Gifts – SOL21 Day #31

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Wow! I can’t believe today is the last day of this year’s Slice of Life Challenge.

I have sliced every day and commented on the posts of slicers.

My writing evolved in ways that I hadn’t anticipated.

My #OLW for 2021 is evolve.

Most of this month’s slices were about changing and growing.

My #OLW for February was create, which seeped into March because that seems to be my greatest challenge: to create.

And, as I write, I’m realizing that all of the stories I tell myself about who I am and what I am capable of will continue to stop me from doing the one thing we are all put on this Earth to do: create.

We are all creators of some kind or another. And, each of us needs to find our own special contribution and leverage that as lovingly as we can.

As I work on evolving this year into the best version of myself, what I create will bear testimony to who I am and the gifts I bring to the world.

My sincerest hope for all of us, as we move forward into Pandemic Year #2, is that we uncover our special gifts and unleash them onto the world.

Who’s with me?

Source: Two Writing Teachers

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge

My Reading Goal (an update) – #SOL21 Day #30

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About a week ago, I wrote about wanting (and needing) to focus on my reading life because for some reason I haven’t been able to read for extended periods of time, much less finish anything that I start.

I committed to reading for a total of one hour every day.

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Although I haven’t timed myself, I have been reading for longer and longer stretches every day. I finished two books over the last couple of days and am reading three others with the engagement that I customarily bring to my reading.

Part of my problem had been that I would pick up a book, read a few pages, put it down and do the same thing with another book. Over. And. Over. Again.

It was exhausting.

Once I committed to rebuilding my reading life, it didn’t turn out to be as difficult as I imagined. Of course, this week I’m on Spring Break and I have more time during the day to read. The key will be maintaining this goal when school resumes in a week.

But, for now, I’m in my happy place.

Source: Open Media Library

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Online Teaching Part #3 – #SOL21 Day #29

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For the last post in this three-part series about online teaching, I want to deviate from sharing another list of takeaways and instead take a moment to write about some big picture moments.

What do I mean by big picture moments?

Well, big picture moments are those moments when I felt almost normal. When it seemed like we were in a state of flow. When the stakes were low and student engagement was high. When I remembered what is truly important and directed my attention to that instead of to the minutiae of teaching. (Disclaimer: this isn’t always easy to do.)

These were the times when I could stop taking myself seriously for a moment and step away from myself to squarely face the kids, and not waver in my commitment to listen, reflect and always try to do better.

During “not-so-serious” moments, I poke fun at myself and watch the kids smile or laugh on screen. I have to confess that my heart melts at those moments and I am reminded of why I love working with kids.

Another example of a big picture moment is when feedback I give students resonates with them and moves them to make changes in their work. As a teacher I live for those moments.

Yet a third example of a big picture moment is when kids voluntarily join in to our optional Spanish conversation sessions, and writing or reading clubs. The moments when children are conversing about their favorite hobby or musician, quietly reading, writing and sharing celebrations. These moments feel authentic and meaningful.

I want to always affirm these big picture moments because no matter what bad news the naysayers insist on spreading, this year my students learned a lot even if it wasn’t always easy or what I had set out to teach.

Learning happened.

Learning will continue to happen.

I choose to hold these examples close to my teacher heart so that I can make the remaining weeks of this school year memorable for my students and their families.

The learning curve has been steep; I’m not going to lie. But I am grateful to be learning along with my students. And that may just be the biggest takeaway yet.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Online Teaching – Part #2 – #SOL21 Day #28

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In this blog post I list four more takeaways of teaching online. See yesterday for part #1.

(1) Continue to use Padlet for well, just about anything you can think of! In addition to using Google Docs, Slides, Forms and other Google products, I’ve created Padlets for a variety of tasks and purposes. The most appealing characteristic of Padlet is that it is incredibly versatile. Students can drop a link, upload a video or audio, add images as well as text.

This year I used Padlets for students to post about read alouds, to share their writing and more. Padlet is easy to use and everything is saved forever, even with the free version. Next year, I plan to use Padlet in similar ways.

(2) Continue to provide monthly writing and reading challenges for students. Monthly writing challenges are an important aspect of my #Time2Write teacher-writer group and so I was motivated to try them in my own classroom.

In January I created a choice board with writing prompts. In February, I challenged the kids to #28daysofnotebooking and this month they’ve been blogging every day.

For April I will be offering students a daily poetry challenge (reading & writing) and a genre reading challenge that will extend until the end of the year.

(3) Use Readers Theatre to help students develop fluency, confidence and comprehension in Spanish. Although I am no stranger to Reader’s Theatre, I had not thought to use them in Spanish and much less online…until now. After reading the script silently and out loud and discussing vocabulary and plot, I put the kids into breakout rooms to perform their stories. Despite the usual tech issues, the groups worked well together to perform their play.

(4) Have a clear writing and reading focus for each month with lots of opportunities for individual choice and overlap between writing and reading lessons.

The ideas on this list may seem obvious or old hat to some, but adjusting to an online environment is a game changer. There are things I love about teaching online, such as the challenge of making connections, addressing essential concepts and skills, engaging students, and assessment. And, there are things I still struggle with such as, the challenge of making connections, addressing essential concepts and skills, engaging students, and assessment.

In some areas, I’ve had successes and in other areas I have completely and royally bombed.

And even though, in a normal year, I would not have voluntarily applied to teach online, this is not a normal year.

For every new challenge I have faced, I had to research, guess, invent and, sometimes, just wing it.

