I'm just trying to do the best I can
Puyallup EA member and Rogers High School teacher Jamie Smith has tried to embrace continuous learning for her students, while also advocating for schools and community at the state level. She is juggling her work as a classroom teacher in a virtual world, as well as, running for state representative. She recently shared with WEA how she is navigating continuous learning and provided an example unit she is currently teaching.
I can't say that I'm doing anything too spectacular, I think like most teachers I'm just trying to do the best I can to make learning engaging. I miss my students and wish we were in the classroom to learn together, but I'm doing what I can to make learning relevant, interesting, and as accessible as possible. I must give huge praise to my department. We are texting almost every day to collaborate, troubleshoot, encourage and support each other. Their dedication and love for the students and the craft of teaching inspires me every day.
For the classes we have in common we have worked to share the load and give our students common lessons and assessments. That way friends in different classes can help each other. This helps with our workload, and we share our best ideas and create a result far better than had we each planned alone.
For my American Studies II class, we are covering the Civil Rights Movement. For this unit we wanted to give students different mediums to learn from and choices when covering the materials. We have incorporated videos from Teaching Tolerance (A time for Justice, and the Children's March) and created worksheets to help them identify the key elements. Students have the choice of going through a PowerPoint or a reading with a small comprehension quiz after.
There is a "Murder Mystery" they do on the Freedom Summer Murders to find out the who/what/where/why and when. Normally, we would do this as an interactive activity in class, but I adapted it into a PowerPoint and worksheet to complete at home.
For some creativity, art, and literature students are doing blackout poetry. I gave them a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. and another by Malcolm X. They go through one and find the words that stand out to make a poem. They then black out everything else to create a unique poem from the speech.Here are the instructions for the assignment, previous student's work examples and one a current student already turned in even though the assignment isn't due yet.
Finally, for the assessment students have the opportunity to create a Civil Rights mix-tape/album cover/write up. Students find songs that remind them or reflect the events of the Civil Rights movement. Songs don't have to actually be about an event, students just have to show the connection. Students may also choose a specific event and do research on it and it's connection to Civil rights events that came before or after. For those students who want to go above and beyond we have also given a list of over 20 different videos they can view that cover the movement and its events.
A friend of mine, middle school band teacher, Dana Lede, found a way to make a digital “escape room” with google forms. That's on my list to learn next 🙂.
As for the highs and lows, each day is unique, and yet it all feels like I'm in a real-life Groundhogs Day. I know we all miss seeing the students, so when they come onto a Zoom meeting it is so nice to hear them. This may seem strange but I'm enjoying grading more, not because it's grading, but because when students submit an assignment their picture pops up and I get to see their faces. It’s nowhere near as good as seeing them in person, but at least it makes me smile.
It's tough, though. When I haven't heard from a student, wondering if they are safe, if it's an access issue, if they are doing okay. I know the mental strain is tough on me. I can't even imagine what my students are feeling when they are taking care of siblings, working, trying to learn and stay safe.
I work on focusing on the wins. When I hear from a student I haven't heard from yet (I had two students I haven't been able to get ahold of since March check in this week!). When they are self-aware enough to tell me if it's a bad day and they need a mental break. When my school had a drive-thru cap and gown distribution. When I see my students’ photos when I grade …
I look forward to being back in the classroom and seeing the smiles of all my kiddos again, but I know their health and safety comes first.
I just miss them.