This past two weeks of school in my district has been quite a whirlwind; everything has moved so quickly. We just completed our first full week of remote/online learning this past week and there is so much to reflect on.
In a matter of two days, our entire district moved our classrooms to “the cloud.” Many of us had used some, but not all, of the online resources we had available to us such as Google Classroom, Google Sites, Zoom, Flipgrid, Remind 101, and more. The incredible thing is, in the words of Bob Marley, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” I might adjust that to say, “You never know what you are capable of until someone tells you, your students’ learning depends on it.”
In a matter of 24 hours, we had “expert” teachers signing up to teach “pop-up” tech trainings at our school sites on every piece of technology available. We had Special Education teachers and support staff creating individual Google Classrooms for each student where gen ed teachers could post specific accommodations for each student. They prepared work bins to send home to families as well as specialized websites for individual learning needs. Honestly, being an Air Force Veteran who served during 9/11, I was amazed at the speed and efficiency in which the teachers in my building (and in our district) transformed their classrooms into a virtual learning experience.
By Monday (3/9), we had a class schedule in place for “live lessons” via Zoom and Flipgrid, Google Classrooms were up-and-running (for those who didn’t already have them), thousands of computers were distributed throughout the district (as well as hundreds of hotspots), we had directions out to students/families for attendance, and class was “in session” Monday morning.
The week followed with a large majority of our students “engaged” online. Google Classroom assignments were being turned in, Socratic seminars were taking place, service projects were being completed, and through the chaos, school went on. I personally had students engage in an incredible project suggested in the CharacterStong Educator FB page, #nchsserves “Service Scavenger Hunt.” My ASB/leadership students filled our Instagram with posts that led to other students in our school joining in, and even another ASB program in a neighboring district asking for the project description. I saw first-hand the ripple-effect of kindness in action in a time that we need it most.
What I learned over the course of the week…
Educators are incredibly prepared to adapt to a changing learning environment, students are flexible and ready to learn, and families will do their very best to try whatever we throw their way. We ended up providing 4,000 computers this past week and over 600 hot spots to families throughout our district. We had families creating virtual classrooms at home with academic routines in place. In the midst of the chaos, we found that everyone pulled together regardless of their opinions on this shift.
As incredibly resilient we all are collectively, we also needed reminding to slow down. Can we adjust, adapt, and achieve, yes, but not everyone can do this at the same pace. We need to go slow to go fast. Our district is “pausing” our online learning for the next week. My takeaway is that we need to evaluate where we’re at. We need to ensure equitable instruction and opportunity for all students and families throughout our district.
We quickly found out that we can do on-line learning and we do it well. Might we consider that the first thing we need to address is the basic needs of our families: food, safety, and care. We will get through this most challenging time. Our students are resilient, our teachers are helpers, and our families are fighters. So let us take a moment to step back and know academics and instruction are important, but caring for one another is the first step in making sure we are meeting the needs of each and every one of our students.
It is through grit that we will get through this and with grace that we will get through this together.
Note from CharacterStrong:
These are challenging, confusing and if we are being honest, scary times. Our staff at CharacterStrong has been working hard to provide as many tools as possible to help educators everywhere continue the important work of building relationships and spreading kindness and hope. We have already been blown away by the innovation, creativity, and connections we are seeing around the country as everyone is working to make our new normal work. Please sign up for our FREE resources and keep your eye out for more to come. We are with you.
Naudia Bosch is the Activities Coordinator, ASB Advisor, and Leadership teacher at North Creek High School (NCHS). She started out as a Special Education teacher in 2005 and in 2012 she had the opportunity to step into student leadership as a co-Activities Coordinator and ASB Advisor at Inglemoor High School. Once she dipped her toes into student leadership, there was no going back. She taught both ASB and Special Education up until this school year. In just their third year of being opened, NCHS has doubled their ASB student enrollment, and now Naudia teaches full-time ASB and Leadership classes. With her background in special education and also being an Air Force veteran, Naudia instills equity, inclusion, service, and sacrifice in every aspect of her teaching. She works diligently with her students to create an ASB program that has servant-leadership at the core, and strives to show all students, staff, and community members that step onto campus that they are valued, cared for and loved.