On the eve of the last day of school, I thought I would take this opportunity to reflect on the past year. I, just like most other educators, are ready for the break. It truly has been the most challenging year in my 18 years in education. And I know that I had it easier than administrators and teachers. We have accomplished A LOT over the past 15 months. We’ve all had stressful nights wondering how things were going to shape out. We’ve all had tough decisions that we had to make. We’ve all had to learn new skills.
Have you truly taken the opportunity to process what you have been able to accomplish? Whether you have the mental capacity to do it now or later, think about how you have grown as an educator and as a learner.
Here are some of my reflections:
- Just what is Google Meet? While this existed prior to COVID, no staff member really used this tool as a means to communicate with others in a professional/educational setting. There is not a day where a Google Meet was not opened to communicate with others. Sure there were some frustrations with staff on the design element of the tool, but we all made it happen to educate our students as best as we could remotely. Google Meet also allowed us the opportunity to work collaboratively and plan with our colleagues. To think back in the Spring of 2020, we only used this tool with our colleagues.
- Oh that is how the computer works. I feel as though teachers now have a better understanding of how the computer actually works. Teachers have been using these devices for many years now, but I am not sure some truly understood the ‘brains behind them’ if you will. For example, teachers needed learn how to change computer settings from time to time if they were plugging in external microphones or webcams. This helped with the questions like “My google meet says that it is pulling the audio from the microphone but why is it still coming through my computer…etc”
- Classroom management on 11 inch screen. You can’t handle classroom management on an 11 inch computer screen while simultaneously teaching content! Just like the private sector, many employees have multiple computer monitor screens to effectively complete their work. We knew we needed to help teachers by giving them more real-estate. By Fall 2020, teachers in our school received a portable monitor so that whether they were in the classroom, or teaching remotely, they had two screens to work off of. Students in the Google Meet were located on portable monitor. Content needed to be shared with students was located on the laptop. (click HERE to read a previous blog post about this) Again, this is where I feel teachers gained a better understanding of how their computers can work for them with managing ‘multiple screens’.
- The famous words asynchronous versus synchronous. The learn with me versus the learn at your own pace or on your own time. Teachers where having to re-think how they were going to deliver instruction to their students. What made sense in the classroom setting, in many instances, did not make sense in the remote setting. Teachers were having to constantly iterate and revise their thinking as to what made the most sense in delivering the instruction.
- Demo or explain with a screencast. This was definitely a skill that almost every teacher now has in the back pocket. With screencasting comes another skillset – how to make sure that you keep your audience. What makes the most sense with this piece of information that has to get out to students? Do I have to keep it around 3 minutes so they will actually watch or is this one that I can take 10 minutes to truly get my whole point across.
- Collaborating remotely. This speaks to the asynchronous versus synchronous bullet above. What would make sense in the classroom setting did not make sense during remote OR in person instruction. There were many COVID protocols that were set in place. Students could not share supplies or sit close to one another. Teachers needed to think through how they were going to try to ‘replicate’ similar collaborative experiences. Jamboard became a fan favorite in getting students to collaborate with each other. (click HERE and HERE to read two previous blog posts about this)
- Web tool implementation – for some teachers, COVID gave them the inspiration to try something new out that they might not have otherwise. Teachers were asking questions like: “How can I get students to review content and want to review the content?” “How can I get students to review a short video and know if they have in fact done so?” “How can I get students to work collaboratively?” “How can I get students to talk to one another?” “How can I redesign assessments?” “How can I…” In some instances, these questions were answered with a help of a particular web tool.
- Not reinventing the entire wheel – many, many hours were spent on redesigning lessons. A teacher was not able to just teach the same as they always had unless all of their students were in class at the same time this year. The librarian and I would work together to help curate ‘templates’ that we thought our staff would benefit from, no matter what curriculum they taught. Our hope was that teachers would have a starting point to help them think differently. (click HERE to read a previous blog post about this)
- People Person. Personally, I have learned that I am some who enjoys working with others in person. There is something about working with others in the same space. That doesn’t mean that I cannot and will not work remotely through Google Meet. I just know that I truly work best when I am with others. That is where the connection and collaboration work best.
I feel like I am not giving the past 15 months what it truly deserves. I know that there are far more bullets that I should be addressing in this reflection. But, I have to admit, this all that my brain is willing to handle right now. I hope this helps you process your own journey and what you were able to accomplish. Everyone participated in this journey at their own speed. I look forward to re-charging over the summer and seeing where next year will bring us. Well done educators. Congratulations on reaching the finish line.
I am extremely proud with what we were able to do. And that is my Spiel…