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Friday, August 21, 2020

Distance Teaching Reflections: Week 1


Sedona (4) and I, after she sat on my lap for an entire Zoom Department Meeting

The overall purpose of this blog is to memorialize my teaching memories so one day maybe I can go back to see how much energy I once had, lol. 2020 is a teaching year I will never forget. In Santa Clara County, we were mandated to go into Distance Learning on March 13, 2020. Originally, we were slated to come back on my birthday - April 13th. However, as everyone knows, that was extended until the end of the school year. After the events of the summer, our Governor Gavin Newsom decided to begin the new school year on Distance Learning for all counties on the "Watch List." Counties need to be off the Watch List for 14 days to go back to in-person instruction.

I can say, that I was a zombie for most of the Spring 2020. Both parents in this household are teachers, and our daughter was on Distance Learning as well. I am on a group text with other Moms in my daughter's elementary school. I was truly in awe of their regimented schedules for their children, some of which incorporated music, Spanish reading and English reading. (My daughter attends a Spanish Immersion school.) Our schedules were anything but that. The reason being, my youngest is still a toddler and very much Mommy-centric and stuck-on-Mommy...which absolutely melts me every single day, but does complicate things work-wise.

What stressed me out the most in the Spring was our case management. We were not required to hold in-person classes, but I did 30 minutes 2x a week anyway for my English class, because I couldn't muster the faculties anyway to record an engaging video, and it just felt like that is what I needed to do. For our caseload, however, we were required to have 2 x 15 minute check-ins per week. Because I wanted to torture us, I ended up scheduling my check-ins all on 1 day - Mondays and Thursdays. This meant that my Zoom room was basically back-to-back appointments from 9:30am to 3pm. I had a couple breaks for lunch.

I didn't have Apple Airpods, so I basically had my Zoom room open continuously and had to listen for the doorbell to ring in the Waiting Room. When students didn't show up, I called them or would call their parents. After each check-in, we had to fill in it in a Master Google form to the district to record the services we delivered. 

Our schedule was essentially this on those days:

8am - get the kids up

8:30-9:30am - "Kids PE" walk to and from the park, listen to Frozen/Katy Perry/Miley Cyrus

9:30am-3pm - Kids are intermittently on Distance Learning, or on the screen, or playing ball with Dad outside, or having lunch, or having snacks, or drawing/painting/chalk, etc.

On the days when me or Zeke didn't have many appointments or meetings, we could take a ride to the beach to get the kids outside. Most of the days are gray, but some days can be as glorious as you can imagine.

Pacific Grove, CA

Fort Ord State Park, CA

Even in Quarantine, there was never a question that we would still be taking our mini family road trips to the beach. It is truly our family's sanctuary.

The reason for this - on a glimmering summer day, we couldn't resist it. Plus, Zeke or I couldn't get much work done at home anyway. Instead, Zeke would stay up late doing work, or I would get up at 3 or 4am to complete work. That's just been our natural rhythm since we began our teaching careers.

Now that we've started Distance Teaching for the Fall 2020, I have some goals that I have going into this. I am so proud of our District and our District Administrator, who has put forth a manageable plan that respects our mental health. Wednesdays are completely set aside for asychronous classes, and it affords me time to work on paperwork, curriculum and collaboration. AND, I can't forget that my AMAZING mother-in-law has been staying with us and has been getting my toddler outside every day so that Mommy and Daddy can have 1-2 hours of quiet work time. It's a true luxury to feel like your child is taken care of and you can be productive in the time of Distance Learning.

My daughter's elementary teacher...deserves an award. Although it's a lot of screen time, she is on her computer from 9am - 3:30pm with breaks embedded throughout. The district said that they would cut back on those hours as students get used to the platform. I am so glad, because in the Spring, the school offered little to no distance learning and it wasn't mandated. Part of this was a mindset that arose due to the technology discrepancies in the district. Which I understand, but in a Spanish school, she wasn't getting the exposure we wished she had.

Anyway, here are our my goals for Distance Teaching this time around:

Personal Goals

1. Take time to run. We moved this summer, and we have the most dreamy running trails you can ever imagine. Although, when I wake up (ideal running time) my time is typically consumed getting caught up on work before the kids get up. I want to fit a run in from 3-4pm. This goal is currently put on hold due to our proximity to a California wildfire. Everywhere is covered in ash, it's raining ash, and the air quality is poor.

Photos of the smoke from the fires, as seen from the coastline in Pacific Grove:

2. Incorporate music into my kid's schedules. I didn't do a good job of it last Spring, but I want to continue fostering a love of playing the piano for my 9 year old. 9 is when I learned my first piece that I play to this day - Fur Elise. We are trying to fit a piano lesson in on Thursdays. 

3. Consistently follow a schedule for our kids. Here is Siena's schedule. Holding on to hope that we can follow this to some degree.


3. Drive to the beach at sunset. Because, it gives me life at the end of the day.

Professional Goals

1. Learn and master CANVAS. Our district switched to CANVAS, which I am actually appreciative of. In college, we used this platform and actually I have been very impressed by it's capabilities as a learning management system and Module builder.

2. Weekly Consistent Collaboration with IAs. IAs are our greatest resource, I frequently feel like I am crummy a at assigning tasks or giving them ways to provide consistent support. I would like to plan out more activities and help foster direct support for students.

3. Document Curriculum daily. From year-to-year, I feel like I am still piecing together curriculum. I would like to somehow find a way to create Units and refer back to them and not have to create the wheel. 

4. Timely assessment. One of the most important ones.

5. Fun icebreaker games.

6. Acknowledge student's birthdays over Zoom.

That's it for the time being. What are your goals for Distance Teaching??? Please tell me you are struggling with some of the things I am. 😆

Still wishing you well in these first days,

- Kristine

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