Saturday, September 26, 2020

Figuring out the New Normal

I really had high hopes for blogging this year...It was my goal to blog at least weekly - to reflect on what works and what doesn't.  And yeah, that hasn't happened.  

We started our year with Distance Learning - the kids were at home, we were in our classrooms and meeting synchronously via Google Meet 1-2 times a week, with the rest of the lessons in an asynchronous format.  Then, on Day 7 of Distance Learning, our district announced that we would be going back to in person learning the following week.  We've now been in-person for 2 weeks and honestly, I'm exhausted.

But I still want to address my original goal of reflection, of celebrating what's working, of figuring out how to make the things that aren't working more sustainable.  I do want to put a disclaimer that this is only my personal experience and does not in any way, shape, or form represent anyone other than myself.

What's Working...

I can't even imagine trying to tackle this year without Desmos.  I know some of my students are probably getting tired of my love for Desmos, but I'm so appreciative of the ability to upload videos, do self-checking activities, provide feedback, have the equivalent of "chats" with my students, monitor their work in real time, and really see their thinking.  I love that my students working from home are still able to get an equitable experience and that when I do a short recap at the end of the hour, I actually can use student work (Love the snapshot tool) to share quality thinking.

While I miss regular teaching, I do see the benefit of the video lessons, especially for students to pause and rewind.  I don't have to worry about them asking to go back or really monitoring where they are in writing their notes.  I also like the opportunity for the one-on-one written feedback since so many of my formative assessment techniques are non-verbal or discussion related.  While it takes a lot of time, students can have a really personalized experience if they choose to take advantage of it.

I'm also really proud of my students overall.  Even though in-person learning doesn't look the same as it did pre-March 13, they've done a pretty good job with keeping a positive attitude and wearing their masks correctly.  I've had to talk to a few of them about keeping it over their nose, but in general, it's been okay.

Yesterday we had a pre-planned Distance Learning day and it was so nice to have that time to check with in colleagues about pacing, to check in students about how they are doing, and to feel like I could stop to catch my breath for a minute.  It's the little pleasures in life, but to be able to feel comfortable taking a drink of water during the day really brought me more joy than it should have!  A few weeks ago, I sent a suggestion to my principal about a weekly Distance Learning day for secondary students, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that might happen!

Moving Forward...

One major concern I have is just about the sustainability of this model.  I'm exhausted from the constant juggle and the mental toll of just trying to think through all of the outcomes.  I currently have over 10% of my roster learning from home, plus the normal absences, and I am struggling to keep up.  Monitoring the daily work, giving feedback, grading, planning lessons that are equitable whether you are in person or not, trying to keep track of students, cleaning multiple times a day, juggling the emails from students learning from home, trying to vocally project through a mask... it's just a lot to deal with on top of our normal job responsibilities

The stress and anxiety of teaching is a lot in a normal year, but add in a pandemic and it's overwhelming.  I'm not one to visit the doctor often, but since school has started, I've had to visit the doctor multiple times due to major muscle spasms and for anxiety.  I've never been on to be on daily medication until this year.  I've never cried coming to work.  I've never had to come home and strip in the laundry room in case I have something on my clothes that could literally kill my spouse if I were to bring it home.  I've never worried that I can't see my family for the holidays because I don't know what I might have been exposed to and could be spreading.  

What I miss...

A few days ago, this tweet found its way to my Facebook timeline and it really spoke to me.

One of the things that drives me crazy about teaching in a pandemic is that my normal routines, the best parts of teaching... they are just gone.  

Gone (for now) are the days of students working in groups... of hands on manipulatives... of moving around the room in stations... of being up and at the whiteboards... of me moving around the classroom listening in the conversations.

Instead, my classroom looks like a classroom from 50 years ago with the addition of computers.  Students are facing the front.  The little bit of face-to-face teaching I do is from the front of the room, trying to stay at least 6 feet from the kids in the front row, while huffing and puffing through a mask.  The kids are pretty much silent because they also don't really like talking in the masks and I just HATE that.  I miss the chaos of the classroom.  I miss the fun and the laughter and the joy that comes from learning.  I hate that our days are focused on screens.  I miss being focused on best practices for instruction and that I'm more focused on best practices for cleaning and staying safe.  

I miss being the teacher I've worked hard to be.

Don't get me wrong.  I know I'm doing the best I can.  I know I'm working my tail off to try to make engaging lessons.  I know I'm trying to give individual feedback and really connecting with every student.  I know that we are in the middle of a pandemic.  I know that we will get through this, that it's a temporary blip in the road, that I will learn new and (sometimes) better ways to teach, that I will be pushed (and push myself) to try new things.  But that doesn't stop me from missing the "pre-March 13" me.  

No comments: