I am writing this post about teaching during the coronavirus school closure with so many emotions. My school is officially closed for the rest of the school year. My students have begun working remotely from home. My district – like many – was not set up for this. For the most part, teachers from my building are compiling our own resources and creating our new schedules.
Personally, I am dealing with so much fear and anxiety. I’m scared to be near my own parents who are both in their 70’s. I miss socializing with my friends. I disinfect every bathroom, and the kitchen each time I leave it. Like all of you, I’m working as hard as I can to keep my family and myself healthy.
The most unexpected feeling for me is that when I wake up during the week, I feel as though I’m missing part of my purpose. So much of what I do Monday through Friday has changed so very rapidly. My social life on Saturdays and Sundays is at a standstill. Here are a few strategies and tips which are helping me keep my sanity.
Google Classroom and EdPuzzle are My New Best Friends
One thing I am enjoying about teaching from home during the coronavirus school closure are the videos I get to record for my students. Initially I used ClassDojo to upload my videos. It was an app my families were already familiar with and connected to. At that point, we thought the school closure would be temporary. Once we realized that we would be learning remotely longterm, my district began using Google Classroom.
With Google Classroom, I can have live interaction with my students through Google Meet. Many of my families, however, are sharing devices and are juggling so much that they can’t all meet at the same time. For this reason, I am recording videos of myself teaching lessons. To keep the recorded videos interactive, I insert interactive questions directly into my videos through a free website called Edpuzzle. The best part of Edpuzzle is there are additional videos which other teachers have made that I have access to. If I want to edit the questions, or even the audio that is an option with a free account. I can’t recommend Edpuzzle and Google Classroom enough.
My students and their families enjoy the video lessons because it gives them a sense of continuity and familiarity. In addition to the interactive videos, I am able to upload digital assignments which my students can complete. I have not been setting due dates because so many of my families are juggling extremely hectic schedules right now. Some of my families wait until the weekends and complete all of the work then. Others complete assignments during the evening hours. I am extremely flexible. What is most important to me is that when students have time to sit down and learn that they can.
Recording these video lessons is giving me a sense of purpose, and allowing me to feel productive. If you do choose to create videos of yourself, be sure and clear it with your district or principal first. Also, be mindful of your background. When sitting down for a webinar, or to create a video remember that people are watching you, as well as what is behind you.
Here is an image of my teaching background. As you can see, my background is a decorated wall. Walls are ideal because you don’t have to worry about anyone walking into your image. You also have more control over what people can see.
Additional Assignments for Google Classroom
There is an abundance of resources which teachers are downloading to for students to complete interactively. All of my free resources can be accessed here. If you are using a Google platform, you may access my google resources here.
This week I began assigning different assignments to different students. I was very worried about my second language learners in particular. I discovered that Google Classroom allows me to choose which students receive each assignment. The default is for the assignment to go to all students, but if you click on the default you may select groups of students for various activities.
I’m accepting the fact that all students are not completing assignments
Teaching during the coronavirus school closure is stressful, but learning through it is stressful too. My students have plenty of worksheets, and e-learning options that they can complete from home. In addition, there are the activities that I ask students to complete in the videos which I upload. I know that families have several options for completing work.
The reality is that my students and their families are also just as stressed emotionally as I am right now. Many of my famlies are experiencing (or in fear of experiencing) financial strains due to unexpected layoffs from the COVID-19 pandemic. No one is functioning normally right now, so for me to expect my students to perform at their normal level would be ridiculous. It is more important for me to know that my students and their families are healthy than anything else. I truly value families that are emailing me and letting me know that they are all healthy.
I am leaving feedback directly in the Google Classroom and Edpuzzle platforms to students as they submit work. I am not stressing about students who are choosing not to, especially if their families have reached out to let me know they are all healthy.
I’m continuing my online teaching in China
Teaching remotely is not new to me. To be honest, that is part of the reason I feel so comfortable recording videos of myself teaching. I’ve been a part time online teacher for about 2 years now. Keeping up with early morning online teaching is giving my weekly schedule some normalcy. It allows me to get up early each weekday. Once I’m done with my online classes it’s still very early. When my school was open, I would normally use that time of day to check my work email, and head to work. Now, I use this time to prepare my videos for my students I no longer get to see each day.
I’ve Created and Redesigned my at home work space
I previously had a space for remote teaching in my home since I’ve been teaching remotely part time. Now that I’m at home during the day teaching during the coronavirus school closure, I’ve modified this area to make it even nicer. Since I’m spending more hours in it each day. I have the materials I need handy, and it is my new “work” space. Each morning I get up, and dress and prepare for work as I would if I were leaving home. The only difference is that I usually keep shorts on since I’m not actually leaving the house. Since no one can see the bottom half of me, I like to remain relaxed.
I don’t always feel like it. It’s probably not my happiest of smiles, but I smile. I smile when I record my videos. I smile when I teach my students remotely. Each day my smile is becoming a little more genuine. Each day, I’m becoming a little more used to this temporary situation. Teaching during the coronavirus school closure is something we’re all adapting too, but we will eventually return to our schools and our students. My father and I had a long talk today. He reminded me that this is temporary. So, I thought I’d remind all of you of that as well.
I’ve Created a Teaching Schedule for Working From Home
I wake up at my normal time each day, and continue with my normal grooming habits. Then, I prepare my video for my first graders. I gather all the materials I need, and practice the lesson a couple of times. At around 9:00am I post the video to ClassDojo, as I realize families have adjusted their schedules at home. ClassDojo does send notifications to families when you post, so I just feel better waiting until 9:00am.
During the remainder of the day I respond to questions, and monitor e-learning platforms to leave feedback to students who are working on them. I catch up on grading, as well as lesson planning. I create new worksheets for students to do from home, and upload them to my school website.
Once the end of the school day comes, I make myself stop. Like many of you I am discovering that working from home is all encompassing. I could easily continue to work into the evening. I realize, however, that I have to honor myself and my family by having a definitive end to the work day, especially during this time. Teaching during the coronavirus school closure is taxing. Everyone is coming up with new and creative ways to reach our students. We are learning new skills and working very hard. At the same time we have to keep our immune systems healthy. Putting in long hours is not the way to do that.
As teachers, we are used to putting in extra hours. These, however, are extenuating circumstances. Normal tasks like getting groceries are becoming far more complicated. We need extra time to adjust to our new normal. Our bodies, and minds need to find outlets other than work. This leads me to my next point.
I am Reaching Out To My Friends
I know this is not directly related to teaching during the coronavirus. It is, however, directly related to my mental health. If I am not myself, I will not be able to give teaching from home my all.
My friends and I are becoming very creative at finding ways to socialize from our own homes. The state of Illinois, where I live, is under a stay at home order – which I am honoring. My friends and I are talking more on the phone. We’re choosing the same movies on Netflix, and calling in to free conference call lines at pre-selected times. We are having virtual wine chats and parties using facetime and other similar apps. I try calling a different friend each day – just to chat. I am normally a very social person, and this is helping me so much.
Weather Permitting, I Go on Walks Through my Neighborhood
When the weather allows I do walk around my neighborhood. This helps me a lot. Getting out of the house for short periods of time, is very good for my mental health. I don’t talk to anyone, but I do get fresh air. I look at the trees, the houses, and I clear my head. Each day I feel better after my walk.
My life is still very different. These are some of the things that are helping maintain my sanity. What are some additional strategies you’re using to maintain your sanity? Feel free to share any ideas in the comments section below.