I’m starting my second week of distance teaching today. Not loving it thus far. Admittedly, there are some neat aspects to it. I thought I would dislike having to record all of my class meetings, but it’s actually pretty convenient. If I’m having a one-on-one discussion with a student during our “quiet study” period, I can share the video with them afterward so that they don’t have to worry about taking notes. Similarly, if a student misses a class meeting, the video of the class will be posted within about 15 minutes… so that can be useful.
But, and this is huge, the connections with students are so much weaker. I see all their tiny faces on my meeting grid, but I can’t really tell if they are with me or snoozing or confused. Normally I can walk around the room and read everyone’s body language. If the energy is sleepy, I rev things up or insert a quick oxygen break. If students seem confused, I slow down and go over things more carefully. All of this is much harder when mediated by a video conferencing app. Even doing a “whip share” where everybody shares something feels slower and less dynamic on the computer. I find myself losing focus before we make it around the circle (and when I’m zoning out, I know that most of the class is long gone!).
I’m confident that I’ll get better at this as I gain more experience. I hope to solicit plenty of feedback from my students, too, about what’s working for them. I haven’t been at it long enough to see how the quality of student work changes. I’m curious about that.
Below are two artifacts from my first week. First is the Welcome Back video that I sent to my eighth-grade social studies students before our first class. It took me forever to make and I have a million criticisms, but it’s safe to say that it was the best I could do in the time that I had. The second is a cartoon created by my good friend Nate. He’s a teacher on the east coast and used to draw illustrations of our high school D&D adventures. In my classes so far, I’ve seen all of his archetypes except the skateboarder.
Back in 2015 we documented the life journey of a monarch butterfly from egg to adulthood. This year, Sarah set up her iPad to film the entire process. The first video documents the caterpillar forming a J-hook and then transforming into a chrysalis. The second video shows the butterfly emerging from its chrysalis.
Oliver has been enjoying watching the construction across Snelling (see Daily Pilgrimage) and was starting to play with old construction trucks in the backyard. With the advent of chillier, wetter weather, Sarah came up with this activity in the kitchen. He loves it!
On the last day of our wonderful December trip to Bethesda to visit Andrew’s family, Oliver tumbled down the stairs and broke his left tibia. This was obviously traumatic on many levels, and we (parents) felt pretty terrible. Although Oliver rapidly adapted to his new cast, it was frustrating because he had just been learning how to walk. Crawling had remained his preferred mode of rapid transport, but he had been taking more and more bipedal steps every day. Now, he was saddled with a cast that he couldn’t even hobble on.
The cast finally came off on January 31, and Oliver spent the first few weeks developing strength in his left leg and relearning the mechanics of standing and walking. A few weeks later, and he rampages around on two feet most of the time.
Last year in early January, I discovered a new app called One Second Everyday (1SE). I did my best to capture Oliver’s development from that moment on, and here is the final product! I wish I’d known about it right when he was born, but this is still pretty cool. Enjoy!
Inspired by Finding Dory, Griffin and Maggie created a movie together about the ocean. Here’s their plot summary:
A person is going on a boat and catches a fish. He roasted the fish on his little boat and then he ate it. Then a giant comes and he eats some beads and then he eats the person and then he turns into a clown.
Maggie started showing interest in her balance bike at the end of February, and by the time her birthday loomed near at the beginning of April, it was clear she would probably be ready for a bike with pedals this summer! She’s much smaller than Griffin was when he started on a pedal bike, so I hunted down a smaller version and we gave it to her on Sunday for her birthday. She was beyond excited to try it! However, it was raining pretty hard all day that day, and even into the morning on Monday. She begged me to let her try it, but knowing there would inevitably be some spills, I told her we needed to wait until it stopped raining.
Well, Monday afternoon it stopped raining, and she was raring to go! I wasn’t sure how it would go for her, but low and behold, on one of her first tries, she took off! I pulled my phone out and grabbed some video. We spent the rest of the day touring the neighborhood with her practicing her new pedal bike. She’s hooked and asks to ride it at every opportunity now! It’s pretty amazing, and such a testament to the balance bike.
I hope you enjoy these short videos of her first rides!