Usually in June, I am reflecting on the professional learning projects from the school year and writing my annual summary report. But this year was a little different…and for purposes of reflection and documentation, I have written about my year of supporting Transitional Learning.
We began the 2020-2021 school year with uncertainty, not sure how things were going to unfold. On September 14 I was re-assigned from the district teacher consultant role to being what our HR department called “general teacher” and being responsible for supporting 4000 K-7 students in mathematics and science who were learning from home due to the pandemic while several thousand students attended school face to face in our school buildings. We had just a few days to imagine what this could be and within a week we were “live” with weekly learning plans posted to our portal and live webinars and Zoom meetings scheduled. I was part of a new team of re-assigned teacher consultants who were also supporting students at home in the areas of French Immersion, Language Arts/Social Studies/Career Education and Arts Education. The first few weeks tested me in new ways and I do not think I have ever felt that degree of stress and responsibility in my entire teaching career.
I learned how to use a whiteboard within a confined space that was visible during webinars and how to teach to hundreds of students at a time that I didn’t know and layer language, gestures, visuals and other supports for their learning.
I learned all the new tools involved with this type of remote learning – webinars. Zoom meetings, using an iPevo mirror-cam and a HUE document camera. I used sites such as desmos and a variety of virtual manipulatives and online resources from Mathigon, the Math Learning Center and Toy Theater.
Each week I developed and wrote four math and science plans (K&1, grades 2&3, 4&5, 6&7) prepped and delivered four live webinars, filmed and edited a weekly overview video, held a weekly webinar for parents and caregivers and hosted a Zoom session for TL teachers each week. It was a lot. I kept telling myself that this was my way of serving the district this year until February 1…
One of the highlights of the fall and winter was inviting our K-3 TL students to submit videos of themselves counting from 1-10 or 20 in their home languages. I then shared these videos during the primary math webinars and we practiced counting in different languages including sign language. I now have a collection of counting videos in over thirty languages!
I continued to develop a SD38 YouTube elementary math channel that I started in the spring of 2020 when we all were staying safe at home. I never thought that I would have a YouTube channel. My sons think it is quite hilarious! It has many many videos now – weekly videos for the TL learners and their families teachers are unlisted but all the math games and projects are public. You can find it here: https://bit.ly/SD38mathyoutube
In schools, TL teachers supported their students with regular Zoom meetings and assessed the mathematics assignments that students posted to their eportfolios. I found it increasingly difficult to see that there were hundreds of students in the webinars but not be able to see them or even see their names. It is hard to connect and develop relationships through the camera on your laptop! During the week before the winter holidays, I offered some optional Zoom math studio sessions which were well-attended and I finally felt some joy in the work I was doing.
The Board then voted to extend Transitional Learning to spring break. Some students returned to their schools on February 1 but most continued to stay at home. I held weekly Zoom math studio sessions for primary and intermediate students and added a primary math storytime each week. These sessions were the highlight of my week and I began to get to know many of the TL students through this format. During this time, one of our teacher consultant colleagues was asked to take on the science component of the planning and I was able to streamline a few things in my weekly plans in order to make time for a 20% return to my teacher consultant work. For this part of my work I focused on our district’s numeracy visioning and framework development and the Ministry’s numeracy proficiency standards project.
One of the highlights of doing Transitional Learning was seeing the math and numeracy tasks and projects that the students did. Some teachers shared their students eportfolios with me and other teachers or parents would send me emails with student work attached for me to see. For some tasks and math studio projects, I created padlets for students to share their projects with each other.
And then just before spring break, the Board voted to extend Transitional Learning until the end of the school year. This was a hard and difficult year, not just for me and my colleagues supporting Transitional Learning but for everyone. I kept reminding myself of the students, many who had been at home since March 2020, and continued to do what I could to serve and support the students, families and teachers I had been tasked with supporting this year.
June has brought a lot of “lasts” – last video filmed and edited, last project posted, last math game shared, last primary math storytime, last set of studio sessions and I took a photo of the portal screen when I posted the final week of TL math plans – Week 36. And on Wednesday, June 23, I hosted my last live math webinars – what a year.
I never expected in September 2020 that this would have been my year. I did a completely different job than what I had “signed up” for. I learned a lot about myself, my district, our families and students. And I learned that regardless of the context, in person or remote, the heart of teaching and learning is relationships. So yes, there has been a LOT of math for me this year, but learning to nurture connection and care through a web cam has been at the essence of my work this year.
For the final week, I asked students to reflect on and celebrate their math learning from this year. We had done some different weaving projects and I invited students to use those techniques to weave together their reflections, goals and celebrations of learning. I decided to do the week 36 project as well and invited students to share their final projects on a padlet. It was so lovely to read over what the students shared.
It was both an honour and a pleasure teaching this group of students and I hope as many of them return to our schools in September that I might actually get to meet some of them in person!
Take care and have a wonderful summer.