Griffin’s Week at School at Home

This week was pretty good. I did my human body systems work which is a project that I’ve been working on for a few months that is about the eleven human body systems and I’m on my final draft.

I also worked on my conference prep essay. This is an essay which we have to write about our year and work habits and big work and lessons and lots of that stuff. Normally we would have written this by March 19 (I’m pretty sure), but it’s different this year because of the coronavirus. We already had the conference but for some reason I still have to write this. 

I also did a lot of TerraCycle work. We’re trying to create a presentation slideshow that will teach people about TerraCycle and how it will help save the Earth. Here’s a PDF of our current draft of the presentation:

It was hard to stay focused because Oliver and Maggie and Daddy and sometimes Mama were always loud somewhere. Especially Oliver because he’s always asking me to do stuff. 

I also went to a few state parks and I learned a lot at them. We saw a garter snake at Lebanon Hills and Mama said that I could try to pick it up but it got all coiled up like it would try to bite me. We looked it up later and learned that it will poop and make it really stinky if you pick it up. Also they’re really fast. I’m adding this because I learned a lot of facts there, so it counts as school.

Example of my work journal from Monday.

Maggie’s Week at School at Home

This week, I worked on grammar and mammoth math and I read a lot. For grammar I had to figure out what part of speech different words were. For math I did all types of math, like clock work, and pluses and minuses, and figuring out what numbers are even and odd. I read Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, I and II. I got online for about a half hour to an hour every day with my teachers and classmates. I liked sharing at the end of the week where you get to share something special. The first time I shared a rock. It reminded me of state parks. And the second time I shared a plastic polar bear that I made in a Mold-A-Rama at Como Zoo. I don’t get to go to the zoo a whole lot now and I like the zoo. 

A completed example from Maggie’s Daily Grammar packet.

Distance Teaching

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.