Week 8 #8Weeks of Summer

This post is week 8 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

How is your school/district stating your start of school is going to be different this year?

In June we had three plans ready to go:

  1. School as regular – Of course, that one is easy. Just like a regular school year, we would have been ready for this, but that is not going to happen for sure.
  2. School online – As we have done since 1 March 2020. We are ready for 100% remote learning. We have been tweaking it and improving it since we started. Building the plane in the air, so to speak, as our principal would remind us often.
  3. Blended learning – We also have a plan for having half the children in the school at one time. We helped and the administration spent much time during the summer weeks getting ready for this scenario.

Now, this week we got the word from the Ministry of Education that schools will be required to offer both remote and in-school learning. So, we had a meeting with parents on Wednesday. They had so many good questions! They have a hard decision to make now–whether to send their children to school two days a week and three online or keep them home for five days of remote learning from home.

We still have a few weeks for things to change due to the country’s COVID-19 status. I’ll update this post as needed. Wish us well!

Week 7 #8WeeksofSummer

This post is week 7 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

Describe the mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities you provided during #RemoteLearning?

We used asynchronous learning activities last spring for KG-grade 5. I tried only one Zoom meeting the first week of online school. That was when we were all trying to find our way and figure out how to “be creative,” as we were directed. It was also before the mandate came from our administration telling us we would not be using live meetings any longer for the lower grades. The synchronous learning meetings would be for only those in grades 6-12. That was disappointing for me, as I greatly enjoyed seeing them.

In our one Zoom meeting we played Kahoot! I did advertise it as optional because this was in early March and so many of my grade 5 students were not tech-independent and a lot of the parents hadn’t even figured out how to use Zoom yet. Later I used the Kathoot! asynchronous version of the games and that was fun too.

Toward the end of the year, my department took permission to hold “open hours” for students, optional drop-in times for those who needed it. I enjoyed seeing my students for writing conferences, question answering, and just everyday, anything check-ins and show-and-tell.

I figure the way I did the lessons asynchronously was easier than doing live classes each day, but I’m not sure about that, to be honest. I made instructional videos posted on YouTube, and students created responses on Flipgrid and Padlet and created and shared work on Google Drive.

Now this coming year I’m nervous to see the plan is to go back, using a blended schedule. Half the kids will come on Sunday and Tuesday and the other half will come on Monday and Wednesday. On their at-home days, students will complete online lessons. So, it looks like we get to do both–in-person and online. Thursdays will be a catch up day for the students, and hopefully the teachers.

So many questions and concerns, so many details still up in the air. Then in today’s news, this headline: “How the U.S. Compares With the World’s Worst Coronavirus Hot Spots” There was Bahrain, looming high above the U.S. in daily cases per capita.

This is not an easy time on our mental health, is it? (I pray it won’t also affect our physical health.)

Week 6 #8WeeksofSummer – Professional Goals

This post is week 6 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

Share your current professional goals.

I enjoyed Penny’s challenging post and big idea dreams for what is happening with education. I am always excited to try new things and have always been an early adopter. However, I’m not often the innovator.

Last spring was no exception. I worked my tail off daily and late into the night. I found myself in a position to be able to help families and teachers navigate through various websites when we were quickly moved to emergency remote learning. It was exhilarating and challenging. I was happy though that I was not an administrator and having to make the decisions to figure out how we were going to manage all this.

Right now for summer, I’m enjoying some relaxing time and yet, I also need to get working seriously on a TESOL certificate I already paid for. So, right now, that’s all I’ve got. My professional goal is to finish that TESOL advanced practitioner certificate so I can hone my skills to teach English to speakers of other languages. Then, I have a goal to be able to use my new skills.

I’ll be retiring and moving back to the U.S. when my husband’s work is finished here and it’s safe to return. I’m not ready to retire, so I hope there will be some online teaching opportunities in my future, as well. I’m open!

Week 5 of #8WeeksofSummer – Spring Technology

This post is week 5 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What technologies enhanced / reduced your effectiveness this past spring?

Flipgrid – Though I had an account for Flipgrid since it was obtained by Microsoft, I had yet to use it with my students. We got started right away in March, and it became a favorite of mine and many of the students. Everyone participated. It was great to see and hear the students. It gave them an authentic chance to practice speaking English. I appreciated not having to download videos to watch them. The platform is excellent and has lots of great features.

