Our new virtual reality: Part 2

So it turns out that our New Virtual Reality was not so short lived.

We are living in a world of synchronous or asynchronous teaching (or in some cases, both!) and it is a whole new thing for all of us. And there’s another new thing for me: I will only be teaching 3rd – 8th grade rather than K-8. It is a bittersweet moment for me. I have time to do a much better job of planning and assessing the students I have, but I won’t get to teach the little ones any more. Teaching the youngest grades is truly one of the best parts of my career and now it will be one of the best memories of my career.

Now to address the elephant in the room…I haven’t posted since April. To get you caught up, here’s an overview of what happened between then and now:

  • I taught asynchronously from mid-March to the end of May
  • I took a lot of naps
  • I played a lot of Animal Crossing and MarioKart with my kids
  • I didn’t leave the house other than to go to the grocery store for 4 months.
  • I spent a lot of time with my family
  • My ACTFL proposal was accepted and I’ve been working diligently on making that as best as it can be
  • I worked on a TOP SECRET PROJECT that I can’t wait to tell you about…
    • …hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about it in October…
      • …let’s just say that it involves a lot of me sitting at the computer and writing…
        • …and rewriting…
          • …and rewriting some more…

During the time away from school, I didn’t share anything on the blog because I didn’t feel like I had anything productive to share. One thing about being at home in this pandemic is that it can make one feel really down. I experienced a lot of feelings, none of which were positive. I like to use this platform to share things that are helpful and positive. I’d rather go silent for a few months than add, in my own tiny way, to the anxiety and fear and bad vibes that are all over the world right now.

Then came August (and my birthday-happy 35 to me!). Teachers came back to school and we spent 2.5 weeks in meetings and trainings and learning how to teach to students in our classrooms and at home at the same time. It was weird being back after being at home for so long, but it was also comforting. Even with all the social distancing measures, it just felt right to be back in my school and classroom getting things together to start the year.

That being said, things are quite a bit different this year:

The differences are not just sartorial, though: I am teaching using a SWIVL, which is a little robotic platform that I plug my tablet into. It lets me have a zoom meeting with my virtual students and the robot swivels around (I get it!) to follow where I move around the room so that they can see me or the board or whatever it is I need them to see. There are about 5-10 students in each homeroom class whose parents decided that they would learn from home for the first trimester. It’s a fun little device and it works well. I feel like I’m as connected as I can be with those students who chose to stay home and learn virtually.

My favorite new development this year is the addition of an elective. With some of the time that has been freed up because I am not teaching the littlest ones, I will be teaching a cooking class for 8th graders! I am looking forward to it. I love cooking so much and I’m so glad to be able to share food and food preparation with the kids, some of whom I’ve known since they were in kindergarten. We will be learning basics (how to boil water, make pasta/rice, grilled cheese), making kid friendly foods like macaroni and cheese (from scratch!) and pizza, and then move on to Latin cuisine. I am looking forward to making empanadas, arroz y frijoles, arroz con leche, and lots of other delicious foods that I grew up cooking and eating with my family.

As I post this, we’re in our third week of school and I am feeling pretty good. We all have masks and we all are staying socially distant, but at the same time, the world seems to be moving back to a degree of normalcy that is helping to abate the anxiety I have had while sitting at home and watching the news. Even with our new procedures and policies, school is familiar and comforting.

As scared as I was, I am glad to be back. I have a lot more positive things to say, so I will be sharing more as the year goes on. Hopefully the rest of the year will go just as smoothly as these first few weeks.

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