Monday, August 31, 2020

31 Days of Back to School Prep Tips and Ideas

31 Days of Back to School Prep Tips and Ideas
We hope summer treated your family well, despite how crazy the world is and has been. We've compiled (almost -- we missed a couple due 31 tips and suggestions for back to school prep and hope they serve you well! We initially shared these on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, and now we're wrapping up August by compiling all of our tips and ideas in this post.

Biggest take away?

Be kind to yourself. Mistakes happen. Oversights occur. Life gets busy and important things get missed, but most of the time they aren't that important if they were missed. And, hug your kids.

Oops....that's not day 7, that's day 8!
As noted, sometimes mistakes happen!
 Forgive yourself if you sometimes need a break or things don't always go to plan!
Your kids will be OK, even if you aren't always perfect!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Teaching Tips: How to Survive Distance Teaching

Teaching Tips: How to Survive Distance Teaching
Whew! We made it through distance learning this past spring, and then we sailed right into summer break.
Now we're staring down the road at distance learning for the fall, and for most of us there is no end in sight. There's no summer break in just a few weeks to look forward to and no date when we can be certain we can return to our classrooms and teaching normally.
At the moment, it feels like we're pretty much doing this indefinitely.
I did what every other teacher in America did in the spring:  I came home, got busy trying to put together resources for my students, cried, recorded videos, met with my class and individual students on Zoom, and I did my best with the resources I had available to me.
Like many teachers, I'm getting ready to start distance teaching again in just a few short days, and thus I've been reflecting on what went well last time and what I really struggled with.
Teacher friends, here are some of my takeaways that may help you going into the fall:
1. It's OK to say, "I don't know."
I really tried hard to hold it together and be the strong leader for my families last year. Luckily, I have a strong community as it is, but I really made sure to be honest when I didn't know something. We were all navigating this new system together, and I think it helped parents to know I didn't have it all figured out either. Plus, being that honest builds trust.
2. Ask for help when you need it.
As my husband can attest, I am not tech savvy. Like at all. I avoid using technology unless it is absolutely necessary. Distance Learning was my worst nightmare. I called in my troops and utilized my resources. I had a few parents that were very tech savvy and also very willing to help me. It was also a great way for them to contribute and utilize their strengths during this weird and crazy time. As a teacher, if you need help, ask others -- other teachers, parents of your students, friends, and so on.
3. Call on your teacher tribe.
My team was a life saver. We divided and conquered, shared resources, provided a shoulder, and just helped keep each other afloat during this crazy time. I also collaborated with teachers in other grade levels and we tag teamed on resources as well. I soaked up every tip and trick I could get from my colleagues!
4. Give yourself some grace.
This one I really struggled with. I had my own kids at home, like many working parents, and had to juggle my own teaching with their studies. Yes, I was teaching my own students while having to help my own kids with their classes. I really couldn't find a good balance between the two during the entire distance learning time. Do what you can, but realize that you cannot truly replicate online a traditional classroom that was never meant to be online. There are many online teachers who do an amazing job at this. But, they were already online teachers working in environments that were designed for online instruction, and they have it dialed in.
Classroom teachers that teach in physical, brick and mortar schools and never planned nor trained to teach online do not. Do not compare yourself to professional online teachers.
Your google classroom will work even if it doesn't have a fancy Bitmoji set-up (I love them, but they are purely an extra and not at all necessary). You don't need to have a fancy, high tech, decked out virtual classroom that makes everyone go "Ohhhhh, ahhhh!" You're going to do just fine once you take the pressure off and just stay true to yourself and do what you can with what you have!
5. Keep it simple.
Kids (especially young ones) cannot sit on the computer all day. The beautiful, elaborate lessons you can produce in the classroom are going to need to be adjusted for the virtual world. Quick, simple, and to the point lessons work best.
Teach a quick and simple lesson, give some structure and context, and then your students can complete a follow up activity either online or offline. They can come back later to submit their work. I made myself available for questions, but I really tried to keep the assignments at a manageable and age appropriate level -- for my class, that's first, second, and third grade students.
6. Partner with the parents.
I know that as teachers we want to do it all and have a hard time handing teaching over to others. It's so hard -- I get it! The fact is, parents are our other half right now. We need them as much as they need us. It's OK if they showed their child a different way to accomplish a task or gave you feedback on the level of work their child was doing. For many parents, this is the first time they've been able to be this involved in their child's education. They are learning too. Give them grace and set up ongoing meetings with them both large group and individually. It's important that we work together for the success of the children!
I am so nervous to start this week. I'm required to be in my classroom during distance learning and teach from there, although I know many of you will be teaching from home. It's so hard to go set up your classroom knowing that no students will be there to sit at the tables, find their cubbies or to excitedly look for their name on the Person of the Week Chart. 
I know I'm going to have many fails and successes this year, and I'm going to try to be OK with both. This is still new, despite our teaching experiences from last spring. I am hopeful that this doesn't last very long, but for now, it's our reality and we've got this!
Remember, all your students really want to see is a happy teacher, someone who is excited to see them and can throw some fun into their weird, uncomfortable distance learning situation!
What's your best tip for surviving distance learning as a traditional classroom teacher? Let's help each other out! Drop a comment and let us know what's worked well for you and how you are managing distance teaching.