Teaching Online: Adjusting, Tweaking, Pacing

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I began online teaching on March 17 so, I’ve been at this for just over four weeks. It’s been a period of adjustment not only for me but for my students. As I read about how counties in Maryland and neighboring Virginia have struggled, I take some pride in how quickly my school pivoted and continued educating the students with meaningful work.

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One of the smartest things we did was limit the number of places we expected the kids to find work. Not only that, we were given a naming protocol for our assignments so it would be easier for students and parents to determine what was the day’s work. If we’ve used education testing sites like Quia, Quizlet, and Kahoot, we were told those could still be used but to not introduce additional sources until everyone adapted.

What hasn’t worked so well we’ve tweaked as we have all learned the strengths and limitations of PlusPortals, the platform we use. As a result, right before Spring Break, we had a professional development day with sessions on workarounds and expanding our toolkit. Several teachers all year long had been using Google Classroom and it appeared that it might solve some of our needs.

Just before the break, I set myself up and I have to admit, it was a far easier way to post work and collect it. I’ve been scouring the web for tips which I hope to make the assignments a little richer.

What has to change, though, are the types of questions I am posing for my students. It has become apparent that rather than do original thinking, they’ve resorted to searching for answers online and then not bothering to reword responses in their own voices. This week was particularly frustrating as three of my six classes did this, requiring me to hastily adjust work for the week’s end and then going forward.

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I am also discovering I need to adapt my pacing, slowing down so as not to overwhelm the students while still maintain rigor so I should be able to expect more from Honors students than College Prep students.

And while I have scheduled Google Hangouts for my classes, attendance has been spotty at best. Those who do log in are happy to be there, charting with someone other than their parents or seeing peers they haven’t been in contact with. What I wish was they had comments, questions, or observations about the work we’re reading, but alas, I may expect too much. I’ll keep at it.

I miss seeing them in my classroom, miss the wackiness and energy they bring. I miss my colleagues. Our governor has called for schools to remain closed until May 15, but with our school year scheduled to end June 5, I suspect we’ll be out for the duration and that’ll be a real shame.


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