Resilience in the Face of Adversity- 4/19/2020

As my colleagues and I adjusted to the ever changing state of needs, I found myself in awe of their resilience, their dedication and their commitment to meeting the needs of our students. It fueled me to want to give them my best, everything I had, so that they had the tools they needed at their disposal.

This past week, my district officially began "distance learning." In my district, "distance learning" includes a combination of synchronous and asynchronous experiences. As an elementary school technology coach, I have assisting my colleagues as we travel through uncharted waters for all of us. Setting us virtual classrooms along with synchronous virtual sessions have definitely been a challenge. Compounding these initial challenges are a variety of system challenges as our current learning management system struggled during our first "live" week to keep up with our large school system's login and application needs. It was a week where everyone had no choice but to be flexible and as a tech coach, I found that I was constantly pivoting to meet the changing state of needs. To do so, I found myself pulling very long days, feeling like I was constantly putting out fires.

Amidst these fires, many amazing things happened this past week. As Kelly Clarkson says, "What does not kill us makes us stronger." As my colleagues and I adjusted to the ever changing state of needs, I found myself in awe of their resilience, their dedication and their commitment to meeting the needs of our students. It fueled me to want to give them my best, everything I had, so that they had the tools they needed at their disposal.

Rather than focusing on all the craziness of this week, I wanted to share some of the ways my colleagues rose to this challenge. Our school does not have a large Twitter presence, so many of the amazing things that happen there don't always get shared. But we truly have heroes there that make me a better educator every day.

Chat Feature _Lesson_

1. Scaffolding Online Chats:

This week as I was walking my dog, I was listening to the Innovators' Mindset Podcast as George Couros interviewed Jennifer Casa-Todd. They were discussing how we need to set up classroom norms online just as we do in face to face classes. Rather than just "shutting things down" when misbehavior occurs, we need to use them as teachable moments. We need to be proactive, rather than reactive.

This past week when one of my second grade classes had their first "live class," their amazing teacher, Mrs. Kirkendall and her instructional assistant, Mrs. Harris did just that. They proactively created a mini lesson to teach her students appropriate chat etiquette. In these slides, she scaffolded their expectations and set high standards for her learners.

2. Google Slides- The Swiss Army Knife of GSuite to the Rescue

This past week, due to capacity and login issues, our LMS was continually breaking down and inaccessible to students. It was frustrating for everyone- to be perfectly honest, most of the teachers at my school use Google Classroom regularly. When we switched to distance learning, we were told that our LMS had to be the primary way that we shared information since parents could access it as well. For many educators in my district, that meant learning something completely new. Since our current contract with our LMS ends in June 2021, many of us had been waiting it out until it was replaced.

The educators in my school rose to the challenge. They created amazing sites on our LMS and fully embraced the changes. In fact when our LMS was plagued by issues, they didn't just give up, they pivoted to find new ways to engage their students.

My second and third grade team pulled together as teams and created amazing hyperdoc choice boards using Google Slides, the Swiss Army Knife of GSuite, to use with their students. This way, they could post these assignments in multiple platforms, our LMS and Google so that students would always have access.

3. The answer is always a Google Sheet.

The Specialist Team in my school is super dedicated. Prior to this week, based on the model that Kings Park Elementary School's SBTS, Michelle Crabill, shared with me, we created an awesome Blackboard Site for all of our school's specialists. It was filled with so many amazing activities for every special from Art to PE and Counseling.

So when our LMS shut down, none of our students could access any of these great lesson activities. One of our amazing STEAM teachers, Mrs. Rice, sprang to action and created this awesome Google Sheet where all students in grades K to 6 could access specialist activities independent of our LMS. Google Sheets and Mrs. Rice to the Rescue!

These are just three stories of how amazed that I have been all week by my colleagues. On Tuesday night, I found out at an emergency 8 PM meeting that my entire staff would need to be retrained on a new way to complete synchronous learning inside of our LMS the next morning. That next morning, I trained all my classroom teachers on how to do this process during the first two hours of the day. All 40 teachers were ready to go, quickly pivoting from one method to do synchronized learning to another. Even when the LMS failed as we were ready to begin our synchronous sessions, everyone found ways to connect with their students despite the technical difficulties.

Last, the notes and emails they have sent me sharing their appreciation for my hard work have truly warmed my heart. During this trying time, I have gotten to know my colleagues in new ways and provide support differently. I have loved getting to see their innovation, their collaboration and their resilient spirit. Who knows what next week will hold? Will our LMS work after system upgrades? Will synchronous learning succeed? I am not sure- All I know is that I am so grateful to have my colleagues along my side as my crew on this journey. #SangsterStrong