In our new series, Distance Learning Diaries, we are asking educators, school leaders and edtech experts to write about a “week in the life” of their distance learning routines. These authors will generously share daily reflections on their challenges and successes with remote teaching, plus a few fun at-home anecdotes. Monika Moorman, an elementary educator in South Florida, reflects on finding balance with new virtual routines and valuable new connections with students and their families.
How are you adjusting to distance learning?
The initial frustration over Groundhog Day's sense of reality is slowly subsiding. The bitter realization that there are too many factors beyond my realm of influence is slowly settling in. My family now has a semi- synchronized rhythm of three remote learning schedules which finally brought a long-awaited sense of calm in how we tackle everyone’s needs, access to technology and space sharing. My virtual interactions with my class and the remote learning design transitioned into a structure familiar to my students and their families, which is conducive to engagement as well as consistent participation during virtual meetups. We now have flow. We also have multiple means of communication so when needed, my fourth-grade students reach out virtually, which relieves the pressure off their parents.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Strangely, the new quarantined lifestyle has been a blessing in disguise for me, on so many levels. As a person who is notorious for not having a healthy balance between work and family life, I am finally able to have breakfast and lunch with my own kids during the week. I get to spend more time with my own family throughout the day versus the quick interactions in between my and their own after-school activities before.
At the same time, my biggest challenge so far has been not having a physical boundary separating work from my family life. I cannot draw a line nor stick to it, even when I attempt to have one. I make myself available 24/7. I do respond to my students’ emails beyond my “office hours.” I do communicate with their parents at night, answering their questions to ease their anxiety.
I also experience having a hard time sleeping. My mind is constantly on the go, thinking of quality activities for my students, ways to simplify their virtual experiences, and pondering what the future holds.
Another big challenge? Keeping up with my sons’ appetites! They’re impossible! Given that I do not cook for pleasure, it remains a struggle.
What best practices have you uncovered so far?
1) Remote loving versus remote learning: Virtual interactions with my students are way more important than checking off academic assignments on Canvas.
2) Feedback versus grading: Help your students pace themselves as they navigate the unknown territories of remote learning with varied degrees of confidence.
3) Less is more: Assigning work is easy and anyone can do it. Instead, ask yourself, “What can I do to create a safe virtual space where students interact with meaningful content that supports their individual needs?”
4) Pulse checks: Taking into consideration all modes of communication unique to your own group of students, create a user-friendly tool that will allow both parents and students to share their perceptions of the remote learning experience. Here is an example of a student word cloud mood survey using mentimeter.com.
5) Care about self-care: Make a deliberate effort to disconnect. You are important, too!
Here’s a snapshot of how I spent my week:
I have learned a lot over the last four weeks of remote learning, but here are three things that made a difference for me this week:
Time is always of value, even in virtual spaces. Keep that in mind when designing activities for your students (less is more!) as much as when you look at your own schedule. Strive to have a balanced work to personal life ratio, if possible.
Don't chastise yourself for making mistakes as long as you turn them around. Be patient with yourself, your students and their families. It is a new territory for all of us. Show grace and remain flexible.
Take care of yourself by devoting time to whatever makes you feel fulfilled.
I hope that ultimately we will end up in a better place as a result of this ordeal. I dream that we will redefine the role and purpose of standardized testing, homework and grading when we get back to our brick-and-mortar reality. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the project-based learning and passion projects carried over and became a part of our regular daily routine once we return to "normal"?
Wishing everyone patience and grace!
Stay healthy and safe,