It is hard to believe but we are coming up to the one-year anniversary when everything I knew about being a middle school teacher pivoted to such an extent that I’m still recovering from it. I would have liked to say that I regularly kept a journal of my experiences of suddenly switching to remote learning last spring, but I got caught up in all of the craziness and found myself overwhelmed pretty much all.of.the.time.
First and foremost on my mind back in March was what was going to happen to my kids — my students. I felt like I had been forcibly separated from them. I think we ended up muddling through it all as best we could though.
The start of the 2020-2021 school year was chaotic at best. But eventually a routine was established–that kinda worked. The one bright spot was that I had to switch up what I normally teach because it didn’t translate well online–which makes total sense because online learning looks vastly different than face-to-face learning (as it should) because of the philosophy and strategies that are foundational to each respective learning environment.
Since I teach a semester course, I get a chance to start fresh every 20 weeks. In fact, I had a new crop of middle schoolers who began showing up in my Zoom sessions last week. =) One of the first assignments I had them do was record a short video in Flipgrid titled “My Favorite Thing!” The purpose of this video was for me to get to know how to pronounce their name, learn what they’d rather be called (aka nickname), hear how they speak and articulate, and find out a little bit about their favorite thing. And, better yet, I got to SEE their faces. What I love about middle schoolers is their personality…it runs the gamut, and I love it!
It is hard to not be able to see their faces in person…but it’s even more hard because in the remote learning environment non-verbal cues and small talk are basically non-existent. And, I really miss that. But I’m hoping that since this is basically my third attempt at teaching world history online that I’ll do a better job this time around. #fingerscrossed
I have a new unit planned for Quarter 1 that follows the principles of Understanding by Design (Ubd). The Operation: Hamster Wheel unit from last semester turned out WAY better than I could have ever hoped, so I am working hard to create a UbD unit for Quarter 1 that encompasses what I’m supposed to teach my students. As I love creating and designing, you can imagine that I am in my happy place right now. I am looking forward to the weekend when I will have a huge block of uninterrupted time to plan, play, recreate, and redesign. It’s a messy process, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
During this pandemic, we need to find the silver linings where we can. And I’ve found it with my middle schoolers. Those who say that students are losing out being online are ignoring the silver linings that these children are finding themselves. But that’s blog post for another time.