If I were to do this again, there are many things I would do better, and many things I would keep the same.

This year I am a brand new teacher all over again. But I am planning to use what I’m learning to create a different and better “normal”, whether I’m online or in person in the fall.

More on this in part #3 of this series.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

What I’ve Learned About Teaching Online – Part #1 SOL21 Day #27

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This is the first of three posts.

As this school year winds down, I’ve started thinking about what I’ve learned from teaching online that I can transfer back into an in person space.

Some of you may be thinking it’s too early to be doing that. After all it’s only the end of March.

But when I return to teaching online after Spring Break, it will be April. And not just the 1st of April. It will be April 6th. After that, time will go by really fast.

Here are four ideas for now. I know my list will grow and evolve over the next few weeks, but this is a start.

(1) Targeted and frequent one-on-one and small group sessions. Although I’ve always done one-on-one conferring with students and taught small groups, this year of teaching online has been different. My sessions with students have been more intentional. More targeted to what kids present as needing or wanting to learn. Even during those times when I haven’t been sure what to address with students because I didn’t yet know them well enough, I was able to use those opportunities to get to know them.

Because I have less face2face time with students I have been more thoughtful about what I address during conferences; there’s no time to waste. Every minute counts.

(2) Focus on one or two related problems in math for the week. Build on the previous day’s teaching by privileging the idea that less is more. And, yes, we’ve always known this. But have we always practiced it?

Teaching online has taught me to focus on what’s essential. To make every minute count.

(3) Use shared Google Docs and Slides as collaborative spaces for students. Support them to use the comment feature in Google Docs and Slides to “work together” much as they would be doing if they were in person.

(4) Use shared Google Docs and Slides for students to check in with me about their personal reading and writing. This will allow me to have a public running conversation with each student, via commenting, about reading and writing.

If you taught online this year, what are your takeaways? What will you keep and what will you discard when you return to in person teaching?

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Spring Break #SOL21 Day #26

Spring Break has started!

I’m overjoyed!

I will sleep in.

I’ll spend time with my husband and son.

I’ll FaceTime my daughters and granddaughters during the day.

I’ll catch up on housework.

I’ll read and, hopefully, finish a few books.

I’ll have more time to write.

I will take some time to think about the remainder of the school year and make some tentative plans.

If the weather stays warm(er) I will go for walks in the mornings.

I’m going to try not to binge on Netflix.

Or get too anxious as the week winds down and time starts to feel like it’s shrinking.

I will leave some spaces here and there to disconnect from anything online.

I will try to remember that this is a short break. I may not do all the things I want to do or anything at all.

And that would be OK too.

So, if you’re heading into your Spring break this week, be good to yourself. You deserve it.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Challenge.

Online Teaching #SOL21 Day #25

(Overheard in every online class everywhere.)

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“You were glitching, Sra. Waingort. What did you say?”

“Turn on your cameras, please.”

“You’re muted, Sra. Waingort.”

“I got kicked out of the Meet. What are we doing?”

“Sorry, I’m late. I was looking at the wrong day on the schedule.”

“My camera doesn’t work.”

“I can’t get in to the Microsoft Teams Meeting.”

“My mic doesn’t work.”

“When is this class over?”

“I’m not gonna do that.”

Ah! Spring break can’t come soon enough.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

“Sra. Waingort?” #SOL21 Day #24

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Today was one of those rare days when I heard the voices of two students in our Google Meet without having to call on them to speak.

This is such an infrequent occurrence that I was disconcerted at first.

Where did that voice come from?” I asked myself.

I scanned the frames on the Google Meet screen – some with actual faces and others with cute avatars – until I found it: the voice of a student I almost never hear from in class.

Tentatively, but with probably too much excitement in my voice, I said: “Yes?”

Sra. Waingort, I just wanted to tell you that I won’t be here on Friday.”

Ah!

OK,” I said. And that child returned to hiding behind the cute avatar gracing their frame.

It was something, I tried consoling myself.

Once voice from the void.

And, then, as I was contemplating how something like a student speaking in class – something that may appear insignificant to a bystander – could actually make my day – out of nowhere, another voice piped up.

I scanned the frames again until I found it.

Sra. Waingort, if you go to “change layout” and then click on “spotlightit will pin the speaker to the screen.”

I almost fainted.

You may laugh, but it’s true.

Another voice from the abyss!

Two in one class!

On the same day!

Oh, my!

I wait with bated breath for more voices from the void to spring forth tomorrow.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Hard Days – #SOL21 Day #23

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Today was a hard teaching day.

Because teaching can be hard on so many days.

But when I feel like I’ve done everything I can think of, and more, to address the needs of my students and then I hit a wall with caregivers, it is even harder.

So, today was a hard day. Did I say that already?

I am exhausted.

I do what I need to do even if it isn’t always welcomed or applauded or recognized.

I do what I do and then students must do their part. They must meet me half way. I can’t do the learning for them. And neither can their caregivers.

Students must do this for themselves.

I provide the best environment I can with the best experiences I can create and then I need to get out of the way.

If I can reach just one student every year, then it will all have been worth it.

Still, today was a hard day.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Spring? Nah! It’s still winter here.

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I thought spring had arrived.

But on the day after the official start of spring, it is snowing

A lot.

All of the snow that had melted over the last few days is now back.

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Pristine. White. Cold.

The warmer temperatures had been a tease.

Nothing more.

It happens every year.

And every year I get duped.

Over and over again.

Spring? Nah! It’s still winter here.

Cross posted to The Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.