Thursday, April 09, 2020

Virtual School: The week of April 13th

Newscasters joke about people's inability to remember what day it is during this COVID-19 quarantine. I had to look back in my blog to remember what day was our last day of school. It was Thursday, March 12th. Earlier in the week, schools in our district were closed when it was reported that family members had COVID-19, and then on Thursday, it was decided that the whole system would shut down. Later in the month, the Governor closed all the schools in Massachusetts. The expected date for reopening is Monday, May 4th and time will tell if we return on that date or if we continue to teach from home.

So today marks one month of virtual school. It has been a busy month of collaboration with students, colleagues, and family members to promote remote learning. There have been many successes as well as areas that still need support and improvement. We haven't given up and will continue to forward the good and improve the not-so-good. Families have been incredible team members as we work with them to encourage their students' continued learning across all disciplines. The learning menu is rich and varied. It includes more than any one child could complete, but there's lots of opportunity or choice. Next week we'll offer more direct online support and instruction too. I look forward to working with small groups as I did a week ago--that was positive.

In addition to the small math groups, next week's agenda includes a daily menu of reading, writing, math, social studies, science, and specials. Students are expected to study for 3.5 hours a day. It is expected that they will complete reading, writing, and math, science, social studies, and the daily specialist activity as well as instrumental practice if they play an instrument. Science and social studies are short, entertaining videos related to the fifth grade content. Some of the science videos include easy-to-replicate experiments and activities. The math activities next week related to measurement including practice exercises, problem solving, and some creative tasks as well. Reading and writing include reading and listening to a number of good books including some that children choose and some chosen by the teachers and the start of the signature fifth grade biography project. Students are also expected to attend their homeroom meetings which are a good time to check-in, see each other, exchange helpful information and ask questions. There will also be a couple of reading/writing meetings for the entire grade level focused on the biography project.

Teachers will meet for a Professional Learning Community (PLC) meeting, faculty meeting, and then a smaller grade-level planning meeting. The days will be filled with lots of student/teacher meetings and lesson creation and student response. While I miss the good work we can do in real time at school, I don't mind teaching from the comfort of my home especially now that we have a good pattern in place.

I'll continue to find value in this process with the exploration of deep ways to present, discuss, problem solve, and practice math. I'm interested in how the students react to each lesson and learning experience. I am taking a close look at what works well and what is less successful. I am finding meaning in this process as I'm working to improve my craft with the content students are learning and reviewing--this is good, creative, responsive work that I can bring forward in either a real-time school setting or via virtual teaching.

We're all doing what we can to make the best of this situation and taking it day-by-day. Fortunately I have the support of my family members a home and via computer/phone and my colleagues at school via virtual meetings and email.

Now it's time to wrap-up the school week and prepare for a very unusual Easter weekend. I'll focus on chores and tasks at home and then cook a really good Easter dinner for my family at home and the family members I'll deliver meals to. Onward.