I’m a creative teacher. I’m always trying to figure out how to make my class more engaging. Lately, with everything going on, I still have that creativity flowing through me, but I’m choosing not to put it into my digital classroom. To give you some background about me, I’m a fifth-grade reading, language arts, and social studies teacher. My students are pretty independent but are struggling in our new setting.
Here’s an example of my weekly schedule. The read aloud is for reading, the BrainPOP video is for social studies, and the writing prompt is for language arts. Raz-Kids and IXL are optional assignments.
I’m giving my students a total of 45 minutes of work each day. I’m keeping it pretty simple in my digital classroom for several reasons, mainly because our students didn’t sign up for online learning. We are going through a pandemic, and we all have been thrown into an unexpected, chaotic mess. I’m learning; it is entirely irrational to finish this school year with the same expectations as if we were still in a physical classroom.
I also didn’t sign up to be a digital teacher. Of course, I’m giving my 100%. I’m a tech-savvy teacher, but I realized this is not how I want to implement those skills, especially when it isn’t equitable for my students.
This blog post is about how I feel about my digital classroom. If you’re assigning hours of work, buying digital lessons, spending hours creating digital lessons, that’s your business, and do you boo. I’m doing what is best for my students and me. Here’s why simplicity is the route for me.
Students Should Be Able To Complete Assignments Independently
Before the schools closed, my students were on different levels, and of course, that hasn’t changed. Some students have parents or older siblings that can help them at home. Some of my students are new to the United States, and their entire family is learning English. I have parents who are working from home and parents that are essential workers. Long story short, I don’t want to assign complicated lessons that aren’t accessible to all of my students.
I’m pretty active on Pinterest, and there are tons of digital activities popping up everywhere, I haven’t seen a single one that is advertised as differentiated. So this means, if I were to buy those products, I’d still need to differentiate them somehow.
In my mind, it makes more sense for me to create things that I know all of my students can do. For example, I know all of my students can listen to me read a book. I know that students can respond to a creative writing prompt (even my ELL can write a sentence or two). I know they can all watch a BrainPOP video.
Parents are doing the best that they can; some are overwhelmed and stressed. I want to make my lessons simple enough so that the kids are still learning, but students can do them independently.
Unplanned Online Learning is Inequitable
Last week students at my school had the opportunity to get devices, and some were lucky enough to get a hotspot. I’ve used a hotspot before, and sometimes they can be flaky. They’re a temporary fix for when you don’t have internet access. So, that means websites may load quickly one day and slowly the next.
Think about if there are multiple kids at home using one hotspot. While I would love to take advantage of all of these free websites that are available right now, I don’t think it would be a good idea for my students who don’t have consistent internet access. There are some great websites available for free right now (and I LOVE that companies have stepped up to help), but I don’t think it would be fair for my students who are already struggling to get online, even if it is just one.
My school also made sure that families who requested devices received at least one, so not every child in a family got their own. In some households, multiple students are using one device. I can only imagine trying to manage who and when each child gets to use the device. Creating a technology schedule can be a complicated task for me, but imagine trying to plan it out when each child has hours of work to complete.
I Want to Make Sure I’m Not Overworking
I don’t know about any of you, but I feel like I’m working harder at home than I was in my classroom. I’ve had to find some boundaries. Just because I’m working from home, doesn’t mean I want to work a bunch of extra hours that I wouldn’t typically work.
My district made a schedule that clearly says we get a break and planning time, but I spend most of my day interacting with students or parents. I barely have time to create my simple lessons for the week. I don’t have time to do more. Sure, I could create bomb interactive lessons that look amazing, but I don’t want to work off the clock to get it done.
I Know My Students
I’m going to say this as nicely as possible. I have THE most unmotivated students I’ve EVER HAD this school year. You know you shouldn’t listen to what the previous teachers say about students, right? Everyone deserves a fresh start, but y’all they weren’t lying or exaggerating! It’s been a challenging school year. As a whole, it has been a struggle consistently getting quality work from them. Moving from a physical classroom to a digital classroom hasn’t changed them. They are still the unmotivated crew lol.
I’ve created fun and engaging activities all school year that have left me frustrated when only my usual few get it done. Lack of technology has made digital learning difficult for some, but many of my students are the same unmotivated children I looked at with frustration daily lol!
I will not frustrate myself by creating the elaborate plans, and only a sprinkle of my students get it done. I’m just being 100% real.
I Was About to Do The Most, But Then…
Before I realized I needed to chill out, I had big plans in my head. Remember, I’m tech-savvy. But, I had a few situations that made me realize, now is not the time to flex those skills.
I was planning on doing weekly Zoom meetings with my students until I found out it caused a lot of confusion and frustration with the parents. I have 48 students, and only 9 attended my first Zoom. When the meeting was over, my inbox was full of parent emails saying that they were having issues logging on to the platform. Some parents contacted our parent liaison because they were worried that their child missed the meeting. My students were blowing me up on Google Classroom. Our Zoom meeting did not turn out as I had hoped.
Some other things I didn’t realize until I logged on to Zoom was that parents had to stop what they were doing to help students log in. If parents are working from home, my Zoom meeting was taking away from their work. I didn’t think about that at all. My students with parents that couldn’t step away from their work to get their child set up on Zoom missed out, which is unfair. I wasn’t making this experience as fun as I thought I was.
I was also giving out awards (by email) for students who were getting all their work done. I created a really cute certificate, email template for parents, and I planned on making weekly video announcements.
Then I got a DM from an Instagram friend; she was upset that her son’s kindergartner teacher was publicly shouting out kids who did all of their work, which included the optional assignments. She was upset because she was doing the best she could while working from home. They were completing the mandatory work, but she didn’t have time to complete the extra assignments.
I was doing the same thing as her child’s teacher. I thought it was an excellent way to motivate my students. I had no idea how it would make parents feel. Yes, I have older students, and they should be able to get their work done independently, but I realized now is not the time to have competitions when everyone’s home life is different. So, I stopped. The last thing I want to do is make parents feel like they aren’t doing a good job. I need them right now.
It has taken me a few weeks to understand what is going on. I decided last week to let go of everything I can’t control. Nobody is ending the school year how they expected, so I decided to let it all go.
I love going all out in my classroom, but I realized that right now isn’t the time. I’m honestly just thankful that I’m still able to read to my students daily. My book hoarding finally paid off. To see my basic lesson plans, check me out on Instagram. If you’re going all out in your digital classroom, do your thang boo, it’s just not for me.