Screencastify – From the first day of our remote emergency learning, I purchased Screencastify. It was a simple way to create teaching videos for students and to teach my colleagues how to do tech things that I normally would show them on our computers in person.

Zoom – This was a new program for me, and now it is so familiar. I have seen improvements over the months. There are a lot of benefits. I love the breakout rooms and chat feature. A lot of discussion and collaboration can occur remotely through Zoom.

Kahoot – So many apps gave free upgrades for the time schools were closed. It was a really good idea. We needed ideas. We test-drove a lot of apps. This one was really fun for students, and it was great to have the premium version. They will get some customers when the free version expires, but in the meantime, they helped a lot of people.

Our student information system – I won’t name it, but it was weak. When we all began to use it, students began posting assignments and we had to collect the same. It was then we realized its weaknesses even more. It reminded me of an old html website we used to build in the 20th century. Clunky, cumbersome, slow, missing so much potential. Every time I used it, I longed to use Google Classroom, where students could complete assignments on Google Drive and just turn in the link. Instead, on our system, I received assignments . Then I couldn’t view them until I downloaded them. Some assignments (like pages in a book we created together or pen pal letters to be shared to Arizona) I needed to upload to Drive. There was so much wasted time and bandwidth for everyone. I was happy to see that our school has adopted Google Classroom for the fall for all grade levels.

Padlet – I was disappointed to learn (two years after the fact) that Padlet had put a limit on the number of walls you could make on this old Wallwisher site. I hadn’t used it very much before, so when I rediscovered it I jumped in and used it for several lessons and recommended it to others. Sadly, new users had a limit of three walls, so they quickly exhausted their usage. Unlike so many of the educational tech companies that gave free access during the pandemic, Padlet did not. It didn’t take long for me to exhaust my six walls. Then I went back to the less robust but very helpful Lino.it app. It has seemed better to me after my springtime experience with Padlet.

Tumblebook Library – This is an online library program that our school has  subscribed to. We were using the program before the shutdown and we continued and expanded our use after the shutdown. We signed up all our students for the Tumble Tracker, where we could assign books and quizzes and see when our students read the books. It had some weaknesses, but we used it for some assignments. Sadly, instead of improving the weaknesses, they just stopped the Tumble Tracker. They replaced it with a much less robust assignments feature, which has no way to track students or differentiate the assignments. The more I got to know this program, the more of a disappointment it became.

How about you? Which technologies enhanced or reduced your effectiveness last spring?

Addressing Implicit Bias

This post is week 4 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What do you consider when addressing implicit bias at your school?

I have spent seven years in the Middle East in the small country of Bahrain. In any new place we begin to call home we learn of new explicit and implicit biases the community holds onto. Coming in as an outsider, the subtle biases are easier to recognize than the ones I grew up with and are so deeply embedded inside. However, there are still universal biases I know are in myself and others based on age, race, ability, nationality, health.

When I stop to re-read the question, I see something I hadn’t noticed before, “What do I consider…” That got me thinking again. It’s imperative for me to consider the fact that implicit bias in me and other people is implicit–it’s unconsciously there, so I need to explore my own biases, making them part of my  conscious thinking. To bring it to the forefront, so I can at least begin to deal with it. Even that though, I might say that I believe in justice for all and equality, but unconsciously I don’t realize that the system and I are enforcing different values.

The same process of exposing biases can help my students and colleagues  navigate and find their unconscious biases and bring them into their consciousness so they can deal with them. I can ask questions and invite a safe discussion place to help others explore their feelings that may get in the way of them treating people as individuals, each with their own right to equity and justice.

  • Tell me more about that.
  • How did it make you feel?
  • How do you think it makes the other person feel?
  • If that happened to you, how would you feel?
  • Why might that person have done or said what they did?
  • How can we better understand each other?

As a teacher, I need to be more aware and passionate about standing against explicit biases, the small acts and comments that show up in my classroom. They are teachable moments, and I need to make sure students know that someone is noticing and challenging their biases.

Just some thoughts today. It was a good prompt, Penny, and I will revisit the topic before school starts in the fall.


Insights from Remote Learning

This post is week 3 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

What insights do I have about my students after remote learning? 

