when I got my 8th email of the morning stating that the module wouldn’t let them move forward, I had to lay aside my stress and frustration and just take it off that preferred setting. Is it perfectly what I wanted? Nope. Am I super happy about it? Nope. But, it isn’t worth my frustration and all my students’ frustration if the setting is bugging out. Do what you can to eliminate these situations for yourself and your kids. Things might not go the way you have exactly planned them, but if the kids are having fun and learning, it will all be okay. Take a deep breath, and move on.
Well, there you have my two-cents worth of remote teaching. I’ve been staying out of your inbox because if you’re anything like me, your inbox is full and you’re probably zoomed-out. Just know that if there is anything I can do for you during this time, feel free to fill out a form on my website to connect with me. I’m here to support you! Please remember to take some time for yourself and your family, and my wishes go out to all of you for health and safety.