Distance instruction, week one

Does it suck?

It sucks, but not as bad as I thought it would suck. The main thing I miss is the NOISE. My class is always noisy. Kids are making things, and they aren’t quiet about it. Now the main thing I hear all day is my own voice. When the kids are looking at me, I feel like they’re being forced to stare, like student zombies; when they look away, I worry that I’ve lost their attention.

And it’s not just my noise that’s missing. No one’s laughing and yelling in the halls. The bells aren’t ringing. And heaven help me, I miss staff meetings.

Working from…work

I’m working from my classroom, so I have all of my materials. My students don’t have access to everything they should, but for the most part we can fake it. I still don’t know how my digital media monkeys are going to make movies with low-powered school Chromebooks, or what exactly will end up in the yearbook, but my students are clever and creative; they’re going to make things that surprise and impress me, just like they always do.

Fighting the student zombie stare

I accidentally changed my teaching strategy a few days in. I recorded a live lesson I did with a couple of classes in case someone was absent. Then I realized that instead of giving the same lesson again I could share the video for the students to watch in their own time, which meant I could do less direct instruction and let more students present their work to the class. Much more interesting from my side, and I hope more engaging for my students. It also means students who miss something can rewatch until they get it, and students who already understand can skip ahead and go right to their projects.

I’ve heard of the strategy before – it’s called a flipped classroom – but I’ve avoided it up to this point because I don’t like assigning homework. Now EVERYTHING is homework- and all lessons are coming from a screen- so it feels a bit more natural.

Next week, things change again. We have no students on campus, but a student enrichment program is going to bring about two dozen kids back, a dozen each in two rooms. One of those rooms is right next to mine. I’ve been teaching with my doors open for maximum ventilation, but now that one will have to stay closed.


Also scheduled for next week: Back to School night. Teachers can either host a live Zoom/Meet or post videos for their classes. I was going to record my videos at work today, but I decided I should wait until I’m not wearing the shirt with the cartoon dumpster fire. It might send the wrong message.

Me wearing a shirt with a cartoon dumpster on fire saying "I'M FINE."

Honestly: I’m fine. My students are safe, this crisis will pass, and I feel like the challenges are giving me new skills as a teacher that will transfer to my future classes when we transition back to traditional instruction.

… or a new form of non-traditional instruction. Los Angeles County is starting to come close to the point that districts can apply for waivers to let students back on campus. If that happens, everything changes all over again, probably right when everyone has the rhythm of this system worked out. It will be an all-new struggle, but it will be worth it to have a noisy room again.

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