I haven’t written a post since January 5th, and a lot has changed about my teaching since then. But I’m not writing about all of that today. Instead, I am reminding myself of all the beautiful things in my teaching world that have not changed.
1. I’m still sharing books. Yeah, it’s not quite the same mode of sharing I’ve used in the past, and so I’ve gotten a little creative. E-books and audiobooks have become the new norm, and my students are accepting of them. We use Sora (district) and SimplyE (New York Public Library) to connect with hundreds of thousands of books. I’m also quite
thankful for First Book, where I’ve ordered many popular, yet cheap, titles and pushed them out into the four Little Free Libraries in my district. For some students, I’ve sent a surprise to their home if I knew of a certain title they really wanted to read.
2. I’m still conferring. Zoom has come in quite handy for this. At first, as I was getting used to distance learning, I only did weekly Zoom meetings with each of my classes, but I soon realized I needed more. I missed conferring with kids one-on-one, and I could tell that many of them needed it, so I set up a conference Google Form. Students could choose a date and time between certain allotted hours, and then we’d have 15 minutes to meet with one another. This soon turned into something I encouraged all of my students to do.
3. I’m still teaching. I refuse to just assign something and hope my students know how to complete it. As I mentioned above, I hold weekly Zoom meetings, and that’s where I work in mini-lessons that I feel my kids need right now. How to find writing topics. Using mentor texts to create our own writing. Different ways to revise a piece of writing (deleting, adding, rearranging, and rephrasing), and so much more. Plus, I can’t forget all those customized lessons that pop up in the one-on-one conferences.
4. I’m still grading. Well, this one is a bit of a stretch. I’m not grading the same as I once did, and I don’t think I ever will again. After years of doing my own research and having the desire to try, I have finally gone “gradeless.” I have read titles by Alfie Kohn and Maja Wilson about rethinking grades, but what finally gave me the guts to try it was a combination of reading Sarah M. Zerwin’s Point-less: An English Teacher’s Guide to More Meaningful Grading and this dang virus. My students will eventually have a grade for the 4th marking period, but right now they are just getting a lot of helpful feedback, both written and oral. And…it working! I’m so impressed with the progress I’m seeing. More posts about this new form of grading will be coming soon.
5. I’m still connecting. Keeping in contact with my students is my #1 priority right now.
I haven’t been able to connect with every single student, but I’m close. Some are responding to my Remind messages, some aren’t. Some are responding to my emails, some aren’t. Some are coming to my Zoom classes or conferences, some aren’t. Some are contacting me because of a postcard I sent them, some aren’t. Yes, I tell myself this is all okay. I don’t know what each of my students are going through during this difficult time, so I am just going to continue to try. Many of my students know someone who has had the coronavirus, and some of them know more than one. I just want them to know that, no matter what, I am here.