That is a question I have considered over the past few months. When thinking about the children I know. I have known them in the classroom in both kindergarten and grade 5, as I had the pleasure of teaching this same batch twice. I know them in person and now I know them in a different way too–how they were when learning at home.

I often thought about their teacher for next year, should we have to continue remote learning in the fall. He won’t know them like I know them.

He won’t know that the students whose work may seem comparatively mediocre are working on their own, empowered by their parents to be independent and responsible learners in their own right.

He actually won’t know the level of the students’ English language acquisition because their lessons have become a family affair, which I’m not saying is a bad thing. I’m just hoping that the students who are getting help at home are learning skills with their one-on-one familial tutors, lessons they may have missed over the years.

He won’t know which ones are getting bombarded with more than help from older siblings and parents, like excessive scaffolding on a building project on a sandy site. When the scaffolding gets taken away, there will be trouble if the builders haven’t drilled down to establish a strong foundation. He won’t really be able to recognize those students with shaky foundations who are getting disproportionate help on their online work.

For me, my insights are scattered. I have learned new things about my students since they started learning at home. Other insights on the more important human levels, I’ve sadly lost touch.

I have seen a whole spectrum of abilities and successes coming through in all these areas of remote learning:

  • Timeliness of turning in assignments
  • Engagement in opportunities afforded
  • Excellence in work produced
  • Understanding instructions
  • Creativity
  • Going above and beyond
  • Willingness to ignore lessons entirely

One of my big takeaways is that success in remote learning was not predictable at all based on their effort and the work they were doing in the classroom. Of course, some students were not a surprise. They were very similar to the students I had in person in the grade 5 classroom. However, there were many children who ended up on opposite ends of the spectrum of abilities and successes. These students learned and engaged on very different levels than they did in person–some rose to the occasion, others foundered.

I have learned insights about myself too. For instance, in how difficult one-way communication is. I would think I explained something one way on my video instructions until I saw  the assignments they turned in and say a big “Oops!” I missed being in the classroom, able to say, “Wait a minute! Let me explain this a different way before you continue.” I’ll save more on insights into myself for another post.

Perhaps the greatest insight I’ve learned is that children are complicated and full of different ways of being. We perhaps don’t know them as well as we think we do when we are with them for just a few hours a day. They are each valuable and multifaceted gems reflecting some light in school, but we don’t get to know them fully and see all their sides.

However, one thing I do know, it is certainly better to meet my students every day and get to see, know and experience their glinting brilliance in real life than remotely.


How Am I Recharging in Summer?

This post is week 2 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

Today’s question is great timing, as today is my last day of school. It’s been such a long second semester in the emergency remote learning chapter because of the Coronavirus.

How are you recharging this summer? I do look forward to recharging. Here is a list of my do’s and don’ts for my summer.


  • Read, read, read – I have a stack of Kindle books to finish, including The Tradition, The Racial Healing Handbook, Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing, How to Be Antiracist, A Practical View of Christianity.
  • Fight for justice and equity
  • Be antiracist
  • Write poetry and blog posts
  • Work on my TESOL certification and be ready to teach the created unit in the fall.
  • Cook and continue to experiment with vegan and vegetarian recipes, chock full of spices
  • Continue to eat healthy foods and be mindful of my eating
  • Take walks


  • Take a trip
  • Be apathetic

Remote Learning – What I Learned

This post is week 1 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators.

I will finish up my remote learning / teaching tomorrow. Tuesday is our last day of school, but tomorrow is the last time we will meet with our students. We’ll play a Kahoot selfie guessing game. And say our good byes and best wishes for the summer. What a sad way to spend the last four months of our school year.

I guess the most important takeaway I had after that whirlwind, crazy experience is that students and teachers who own their own learning are going to be most successful at this. There was no way we could help the few students who chose not to be involved. But those who owned their learning were able to keep growing. I’m not sure what our future holds, but I’m confident that the ones who really bought into remote learning, even in this emergency, are going to succeed. I wish I could give a gift to all the troubled or reluctant ones. First, I pray they are safe and just making choices that this wasn’t important. After, I know they are safe, I would give them the gift of being able to want to learn, to be resourceful and take initiative. If they just jump through hoops and try to please the system, this remote learning is not going to work for them.

He did Genius Hour remotely, and it was without a doubt, my best series of lessons this past semester. I wish all of remote learning could be like that!