Pandemic teaching – reflections at the end of the year

Pandemic teaching

As I write these reflections on pandemic teaching, it’s the last day of school for seniors.  The rest of the students only have 4 more days, and the teachers will be gone one week from today.  It would have been hard to predict what the year would be like one year ago, but I can say now that there were definitely some good things to come out of it!  Of course, there was also some bad.  What can we learn from our experience this year?  What good things can we keep?  And what bad things can we get rid of or improve?

First, I want to say that my district was amazing this entire time.  They have had the safety of students and staff in mind from day one.  We were entirely virtual the first three quarters because it simply wasn’t safe to be in school.  My school happened to be in the Coronoavirus hotspot of the entire world for much of the summer and many of our students lost family members.  My husband – who teachers in a feeder school for my district – came back from winter break to an email that two of his students had lost parents to the virus over the break.  It was bad. 

But the district did everything they could to support students and their families, and when the vaccine became available they helped organize many events to get staff vaccinated so we would be ready to come back safely when the time came.  We started third quarter with no students the first week, gradually adding them within a week or two.  I ended up with anywhere from 5-7 students in my classroom, with the rest remaining at home.  Safety protocols have been followed and students for the most part have complied without complaint.

The good parts of pandemic teaching

I love using online notebooks and homework for pandemic teaching!  It’s so nice to have everything in one place.  No stacks of paper, no chance of “losing” the assignment, and the variety of things I can assign as homework is greater.  I also like that I can look at partially completed work and give partial credit – in the pre-digital days, those papers would have been lost at the bottom of a backpack and the kid would get no credit at all. 

I also like that when the kid who decides to try to pass on the last day of class asks for makeup work, I just have to say “it’s all in the assignments tab!” Too many times in the past have I gathered papers for a student who never turns them in anyway, wasting my time when I have better things to do. If you’re looking for help setting up your OneNote, I wrote about using it here.

As far as sharing information with students, my favorite tool was Microsoft Whiteboard. It’s just like having a smartboard/whiteboard in your class – only with MANY more options!

Desmos/Nearpod/Peardeck – I started using Desmos during the second quarter and when we got a new batch of kids in January, I made it part of the daily routine.  Log in to class, log in to Desmos, answer the bell work questions.  It’s a great way to connect with the kids – I usually started with a question about how they were feeling, how their week was going, etc.  I would share a reading activity and maybe a poll question or two.  On Fridays, after we watch the video of the week, I would have them vote on their opinion of the song. 

I used Nearpod for video activities, and Peardeck once or twice.  I’ll definitely continue to use these next year! Gimkit/Blooket – I was using Gimkit before this year, but we could only use it on lab days.  Now that we are 1:1, it’s nice to be able to pull up a vocab game each week to reinforce the new words.  My kids LOVE the gold rush game on Blooket – and it’s a great game for kids who may not be as great at French as the others, because they can still win the game!

The bad parts of pandemic teaching

Too many kids just checked out for the year, more under pandemic teaching than in-person.  In my French 1 class, with 26 students I have 7 students who are failing with scores below 5%.  They simply haven’t been there.  They haven’t done any of the work.  They’ve never taken a single test.  They never respond to my calls, chats, or emails.  Neither do their parents.  They log in so I see their icon as present in class, then they go do whatever it is they would rather be doing than attending school. 

It’s easy to feel bad because we want to reach every kid – but I remind myself that these are the kids that would probably not have done much in person either.  They’re the ones you see on your roster, they show up on day 1 – and then you never see them again.  They can’t pass the class because they aren’t IN the class.  I can’t teach French to someone who doesn’t show up. 

They won’t fail – instead I will give them a “NM”- because failing means that they tried and didn’t quite pass.  They could do concept/credit recover if they fail.  But an NM means they didn’t really take the class – they were a name on my roster, but I never knew them or had the chance to reach them.

I did ask my students for their input as to what they liked and disliked about virtual learning and pandemic teaching. By far, the most common response was that they hated the isolation.  They missed being able to see their friends and their teachers in person.  They had problems with depression and motivation.  They also had connectivity issues, which is something we must take into consideration if we ever do virtual teaching again – whether it’s pandemic teaching or for some other reason.  In the classroom, my students will have their devices and a good wifi connection – but this was not the case at home.

How about you – how did your classes go this year?  Did you find any new resources or methods that you want to keep using?  Is there anything that didn’t work and that you never, ever want to see again?  I know there is probably one thing that most of us can agree on – being able to attend staff meetings via TEAMS/Zoom/Google meet was a huge improvement!  

Pandemic teaching - Microsoft Whiteboard
Pandemic teaching - Microsoft OneNote
pandemic teaching - onenote template

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *