Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year!

Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year! Just like that it’s a reset back to the beginning. A new year with new students, and a new way of doing things due to the Coronavirus. I’m teaching at a new school, and I’m trying to find my groove with Digital Learning.

An obvious change from before is that we are not face to face with the students. Usually on the First Day of School there is electricity in the air. This year we just used electricity. The first day of school and the first few weeks are not my favorite. I have tried many different things on the first day of school over the years from ice breakers, to going over the rules, “About Me” assignments, making name tags, learning styles, and even graphing! This year, the first day of school was unlike ever before. I didn’t need to make copies of anything. I didn’t move any furniture. There was a lot less angst for me this year. I’ve mentioned before that the beginning of the year is usually the hardest time for me, and in the past I have used a lot of my leave before Thanksgiving break. It felt like a slow start for me this year compared to years past. 

The way the teacher and student relationship looks is different than before. Instead of welcoming students to my class, passing out papers, and going over the rules, I’m posting in Google Classroom, sharing materials and creating assignments, and explaining how to use Google Classroom and Zoom. I enjoy seeing my students on Zooms, however I do not appreciate the number of Zooms I am expected to do. Although there is a schedule, students are on Zooms quite a lot during the day. Feedback I hear from them is that they don’t know when to do their work because they are spending so much time on Zoom. It’s fun to see them. I have been reinforcing Zoom etiquette since the first week. Some things I’ve brought up include turning your camera off or to the ceiling and walking away or not participating, and using the chat for off topic discussion. Some things I need to address next week are doing TikTok moves on camera, and that’s it really! I just need to get better at seeing in the moment if someone is doing something distracting, and turn their camera off. It’s gone pretty well so far. I feel a connection with them and I’m seeing more and more of them each time. 

I also feel connected to students because of our communication through Google Classroom and Gmail. Students utilize the comments in Google Classroom very well. I think it is easy for them. I respond to all of their questions in Google Classroom. I just check my Gmail throughout the day and I can see the notifications come through. I have messaged with many students since the first day of school two weeks ago. Grading is the one area where I feel like I can always improve. For me lesson planning takes priority, so we can actually have something to do, and grading is usually done after school hours. I find that I have more time now for grading. I can give individual and specific feedback very easily. I enjoy not collecting stacks of paper for each period. There are no No Name assignments. It’s easy to grade assignments in Google Classroom and get them right back to the students. My grading is more efficient and I have access to a more clear picture of each student’s portfolio.

The first two weeks of Digital Learning went pretty well. I’m planning about a week at a time. Most of my students are logging on and doing work. In all my classes, most students said they were at least OK at the end of the second week of school. Many said they were great! It’s definitely different, but I think for now students are adapting, they are up for the challenge, and some even enjoy staying home. I’m also adapting. I have a new curriculum to teach this year, 7th grade science. I’m working on getting into a groove and finding a flow. I’m up for the challenge of creating an accessible, fun, and interesting learning experience for my students. I miss the students, and the job is definitely less fun without them in my classroom. Discussions have already begun for the next phase of school, one where students return to the classroom. Isolation zones are the new thing, and I think that’s just the first of many extra steps and procedures to come. At least for the next several weeks we will be Digital Learning. I don’t know what else to say but, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll be sure to share my lessons learned.

Published by How She Teaches

I teach Biology and Earth and Space Science in high school and middle school. I want to share my personal experiences and teaching milestones with anyone who wants to learn.

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