Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Things I Learned Today: Starting the Schoolyear digitally

 1. It's easier with the students I already know than with new ones. 

Because I am the entire Spanish department at my school, I often get to teach kids again, so among my 8th grade students, for example, only four of thirty-nine are people who have never studied Spanish with me before. The rest have taken either my sixth or seventh grade classes. 

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That made this first day SO MUCH EASIER because I already have a relationship with these students. We have established a bit of trust, so they are less nervous about messing up in front of me or suffering consequences from misunderstandings. 

Plus, I already know (at least somewhat) what I can expect from them. Greeting them today was like going to a family reunion. I missed them so much and it was grand to see them again!

My sixth graders, on the other hand, are new to me, new to our school, new to middle school, new to online learning, and probably new in other ways I'm not thinking of right now. 

They were practically vibrating with anxiety. We'll be working our way through that before we can start worrying about whether or not they are learning any Spanish. 

2. Having more than one computer screen REALLY helps with teaching in Zoom. 

I was able to set up pop out windows on one screen that allowed me to see my students, the chat window, and the participant box with controls and reaction tools, while sharing information from my other screen, or emailing links, looking up information, etc. 

I had a two-screen set up in my classroom, which was handy, but from home, when teaching via video? I'd say it's more than handy--it's a lifesaver!

3. It's MUCH harder to judge engagement during live lessons online. 

I could keep up with questions, but silent kids were blank slates. They *might* have been having internet issues, distractions, or other problems and I don't know for sure. Just another reminder how important "soft skills" (which we're now calling SEL: Social and Emotional Learning) truly are. Passivity won't fly in an online teaching environment. 

I have a *second* first day of school today, since this schedule has me teaching half my students on a Monday/Wednesday schedule and half on a Tuesday/Thursday one. Wish me luck!

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