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21 Apr Flexible Teaching Beats COVID-19

This school year is unlike any other. As everyone is adapting to our current reality in this pandemic, teachers are also adapting to a whole new platform for teaching and connecting with their students. In this post Resident, Hanna Arvidson shares her experience of being a Resident Teacher to Kindergartners during this unprecedented time. While circumstances are different, students still love to learn and educators are finding creative ways to ensure that students have access to resources they need. The blog post below was written by Hanna Arvidson, a Cohort 4 Resident at Brookside Charter School, on April 15th, 2020 and updated on April 21st, 2020. 

It all started the week before spring break. That week was a trifecta of foreboding: a full moon, time change, and Friday the 13th, that’s when the unthinkable changes all started! On March 13th we started spring break a day early. This was because of the beginning of concerns about the COVID-19 in Kansas City, Mo. We sent our students home Thursday, March 12th with no thoughts in our head that this might be the last day we see our students this school year in person.  Brookside Charter, along with all other schools in the Kansas City area, was thrown upside down. Because of this pandemic we’ve all had to learn an entirely different way to teach our students, with no training, no PD day, nothing but virtual support from administration. An extremely challenging task for everyone, especially when your students are kindergarteners, not yet fully independent readers or learners. 

With this massive change, we learned that we must be flexible. We must be able to adjust, try new things, see what works and what doesn’t, and find a solution for them. All while remembering we are all new to this, we are all going through this together, no one is perfect, and not one way is the right way for everyone. As long as we try, we understand, we adjust, we support, we love, we will all get through this together.

Our Kindergarten team quickly came together virtually to make a plan, knowing learning must go on! We came up with lesson plans that our students are used to. We made little changes for our new classroom of home learning, fun activities, active activities, options to fit every student and family’s needs. These plans included written work, photos, videos, read-alouds, and morning challenges. Another challenge we had to address was tracking students’ participation. As I work in a co-teaching school, we divided the students to help with the load of calling, and tracking each student. I developed a tracker on a spreadsheet of each of our students with our lesson and each day of the week. After a few days of using it and collaborating with my mentor, I adjusted this tracker about 4 times before we found it to be just right for the amount of tracking we wanted. I made it easy to look at by adding colors to each column and per subject. 

This is when I had to remember my why. Remembering my why is what it took for me to know that this is my time to step up to the plate, do my job as an educator and support my students and families. Our first step was to reach out to our families making sure they knew that we care, we are in this together and I am only a phone call or message away. Class dojo is where most of our communication, lessons, videos, pictures, read alouds, and learning happens. It was easy learning the motto “we must go on.” Helping these sweet innocent children get to enjoy learning and still get to see our love and support of them. 

Reading to our students is a big part of their learning. Especially when our young students are still developing their language skills, knowledge of letters, letter sounds, and spoken and written words. One of the first projects I set out to do for my students, was making sure they still were getting read to. Meanwhile, the struggle was real.  Not many people own grade level books at home, the libraries are closed, schools are closed so our access to books is limited. I was determined to make sure my students still get exposed to books and being read to. I reached out to my mom friends, teacher friends, and family, to help spread the love of reading and learning through books. I created a youtube channel where I recorded myself reading books. My friends sent me videos of them reading too.  I created this channel to be able to send to my students for easy access to watch. I made sure this youtube channel was secure and kid-friendly by adjusting the settings so no unwanted ads or pop-ups could appear and I made the videos unlisted for privacy reasons. This means that only those who I share the link with can watch these videos.

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Another project I set for myself was finishing out a fun science lesson. When all this pandemic started we were closing out our unit on plants. We were getting ready to plant lima beans in our window greenhouses to observe while they change. So I made a video of myself planting beans and sunflower seeds in pots. I placed them in my windowsill. I am taking pictures and videos along the way so they can watch the growing process. Once the seeds started to change, I asked my students to identify what they were seeing that we learned about the plant’s life cycle and plant parts. I asked them to help identify the different parts of the plant they could see, the seed turning into a leaf, the stems growing tall, and the roots growing in the dirt. 

While these are challenging times, that does not mean we lose our inspiration, or responsibility for the students and families we serve as educators. We are each other’s support. We are patient, we are flexible, and we are there for our students to continue to learn and grow despite the many changes.  After all, the students are why we serve.

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