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February 28, 2021

My Virtual Classroom - So Many Channels

The other day I wrote a letter to our school board to let them know what's been happening in my classroom, I was trying to let them know that learning was still happening even on this distance learning journey. As I was writing about all the good that happens each day, I realized I should really write about this year over here as well, I really don't want to forget this crazy school year.  It has grown me like no other...

My district uses Microsoft Teams this year.  It was a learning curve, but I'm thankful that I kept with the idea to keep it simple. I have tried to translate what I'm used to doing in the classroom into a virtual routine.  I didn't want to recreate the entire wheel...

This is the channel view when I open up my team.  

I'm still using Color Teams as our weekly groups.  Every week I make new student groups over on Class Dojo, and then move the screenshot to a ppt with the names of the different colors.  That goes into the color team channels for the kids to know who to interact with each week. I want them to chat with different people.

We do a lot in color teams. It's like table groups and center stations all rolled into one.  I throw screen shots of task cards and articles in there and they respond underneath.  I can see their responses and know they are participating... even if their mics aren't working.  It's also a sometimes never-ending recess chat.  I do let them stay on and chat in our meeting during recess, but they are also sharing over there as well.  They give compliments to each other over there.  They don't have access to privately "chat" with each other using the actual chat feature, so this is where it's at.  I LOVE that I can monitor their talk - and then discipline if needed.  It's all there... During our class session they are only allowed to type in there if I give them something to work on - or if something isn't working they will write to give a heads up, a classmate will quickly see and then let me know.  The rest of the time I don't allow it - the basis that if the notifications pop up for me, then it must be distracting to others as well.  

I've also added (and then deleted) other group channels throughout the year.  We've had channels for Book Clubs, channels for creating our DARE songs, channels for these Causes of the American Revolution skits... I start meetings in them for specific groups to work on a task. They leave their notes in there as well. I'll tell about how Book Clubs, creating DARE songs, and these skits in other posts. It has worked so well.  

I also have private channels for each of my students.  Those are the best things EVER! Can't show you those, but it's been a way for me to privately talk to each of my students this year - like a constant text message.  I can send them reminders (aka. lots of nagging), they ask me questions, they respond to my exit tickets in there, and every week I meet with them in their private channels during an afternoon conference.  When the assignment tab isn't working for some, they turn in their work in there as well.  I love how the text becomes bold when there is a new message waiting for me.  It has worked marvelous this year!

When the hybrid schedule starts in a few weeks, I will have most of my class still logging in from home. We will have an A group on Monday and Thursday, a B group on Tuesday and Friday, and a constant distance learning C group.  If they aren't physically with me in class, they will be logging in to join us online.  I am so thankful that we already have gotten used to this online classroom as we will keep on using it to keep the kids interacting together.  I want to keep my class family together as much as possible. 

How are you keeping the groups interacting together online? I'd love to learn!

February 27, 2021

Trying to be Positive

26 weeks of distance learning this year have passed us by... we just got word that we will be moving to a hybrid schedule in 3 weeks.  My brain just can't stop spinning at the upcoming transition, so when that happens I turn to the blog to search for my past crazy situations to remind myself that I did survive.  

I'm trying really hard to be positive this year.  

Some days I win.  Some days I fail.

As I talk to my teacher friends, I'm reminded that this is so much bigger than my little town.  So much bigger than my state or even our country.  As educators we have accomplished so much this year.  We really do deserve a standing ovation for everything we are currently doing.  

Here is what I'd say in my acceptance speech:

Thank you for this recognition. I'd like to thank my family for all their support this year. I'm sorry for the scattered conversations and checking TEAMS during our family movie nights.  I'm sorry for my lack of patience and not having boundaries between work and home. Thank you for cooking dinner and letting me sleep.  Without your help, I would not be the person I am today.  

I'd like to thank my students for making me smile every day.  Without you, well, I wouldn't be here.  It's all about you guys this year. Thank you for your laughter and your smiles. Thank you for being kids and sharing your lives with me.  Thank you for putting forth your best effort. Tell your parents thank you for their support as well.  :) 

I'd like to thank my colleagues for their support.  I'd like to thank you for your creativity to help me bring the classroom magic through a screen this year. Thank you for your willingness to be a sounding board and to teach this lady some new things.  I want to thank you for the across campus waves.  I can't see your smiles behind your masks, but I am thankful that we are all healthy.

I'd like to thank my admin for your support this year.  For helping me to see the big picture, when I was so focused on my little corner. For letting me be part of the solution, for giving me space to try new things, and for listening when I vent. 

I'd like to thank the tech team for your willingness to make this happen, for getting computers to every single student this year. I'd like to thank Microsoft Teams for the opportunity to see my kids every day.  

I'd like to thank my district and school board for doing their best to create a safe environment this year. I haven't always understood, but I am grateful for the opportunity to teach.  

And most of all, I'd like to give all glory to God that He promises to always be near when I call. He alone has kept my sanity intact. He has lifted me and carried me. He has given strength when I was ready to throw in the towel. Thank you Lord.

... Okay, acceptance speech done. Now, back to more of that never-ending paperwork.  Hope you are having a good weekend!