In the thick of it...
On Monday, we start week 5 of pandemic teaching. We are face-to-face for most of our students (and a few remote students). Progress reports will be out next Friday.
This...situation...is bananas! My students are all facing forward in rows, 6 feet apart, while I teach from my desk in the back of the room. It is quiet, and exhausting, and sad.
My only advantage is that "I am one with Force (of technology)." I can create digital activities pretty quickly. I have access to a computer, iPad, doc cam, and projector. I am fluent with them all and can transition pretty seamlessly. It is one less stressor for me that I know others may have. But, that has not made my classes any better.
In 20 years of teaching, I have never taught from my desk. I have never taught in rows. My classes focus on collaboration and communication, and I am struggling to bring that into my classes this year. I am exhausted from personally answering every single question from every single student when I have previously built my classes to work together and trust others in the class to help them when needed. When they sit in groups, I can answer one question for four students. Now I repeat myself, for every "challenging" problem, for every student, because they have no discussion with other ideas to build from.
I am sad that my students just seem to be doing an endless stream of digitized worksheets. Alone. Individually. Too quickly. Without the rich discussions, they are missing out on the deep understanding. Digital collaboration tools just do not provide the same level of discussion.
And then, at the end of last week, I FINALLY made an activity that had the kids talking and working together! And I only had to answer half of the amount of questions.
Students have their own, self-made, dry erase board. It is made of a sheet protector and two pieces of white card-stock (for sturdiness). They worked their problems on the dry erase boards.
I partnered students based on who was next to each other 6 feet away. Not really random. BUT, they could hold their dry erase boards up and show each other what they did. And help each other. It was glorious!
I could watch which problems they were working on. And which students got the problems right. And my remote kids were partnered together. I muted myself and listened to them work through my speaker while I listened to the class work. When they asked for help, I could show them how to work the problem through the doc cam. It was ALMOST like a normal class!
...and a tiny, tiny bit of the weight was lifted.