Wow! It’s been a minute since I’ve posted! Covid, training, and job changes have made this blogging thing super challenging. It’s great to be back, though, and I would like to take this opportunity to share a little about where I’ve been and where this blog is going. I’d also like to share five things I’ve learned from teaching during Covid.
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When Covid hit in 2020, my family went into pretty strict quarantine. My husband seemed to be super high-risk due to some health challenges he has. I ended the 2019-2020 school year working remotely as a K-5 reading specialist. Since we live in the woods, we have no Internet access available. We had to move to our trailer on a sandbar by the Atlantic coast so we could have Internet. I wrote about all that drama here.
During the spring and summer of that crazy year, I completed the first part of LETRS training (Units 1-4) and became classroom certified in the Orton-Gillingham method. I participated in book studies of David Kilpatrick’s work as well–Essentials of Assessing, Preventing, and Overcoming Reading Difficulties and Equipped for Reading Success A Comprehensive, Step-By-Step Program for Developing Phonemic Awareness and Fluent Word Recognition. These trainings and books were incredibly helpful to me as I worked with students who had reading challenges. Since our district is focusing our early literacy curriculum on the Science of Reading, I really wanted to try all this new knowledge out on my intervention groups.
Fall Changed Everything
When August came, we realized that Covid was still running rampant. I started the school year as a remote reading specialist. When students came back to school for in-person instruction later in the fall, my district offered me the opportunity to teach remotely on one condition. I had to give up my reading specialist position to take a virtual fifth grade class at a different school. They promised I could have my reading specialist job back the following year. I was able to keep some of my intervention groups to complete my Orton-Gillingham work, so I didn’t fully have to abandon all the new knowledge I’d gained in early reading development.
Fifth Grade Virtual
I started with my new class in November. I had never taught fifth grade or taught an actual class virtually. Since March, I had done plenty of work with kids via ZoomTM, but I had not regularly used CanvasTM, our learning management system. Lawd hammercy! Teaching during Covid was no joke. After 26 years of teaching grades 2-4, intervening in K-1, and remediating reading and writing in grades 6-8, I was a first-year teacher again. I did all the planning for reading, math, science, and social studies until I began sharing the load with another hybrid teacher at the school.
I made so many GoogleTM Slides activities that year! I would ZoomTM all morning with intervention groups from one school and fifth grade groups from the other. I would hold virtual office hours all afternoon while I was trying to make activities, plan, grade work, and reach out to parents in the afternoon. I would go some days and never see my family. They were living in the same house! It was NUTS! Teaching during Covid was exhausting!
This year, I am back at my reading specialist job, and I love it. I worked with K-5 groups all last year, and I really feel like I finally have integrated all I learned from Orton-Gillingham and LETRS in my lessons. This type of instruction, based on the science of reading, is so effective. I have enjoyed seeing the kids’ reading improve, and I’ve loved seeing the growth in my own practice. It’s also amazing to get back to some normalcy after all the craziness that has come with teaching during Covid.
I can’t say that I’m not grateful for the experience I’ve gained over the past two years, though. Here are five things I’ve learned from teaching during Covid.
Slow Downs are Necessary
For some, quarantine was a nightmare. I, on the other hand, welcomed the change of pace. I was running in fourteen million different directions it seemed, and I was heading for a meltdown. I took up meditation, and I let go of some old patterns that were no longer serving me. Even when I was so busy trying to figure out fifth grade virtual, I could focus on one thing rather than a bunch of extra-curricular activities. Getting back into sports recently has been much more fun for our family because the kids prioritized the ones they loved best, rather than choosing all of them.
Teaching During Covid Proved that Virtual Learning is NOT for Every Kid
My own kids had a tough time with virtual learning. I couldn’t help them manage it well because I was managing my own chaos. My son and daughter also struggled some with the isolation. That said, they both learned new things. My daughter wrote avidly and took up guitar. My son coded his own video games. They made good use of the time alone.
The response to virtual learning from my class proved varied. Some of my students crashed and burned. Internet troubles in our far neck of the woods frustrated some kids into quitting. Others just weren’t motivated to do the work. On the flip side, some of my kids thrived. They figured out the importance of doing assignments each day rather than procrastinating. These students learned a great deal about self-discipline. One in particular came to me as a solid language arts student. She left with a recommendation for advanced English in sixth grade. Her motivation took her to the next level, and it totally made my year.
Choosing My Own Schedule Rocked
I loved having flexibility in my day. I could exercise in the middle of the day when I felt my best. I didn’t have to drive anywhere so I could get things done in the early morning. I could pee when I needed to. I worked 10-12 hours per day most days, but scheduling things during my most focused parts of the day made me millions of times more productive and far less overwhelmed than I could have been.
Computer Keyboards and Screens Can Make People Lose Their Compassion
This one shouldn’t surprise me, but it does. I’ve never imagined such unkindness on-line as I’ve seen in the past two years. I keep thinking I’ll get hardened enough to it so that I won’t even notice it. Not happening. Social media is full of parents eviscerating educators. I’ve read posts where government officials and educators bash parents. Politics, education, the pandemic, religion, and other ideas have divided us. Sometimes it seems that this chasm is beyond repair. Could we just be kind? Please and thank you.
In all the craziness and change in my own life and in the world around us, meditation has been a godsend. Five minutes of breathing and not-thinking could change my perspective and upend negativity almost instantly. While it doesn’t change situations, meditation helped me see what was happening around me in a different light. It activated my compassion, creativity, and motivation when I felt completely overwhelmed.
Final Thoughts and Future Plans
All my pondering about my time teaching during Covid has led me to think about what I’m making for my Teachers Pay Teachers Store, Meaningful Connections in the Classroom. I am so excited to upload new products. This winter, I’ve added presentations, PDF and digital activities, and PDF and digital games to teach our littles letter names and sounds. I’ve also created decodable texts to help teach young students about some famous people. I’m in the process of creating decodable texts for CVC words, welded sounds and digraphs, beginning blends, end blends, VCe words, and vowel teams. Once those products are available, I will be focusing on comprehension activities for novels. I will also be writing texts and activities to help teachers make connections across the curriculum. To say I’m excited about what’s coming up is an understatement. Finally, I’ll be adding freebies-who doesn’t love free stuff?
As far as this blog is concerned, I will be posting some book reviews, articles on trainings, creative ways to integrate content into reading lessons, and, of course, some freebies! To stay in touch, subscribe to this blog, follow my TPT store, and don’t forget to pin this article for later. I can’t wait to share all my upcoming offers!