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  • Kevin Butler

Teaching and Learning from Home.

Updated: Mar 25

Teaching Digitally (Week 1)



And I thought last week was crazy! This past week may have been the most challenging week of teaching I've had in 17 years. If, just two weeks ago, you would have told me what was going to happen in this last week, I would not have believed it!


I honestly don't know how some teachers are doing this right now. All I can tell you is about my last five days of teaching, what I've learned, and what I'm changing. I will sprinkle some tips in for teachers and parents (who may now be playing the roles of teachers) to navigate this phenomenon called "distance learning."


I was interviewed for two different podcasts this week. I was rather honest with the hosts after they asked how I was feeling. I told them I'm sad, scared, and thankful. I'm sad because I love my job, and in a matter of days, it has had a complete involuntary makeover. I'm scared because I don't know what the future holds. I'm thankful for everything I have right now and realize that it all can be gone in an instant. If nothing else comes of this, maybe we will all come to appreciate the things we have a little more.


So, beginning this past Tuesday, 3/17, my school transitioned to an asynchronous distant learning model. Asynchronous learning occurs through online platforms without real-time interaction. This will generally be in place for two weeks, leading up to the beginning of spring break. On Friday, 3/13, and Monday, 3/16, teachers were given two professional development days to learn how to incorporate lessons into our Google Classrooms, create two weeks of digital lessons, and gather materials from our classrooms. We were asked to upload our two weeks' worth of lesson plans to a Google Document and then, each day, upload our full program to our Google Classrooms for students to access. In addition to academics, students would also be getting lessons from their specialist teachers.


Here's a peek into what my week looked like...




Monday: It was a full day of planning. I spent the entire day uploading lessons to Google Classroom. I worked from my classroom, as did the majority of my colleagues. I recorded all of my lessons for Tuesday, including my morning meeting—The Morning Co-Host Show—solo. We were given guidelines to keep all classroom pages looking similar. Monday evening was spent checking over the formatting of my Google Classroom, checking to make sure the directions were clear and accurate, and checking that all the links to external websites were working. It was a long, but productive day.


Tuesday: I anxiously woke up at 7:00 a.m. to begin responding to e-mails. I also had to finish a blog posting for TeachBetter.com to help teachers navigate e-learning.


8:30–9:00 I monitored my Google Classroom and e-mail from home, then got in my car and went to school. My school was open to teachers to work in their classrooms. You had to be fever and symptom-free and agree to maintain distance from colleagues (this was very helpful)


9:00–9:30 This time was spent responding to a lot of e-mails.

The e-mails were mostly from students; some, from parents.


9:30–12:00 I filmed Wednesday's lessons and responded to e-mails and comments and questions from students on Google Classroom.


12:00–12:30 I had lunch (while responding to e-mails).


12:30–1:45 I wrapped up gathering digital materials for Wednesday's lessons. I continued to monitor student comments and questions on Google Classroom. I began to edit the videos I took in the morning.


1:45–2:00 I had a conference call with my admin team.


2:00–3:00 From home, I recorded an afternoon message to my students and posted it on Google Classroom.


3:00–4:00 I unplugged from all technology, including the news. I went for a walk outside.


4:00–6:30 I began checking and scoring student work that was submitted digitally. This was very tedious.


6:30 – 7:00 I had a quick dinner.


7:00 – 9:00 I uploaded all of Wednesday's work to Google Classroom. This took a long time!


9:00 – 9:30 I checked to make sure everything was formatted and uploaded correctly.


9:30 – 10:30 I responded to my final batch of e-mails. I researched new websites for e-learning.


Tuesday was a day for the record books. I thought the week would get easier, but it didn't. Rather than listing my schedule again, the rest of the week pretty much mimicked Tuesday.


With all that being said, this week I talked with teachers from all over the United States, many of whom have students who do not have access to the internet or devices. I am fortunate that each of my students has a device and access to the internet. I can imagine how much harder this would be without access to those two things. Why doesn't everyone in the United States have equal access to basic technology? When this crisis is over, I hope our country can come together and figure this out. We need to learn lessons from this and come up with solutions. As extreme as it may sound, we are living in a world where access to the internet is almost as vital as access to clean water and food. It's very apparent that there is a huge divide in our country, and we need to find ways to fix it.


