Written by Casey Keyser, MSEA Third Grade Teacher
I don’t need to tell anyone in the school system how difficult the last year and a half was for education. Not just for teachers, but for bus drivers, principals, parents, students, and everyone in between.
Teaching during a pandemic was by far the most difficult thing I have encountered in my career. It is hard to believe that anything good could come out of a year of lockdowns and virtual learning, let alone find the silver lining… But I am here to tell you… with every storm comes a rainbow.
It’s time to find that rainbow and help ourselves and our students with this upcoming school year. We must move forward and celebrate the skills we acquired throughout the storm.
Take a second to reflect… not on the bad but on something you learned this school year. Was it how to mute and unmute? My students taught me a fancy trick using the space bar!
Did you learn to use an online assessment tool like Kahoot! Or Quizizz? Did you connect with parents at a moment’s notice online using Zoom or Google Meet? Who knew we would be video conferencing with our students and families!
Were you finally able to start using a digital planner instead of your paper one? This has been my favorite new transition, I will never go back.
All of these things and SO MUCH more are the wins of having to teach virtual or hybrid this past year. You were encouraged to be an early adopter of tech tools and new devices like no other time before. But you dove right in to learn new skills and now you have experience with things like recording a screencast to give students directions or creating a complete interactive classroom with Google Slides and your Bitmoji.
If you’re on Facebook and you haven’t joined this teacher group yet… it is the rabbit hole of all rabbit holes. You will have access to FREE teacher resources that will help build engagement in your classroom using your Bitmoji. Join here now!
It’s time to celebrate YOU for all you have learned. I am proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and I promise you, you are a better educator for it.
So now what… you know all of these new and exciting skills, what do you do with them? Are you excited to get back into the classroom and go back to normal? This is an overwhelming, “NO!” This is your time to shine and take this great opportunity to start reimaging what schools can look like. Be that trailblazer that reflects on the things that got easier because of your new skills. Challenge yourself and your colleagues to think outside the box. Make this year the best year yet!
As you start to set up your new classroom think of ways you can incorporate those virtual learning skills into the new school year. You might not be virtual or hybrid anymore but you can still create digital libraries, have students record Flipgrid videos, go on virtual field trips around the world and so much more.
I know the one thing I will never go back on is parent/teacher conferences. I was able to meet with each and EVERY one of my parents (multiple times) over Google Meet during this past school year. I have never felt more connected with them and we both had the flexibility to do it from wherever was best.
What is one thing you would continue to implement this school year?
Before the pandemic, I had a difficult time teaching the students simple tech skills and they were in front of me in the classroom. They had trouble logging into their computer, remembering their passwords, and finding certain button icons on the screen to help troubleshoot any situation. During virtual learning, this became even harder. The students were not in front of me anymore to help them over their shoulder. I had to get creative with creating multiple tech tool button cards. The cards are a good visual of what each button is and what they are used for. I was able to hold them up to the screen so the students could see where to go. I will continue to use these when we get back into the classroom to make learning tech tools easier. I have created buttons for basic Internet browsers, Canvas, Google Meet, Zoom, Pear Deck, and Schoology. They truly are a game-changer, I couldn’t imagine going back to before I had them.
The second resource that I can’t live without is my tech tool username and password display cards. Simply print these out and add your class code or password. I add them to a ring and hang them at the front of the classroom for all students to be able to access. It is a great way to never forget your codes and to build agency with your students.
All these things and more are like letting the genie out of the bottle, I don’t think he’ll ever go back in. All we can do is learn from the skills we acquired and make the education system even better than before.
As we look forward to this upcoming school year, please try to remember the good that came from this very difficult year. There are so many bright colors in the rainbow and you just have to find them!
Casey Keyser is a third-grade teacher at Butterfly Ridge Elementary in Frederick County, Maryland. She was recently recognized as the national winner of the NEA Foundation’s 2021 Teaching in Excellence Award. Casey is the proud owner of the Education Resource Blog, Fair Winds Teaching, and loves to connect with her education community through her TeacherPayTeacher’s business.