What a Semester!

Semester One of 2020–2021 is either over or almost over. How are you feeling?

Back in September, I created a post asking when we would get used to this new normal. When I wrote it, I thought that surely, by December, our new routines would no longer be strange, and we would all feel better about this way of teaching and learning. At the time, I was teaching in a hybrid scenario. Today marks day 22 of fully-remote learning, round two. It still does not feel comfortable.

It’s Not All Bad

It is better in some ways. For example, I don’t have to deal with the dreaded robotic camera because I am not in school. That is a plus! Next time around, I would recommend making a better investment: Buy every student a printer, ink, and a couple of reams of paper. If students could print materials, they could take their eyes off the screen for a while, which would help many students who — like their teachers — are suffering from eye strain.

The iPad that comes with the dreaded robotic camera could be useful, but I felt odd taking it home without a protective case, so it stayed in school.

Another Plus: A Chance to Reinvent My Delivery

Instead of using that little iPad, I use my iPad Pro as a digital document camera. I can share my iPad to the Google Meet, and with an app called Good Notes, I can bring images and PDFs to the iPad and annotate them live. That has been very helpful. My son showed me how he was using his iPad to annotate the lecture notes his professors shared with him, and that was all I needed to give it a try.

I had forgotten how much the very acts of doodling, circling words and phrases, and annotating texts support my thinking process. Reflecting on my metacognitive strategies, I can say that this addition to my teaching toolbox is significant.

Writing Newsletters Again

When I was in the corporate space, training adults to use software, I wrote newsletters to the staff with announcements, words of encouragement, and “Did you know?” sections. It was quite enjoyable. Now, I write newsletters for students and families.

Included in the newsletters are sections that instruct students and families on how to use our LMS to check their grades, send messages, and monitor their calendars for assignments — among other things. The meeting codes for conferences have featured prominently, as well as the high school bell schedule. I also offer words of encouragement and emphasize communication.

Finally, I usually embed an Easter egg in the newsletter that links to a Google form. Lately, this form has included a quiz they can take to receive extra credit points based on their score. It’s like sending a gift each time I do it.

For me, the newsletters have helped with lesson and unit planning as well. It’s a chance to reflect on what has been and what’s to come. Yet another metacognitive moment! Nice.

Still Needed: New Ways to Communicate in Real-Time

Students at the secondary level had little experience being self-directed before we ended up here. Therefore, they may not know how to plan, and they may not feel comfortable advocating for themselves. Many give up due to being overwhelmed. Trying to reach them seems near impossible.

The other day, a student sent me a photo of her screen so I could “diagnose” an issue she had with a site we have to use for career exploration. I saw her unread email count: 191. Holy moly. Talk about being overwhelmed.

In the business world, whole seminars are devoted to controlling email. Although we aren’t in the business world, this is a crossover topic that we should consider spending time on (a newsletter topic!). How many emails are students receiving a day? With seven classes, possibly eight, there could be up to 10 emails a day.

How else do we communicate with them, though? If we teachers were to call each student every time we needed to share information with them, we would never get off the phone. Should we ask them to install another app like Remind on their phone? What about those students who do not have a phone?

Because my district is a 1:1 district, I’m back to email. (You know, this happens a lot: I write myself into a new topic. Yet again, I am reminded of my metacognitive processes. Hooray!)

Happy Holidays to You and Yours

I hope everyone has a joyful, marvelous holiday. I hope you have a chance to unwind, relax, and enjoy one another. Happy holidays.

Image Credit: Photo by Artem Podrez on Pexels.com

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