On Thursday, I dabbled with Zoom. Zoom is an online platform to deliver virtual meetings. My class had a whole class meeting on Thursday. It was the highlight of my week. Each of my students was able to log on to participate. I already knew it, but this was more evidence that I have the best group of fifth graders a teacher could ask for! Thursday evening, I tutored a friend's child via Zoom. Her son was having some difficulty with some of the work that his teacher had sent home. I have to admit it was kind of cool. I was teaching him from my living room in Los Angeles, and he was learning at home in New York.


On Friday, I taught reading live via Zoom. I have to say it is a lot easier to teach live on Zoom than it is to upload lessons for students to work on independently. I also have a feeling that parents probably appreciated this too. That evening, we also held a school-wide faculty meeting on Zoom. Another success! It was comforting to see everyone's face and to have a forum to share questions and ideas with each other.


So, what have I learned this week?


1) Distance teaching and learning is not easy.

2) Personally, I need to take it day by day.

3) I really miss my students and colleagues.

4) Kids are resilient.

5) Technology is a vital means of communication. It needs be accessible to everyone.

6) My students and their parents have been incredibly supportive and patient.

Flexibility is a virtue. My students rocked it this week.

7) I couldn't be more proud to be a member of my school community. As difficult as it has been, my school has been supportive and organized.

8) Teachers are working harder than ever. In a matter of days, teachers were required to change their entire mode of delivering instruction while, at the same time, learning how to use new digital platforms and lightning speed.

9) Teacher and school-shaming are inappropriate. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all. We are in a crisis, not on a vacation. We need to build each other up. We're better together.

10) This is may not be an ideal situation, but I'm trying my best.


Next week, I am piloting more synchronized learning with to my students. I will be using Zoom to teach math, reading, and language arts. I will continue deliver other subjects asynchronously. Spring break begins on March 31. I look forward to a few days of downtime, but most of that time will be spent preparing lessons for the next several weeks. As of today, we are continuing distance learning through April 20. I am not sure what the future holds.


Teacher Tips:

1) Try assigning lessons students can complete with as little assistance from a parent as possible. They, too, are navigating these uncharted waters.

2) Try connecting live with your students via Zoom or Google. Their faces (and yours) will light up.

3) Set guidelines for yourself. This week, I am setting up office hours. I cannot be

on call 24/7.

4) Encourage your students to find things to do at home that do not involve technology. My class shared a list of nondigital games they like to play. I

encouraged them to go outside, call friends on the phone, write letters to family members, and try learning something new like a sport or cooking.

5) Go outside yourself. Keep physical distance from others, but still socialize.

Parent Tips:


1) Try keeping to a schedule. Within a schedule, allow time for breaks. Kids do not sit in their seats for hours at a time at school. They need time to play and relax.

2) Be patient with teachers. This is not what any of us were trained to do. We are learning and implementing distance learning at the same time. We are trying our best. We miss your kids.

3) Try checking out websites that are offering virtual trips. Zoos, aquariums, NASA, and even Disney World are offering virtual tours of their facilities.

4) Avoid watching the news live. Avoid access to social media. There is a lot of miscommunication and false information out there. Try reading the newspaper together.

5) Check out your local library virtually. Many libraries now have a lot of digital content for kids. And, it's FREE!

6) Practice meditation and mindfulness. There are free apps you can download to your phone to help you (and your family) relax and recharge. Not into mediation, listen to music.

7) No internet, a lot of web-based programs can be used on smartphones. PBS television has NEW education content for kids in grades K-12.

8) Limit screen time. Try playing board games or going outside for a walk or bike ride.

9) Ask your kids questions and be as honest as you are comfortable with being. It's okay to say you don't have an answer.

10) 2020 is a U.S. Census year. Complete the census together. i-Civics is an excellent website for kids to learn about the government. Explore ways the government is designed to help people in times of need.


Resources


Zoom Tutorial - shorturl.at/atGU0

Scholastic Virtual Learning HUB - Scholastic LEARNING HUB


Teach Better - https://www.teachbetter.com/


It's Saturday and I am exhausted. Tomorrow will be spent planning for Monday. I also have report cards to write and submit by March 31. Looking at the week ahead is daunting, but I will do what I need to in order to get the job done.


Hang in there, everyone.


We will get through this. Try to look for the silver linings—deep breaths and smile. Questions email me at thekevinjbutler@gmail.com

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