This post is week 1 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. Starting this week, we will reflect on the unusual nature of the last school year. The challenge is a way to share our reflections, debrief a difficult year. As Penny wrote: “Let’s share the experiences that many of us struggled with and triumphed over. Let’s consider what to retain from this year and what to let go together!”
This week’s prompt is to describe relationships with those you taught this year.
I had an unusual year in more ways than one. Besides the pandemic, I did not have a contract last year, but I was still part of my school. I taught the first quarter for the person who would eventually take my place, but was stuck in the U.S. due to Covid. I was a long-term sub for a sociology class. I screened children in three grades with the DIBELS assessment. I had small groups of children on Zoom practicing (and hopefully having fun with) phonological awareness and phonics.
I continued to be with the same department, helping and encouraging them through difficult times when I could do something. They had the Ministry of Education come for their every three year evaluation, this time looking at how we were coping with “special circumstances.” I was there for finding things and remembering how we’ve done it in the past, since I was the English coordinator for the past five years.
My teammates are amazing, and I have great relationships with them. It has been weird though. When they were stressed out and feeling over the edge, I was not. I have tried to help my old department, but at the end of the day, I did not have the myriad of stressors that happen when you are a full time teacher. Much less also add that it was happening through a pandemic, with virtual and blended learning, the Ministry visit, and all the other crazy!
Most of my work this year, though, was under the direction of the learning inclusion department. I went to those department meetings and worked under the LI coordinator. It was very rewarding because added to the small department of two teachers were two volunteers–myself and a parent who is trained in special education. We made a great team. There was so much more we were able to do, especially helping the struggling students who not part of the special needs program.
We also had time to work with the gifted students. We held a virtual spelling bee, which was a great success, and some of the children who needed more challenge did a semester-long genius hour project.
The relationships with my colleagues at school are precious to me, and this year was such a nice way to leave gradually. My husband’s contract ends in December, so I will once again volunteer for the first term next year. Then I will have to say good-bye to them.
Today I wrote an Ovillejo poem about the pandemic, as our numbers here is Bahrain are skyrocketing and strict new bans and lockdowns began this weekend.
Case numbers have escalated
Businesses and malls are all closed
Vaccination sites ramping up
Don’t let up
Immunity rate speeding up
Battling new variants, a quest
From the hands of cold death to wrest
Hope deflated, so exposed. Don’t let up!
I was very happy when the vaccines began to be approved and used around the world. At the time when they started, though, I didn’t think of getting one myself.
But yesterday was our turn. We went to one of the big government hospitals and received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I felt so thankful and humble. This sweet country of Bahrain has such a big heart and a plan to help us all stay healthy.
To watch the way everyone worked so diligently to make it happen was really touching.
I know we still have a long way to go until this is over. I’ll keep social distance and wear my mask for as long as I need to, but today I feel hope and gratitude.
Our school is closed because of the Coronavirus scare, and I’m learning to teach online on the fly. Today I sent out my first lesson to grade 5 ELL students. I sent way too much and the instructions were too complicated! What was I thinking? I only get to send two lessons a week. Normally I have seven lessons with each group of scholars each week. I’m sure subconsciously I tried to pack three-and-a-half periods into one at-home lesson.
Basically we have been instructed to give something to read or view, and then have them produce something. That sounds wise and simple. Comprehensible input and comprehensible output–these make sense. They are what I’ve been working through with Nation’s books Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking and Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing.
I have been trying to do all four strands mentioned in these books in my weekly lessons:
I think today’s lesson was OK. They had a picture book to read with a simple message. It was an audiobook, which helped the ones who needed that support. There was language learning on pronunciation and usage of the new vocabulary. My favorite part was the real-life application where I asked students to go on a vocabulary hunt for these words around their homes–smidgen, glinting, scuttle, intricate, delicate, wilted, and clog.
I had a definite fail in the long and detailed list of instructions I sent. With a world made up of people who prefer to learn orally, I overloaded them on text. For a 98% ELL crowd, I failed to provide comprehensible directions for them. Yikes! Here’s what my email looked like:
I should have known. Now I have learned a lesson. When I send work online, I am not able to rely on the obvious and subtle cues of being in a room full of questioning children. I didn’t hear anyone say, “Huh?” or “What do you mean?” I couldn’t see the faces of those not with me. I hated being unavailable personally as they worked through those instructions. If I was there, I might have even needed to say, “OK, let’s not do this part. We’ll save that for tomorrow.”
There are some definite downsides to teaching from a distance. We are attempting it in K-12 too. It will be a challenge. I will have to work on the instructions–meaningful brevity–cut every unneeded word and phrase. And then cut the word count some more. That’s my goal for my second lesson.
However, there have been some rewarding and rich experiences even in just one day. I’ve given more feedback and individualized instruction today than I am able to do in the classroom when I have 25 students at a time. I was able to explain to individuals about the mistakes they made–in writing or with a voice message when needed.
It’s March again. Maybe I should do the Slice of Life. I just saw this tweet by Tracy Vogelgesang and it inspired me.
Day 1 of the March Slice of Life Story Challenge is here! I am excited to do this again this year. It will be a challenge, indeed, with the #100daysofnotebooking challenge, but I’m getting great tips from some amazing notebookers/slicers! #sol20https://t.co/XjhgEwHwD4
That, and the fact that I need more creative outlets these days.
Here was my day, sitting at this desk/dining table.
A week ago today one of my girls came late to the library. I asked her why she wasn’t with the class. She said, “My mom told me to stop and wash my hands every time I pass a restroom.” That was my first warning that COVID-19 was coming to Bahrain. That same day, we began noticing the reports. There were no registered cases of the coronavirus in the Kingdom but 74 had been tested. All those who have traveled to such-and-such countries should come in or call to be tested. A home for the elderly near the airport was evacuated and patients placed in private hospitals. This was to create a quarantine facility for possible cases.
By the next day, a bus driver dropped kids off at three schools before discovering that he had contracted the disease himself. Those three schools were closed. That night people bought all the hand sanitizer and face masks in Bahrain.
The next day students brought the hand sanitizer and wore the face masks to school. Not exactly everyone, but it was now part of the landscape of our school, and all the other schools here. By the evening, all schools had been closed for two weeks.
In one week we went from 0 cases to 6… 8… 17… 23… 26… 33… 36… 38… 41… 47, with no deaths. God bless Bahrain’s skilled commitment to containing this disease.
We are now doing school virtually. Thus my dining table desk and my need to do Slice of Life.