This remote teaching thing sucks, but I realize it’s not about me. What am I going to do about it? I have no magic wand to wave to make COVID go away or to have students do school the way they should be able to without all the social distancing and with all the snack-sharing, tag-at-recess, and cooties childhood is supposed to have. I didn’t do it, it’s not my fault, and I don’t own it. So letting things beyond my control “in” (into my mind or mood) would just weigh my soul-raft down as I float the river of life.

Also, I know I have students and families relying on me, often dealing with worse. How would a “woe is me” attitude make anything better?

It wouldn’t.

So I focus on what I can control: attitude and approach.

To attitude:

One of the keys to maintaining positivity as teachers is understanding that we bring some game to this game. I want more teachers to know that about themselves. That’s not a “aren’t we all just so awesome” self-stroking moment, it’s what makes educators the professionals. One of the greatest things about teachers is that they always have their eye on the ball. They have a sense of the situation, they know their resources, their students, and know what can be reasonably done with all that. They can think of ways to connect with learners and connect them with learning in less-than-optimal situations. 

Teachers are continually thinking of a way to deliver for their students.

So if you are a teacher, the attitude should not be one of a victim burdened by a situation, it should be one of confidence. Knowing that if it’s doable, it’s most likely doable by you. The situation just is what it is and you choose to either dwell on the downside or rise to it with your utility belt ready to do what you do.

The situation just is what it is and you choose to either dwell on the downside or rise to it with your utility belt ready to do what you do. Click To Tweet

To approach:

Preparation is key in the approach. Last year, when submitting my supply requisition I did so with a mind on rumors of another shutdown in a combination flu and covid season. I wanted to be better prepared for the “if they get sent home three days from now” notification. So I made sure I had some key tools. Think of it as a “go bag” with some survival items, except instead of a fake license, passport, $5,000 in cash, and an untraceable gun- it’s a bag for learning survival. 

Here are the contents I assembled:

  1. A three-ring sturdy zipper-pouch. Put pencils, pens, and such in and clip into a binder if needed. It has a clear plastic front so you can see the contents. Inside that pouch:
  • A pencil, a black Bic pen, a red Bic pen, and a highlighter.
  • A 24 box of crayons
  • 2 small index cards, 2 medium index cards, 2 larger index cards
  • A round, plastic counter chip about the size of a quarter, red on one side, yellow on the other
  • A square plastic tile about the size of the round one, solid color. Not just one color, they came from a big plastic jar I ordered years ago.
  • Two popsicle sticks
  • Two composition style journals, one with regular lined writing pages, the other with graph paper pages. 
  • ELA skills are demonstrated in the journal with lined paper. ELA skills include writing across the curriculum, so responses to math, social studies, and science topics (not to mention self-reflection/ brainstorming/ therapeutic writing exercises) will be in that journal as well.
  • The graph paper journal will hold our exploration into and their demonstration of skills in modeling understanding of place value, geometry, graphing, and whatever else strikes my fancy. The lines on the graph paper are great for guiding neatness and systems for solving and showing work. We have done “How many m&m’s in a bag” pictographs (I sent a bag home to each), area and perimeter exercises, AND we are currently engaged in a gruesome remote battleship game where I provided the setup instructions over zoom, in a pre-recorded video as well, and then began trading shots. It’s eerie how quickly they have scored hits on my ships-I swear one of their classmates learning in-person sneaks into my room and does spy work for them. But this battleship play promotes their graphing-awareness skills (tracking intersections of lines along what is essentially an x, y-axis). It also promotes the ability to use tools like a multiplication chart or other references set up in a similar way.
  • The two math workbooks that came with our recent math series from a well-known publisher. You’d know the name but I won’t give it. I’m kinda “meh” on the whole thing. So many nifty ways to lock them up in an online platform and the set of resources is too much screen time and too many things that might not work. The workbooks are handy for providing samples of their actual work, though.

This remote teaching thing can never equal the value of doing my thing in-person. But my decision is to set myself and my students up to maximize the value of every activity and opportunity.  The materials I’ve described can easily fit into a backpack, the same one they had to bring to school. The backpack can be kept at-the-ready for our meetings or their independent work. Hopefully, this gets others thinking about the possibilities should they already be in a remote situation, or see that situation approaching. 

Remote Elementary Teaching

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