Friday, July 10, 2020

What happened?

I am starting to plan for the Fall. Actually, I am trying to plan for the Fall.  But in order to do so, I need to reflect all the way back to mid-March when the district ordered a complete shut down of all schools.

I remember the week prior when kids and I were talking about the Coronavirus, I was in complete denial that the virus would come to the States. So when I read the email the evening of March 13th that we were not returning from that Monday until further notice, I was in complete shock.  But then I went into "I still have to support my students" mode.  I was on Twitter 24/7 reading all the great ideas from my #MtBoS colleagues to get an understanding of what my future would hold. I cannot begin to express how extremely valuable all those Tweets were and still are.  They gave me an idea of what I was going to be up against along with tried & tested solutions. 

So I took all that information along with knowing my students and started to formulate a plan.  I decided to give my students one of three options: 

1. 100% asynchronous
2. Vet D/F students who wanted to work towards grade improvement 
3. Vet students who were willing to continue with the curriculum.

Note: decision from the interim superintendent that all MS & HS students would receive credit came several weeks later.

About 75% of my students chose number 1 (wasn't surprised). I did have about 15% want to work to improve their D/F. (Luckily, I did not have too many who were in this situation.  Thank goodness that I allow multiple opportunities to demonstrate learning in my class.) And then 10% wanted to continue learning.  

For the 25% who wanted to improve or continue, I spoke to the parent/guardian multiple times along with the student to emphasize the challenges.  I had a few that agreed, but then later had to back out.  And I was okay with that.  In fact, I constantly emphasized, familial responsibilities and health (physical and mental) come first. But most stuck out the 8 weeks with me.  I was very proud of them.

For the group that was working asynchronously, I gave at most a couple of hours of light work per week. I posted the work at the beginning of the week and it was due by Friday evening.  There was a Deltamath assignment along with how math connects to stuff in the real world and #mathartchallenges from Annie Perkin's blog.  

After a couple of weeks of becoming more comfortable with Google Classroom, I started using the "Question" option.  This was where engagement shot up significantly.  I had kids who were not doing any of the assignments that were responding to the prompt.  I had kids who needed someone to talk to.  I had kids who were reticent when we were face to face but opened up with this option. 

They truly enjoyed responding to the prompts and I responded back to each one of them.  I think that they missed that, and I missed that.  So out of all the assignments I gave, they responded in the end of the year survey that they liked these prompts.  So the take away was that relationships and community do matter no matter whether face to face or virtual.

So for the kids I was working with synchronously, there were two groups: D/F improvement and continue with the instruction.  The kids who were close to getting a C, I had them continue with the asynchronous work.  The ones that weren't, I set up one on one virtual class time. I started with 6 and ended up with 2 by the end. I really enjoyed those sessions as there was the most interaction. And I wasn't able to give this level of attention when we were in class; which they really needed.

I had about 12 kids from my Math 2 honors that wanted to continue with the standards.  I won't lie, I wish all my classes were that small and with kids who were that self-motivated. The kids were eager to learn and I was able to try out different platforms with them.  They were also very forgiving of all my mistakes.  I learned more from them than they did from me.  

Although I was quite displeased at first when I heard my district decided to give all middle and high school students credit for the semester regardless of the grade at departure; I was thankful in the end as it allowed me to figure things out at a much slower pace.  I was able to experiment with different platforms and try to implement what I saw other teachers doing on Twitter, but on a much smaller scale.

I was then able to take that experience and apply it to teaching incoming eighth-graders during the summer session; which was such an invaluable experience.

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