Back to School 2020 is challenging, to say the least. A few of the questions that I have been asked over the course of the last few weeks…
- Is your classroom ready?
- Do you know what the district’s plan will be?
- Do you feel safe going back to school?
- How do you feel about sending your own kids back to school?
- What will the school day look like if kids are wearing masks, staying 6-feet apart, and not allowed to move all day?
- How will the students use lockers?
- Will students be able to eat in the cafeteria?
- What happens if you are quarantined?
- What if your own kids have to be quarantined?
- How many students need to test positive before students are all shifted to remote learning?
- How are you going to teach the students in your classroom AND the students on-line doing remote instruction?
- How am I supposed to plan as a working parent?
- If a parent chooses remote learning, can that student play sports?
- Are we going to have fall sports?
- Will every teacher be returning?
- Will there be subs willing to sub this year?
- Is my kid safe?
In a nutshell-I don’t know!
Like you, I am doing my best to wrap my brain around ALL.OF.THIS.
As a teacher-mom, EVERYTHING is tricky and uncertain right now. My own head is spinning in preparation for the unknown. Trying to tune-out the negative and focus on the positive is what I know I need to do in order to stay most optimistic and focused heading into this uncertain school year. As information comes in from my district about the school year, I navigate what I can control-getting my classroom ready, lesson planning, and staying positive.
While I love definitives, those don’t seem to exist right now for any of us. My goal is to focus on the aspects that I can control as a mom and an educator in order to be as ready as possible for the year ahead. I also recognize that my attitude and headspace set the tone with my friends and family, and it is essential that I am ALWAYS cognizant of that.
The aspects that I can control are the ones that I have been especially deliberate about this summer…
- reading as much as I can in order to put more incredible books into my students’ hands
- creating resources that can be used both in my classroom or through distance learning
- taking courses to enhance and personalize the in-person and on-line learning that I get to do with students
I have tried to read as much as possible this summer in order to add fresh titles and thoughtful texts to share with my students. A few of the books that I have read and can’t wait to share with my students through book talks and “First Chapter Fridays” are:
- Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds
- Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
- Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
- The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
- The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
As a teacher that LOVES to read, whether in-person learning or remote, a useful tidbit that I ALWAYS want to provide for my students is the title of a new book that they can’t wait to read from cover to cover.
Because we begin the year focusing on memoirs and narrative writing, I will be using Educated by Tara Westover as our first read aloud.
Read Aloud Tip for Remote Students: Record your classroom read aloud using Zoom. Simply hit record when you are reading aloud and upload the mp4 file to Google Classroom, Schoology, or Canvas for students to listen to at their convenience. Grab more book ideas for your middle school classroom- 50 Best Books for Middle School.
The first days of the year will look tremendously different than they ever have before, so I am creating digital tools to help navigate my in-person and remote work with my students. Building a community for all of my learners is essential. No matter where my students are learning, I want them to feel connected, engaged, and enthusiastic about being an active participant in their learning.
Because I will have students in my classroom AND students taking part in remote learning, I created this Digital Meet Our Class resource to help my students get to know one another on our very first day together.
Each student completes their own digital slide in order for my in-person and remote learners to learn about one another and feel connected to our classroom community on day one.
I know I have a great deal of work to do to meet the needs of my learners, but focusing on my students’ social emotional learning is at the forefront of our first days together.
Community Building Tip for In-Person and Remote Students: Use resources that allow for students to connect and engage with one another even though learning is taking place in different spaces.
The quick transition to distance learning in the spring took students and teachers alike on a bit of an unchartered ride. I quickly found that Zoom, Screencastify, and Peardeck are the tools that could make the greatest impact on my instruction as a 7th grade ELA teacher.
- Zoom allows me to deliver content through direct instruction, connect my entire class, connect students to work in small groups, and to record lessons for future viewing after uploading them to Schoology.
- Screencastify allows me to pre-record lessons utilizing my computer screen, provide feedback, and give an overview of learning for the week.
- Peardeck through Google Slides allows me to develop slides to teach content while engaging my students through interactive slides that can be used as a formative assessment of student understanding.
Tech Tip for Teachers: Find a few tools that will be most useful for enhancing student engagement and learning, and get really comfortable using them with your students.
While so many things may feel out of our control and changing by the minute, my goal is to continue to focus on what excites me about the school year ahead. We can do really challenging things!
All the best. You’ve got this!