Teacher Blog

Day 7 – March 25th, 2020 – Small Victories

Follow along for updates on how a small town WI teacher is handling the Covid-19 crisis.

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Small Victories

Today was a day of hard truths and small victories. Let’s begin with the tough stuff.

As it says in the intro, I live in Wisconsin. Last night into today we learned of a new “Safer at Home” order from our governor that closes all non-essential businesses and K-12 schools until April 24th. In case you were interested, this is what the order means for education:

“Safer at Home” Order

  • The “Safer at Home” order is effective at 8:00 am on Wednesday, March 25, 2020, and remains in effect until 8:00 am Friday, April 24, 2020, or until a superseding order is issued. As of today, this means the school district is officially closed until April 24, 2020. No one may enter any of the buildings for ANY reason.
  • The Department of Public Instruction is waiving mandates on the number of educational hours districts must provide students as the state continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that closed K-12 schools. (Won’t have to make up lost instruction)
  • The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) will apply for a waiver from federal requirements to administer statewide assessments to all students, to make annual accountability determinations, and to identify schools for support and improvement, and to provide data on federal report cards for assessment and accountability information. (No state testing of any kind)
  • DPI is working with school districts to make sure all 2020 graduates have taken and passed the Wisconsin Civics Exam. (We will make sure all seniors have passed this exam.)

The good news is now we have a date of a possible return. When I left school last week, schools were closed indefinitely. It’s reassuring to have a return date. Now, of course, we cannot count on that date and we will have to wait and see what will happen, but it is one of the small victories none the less.

You may be wondering what the expectations are of me and my colleagues during this time. Let me preface this by saying all school districts are handling this in their own way and everyone is doing the best we can. Here is what is expected of me:

Expectations – Teaching

  • Learning plans should not involve ANY new teaching and learning. They should ONLY include:
    • Enrichment activities – activities that can be done without new instruction and cover material already taught
    • Practice activities – activities that give students practice in skills already taught and learned
    • Journaling and reading are great examples of enrichment activities 
  • There will be absolutely NO grading of activities or grades entered into Skyward (this is an equity issue) unless:
    • It is late or makeup work that was assigned before spring break
    • It is work from a college course that allows new learning during this mandated closure
  • Instead of grades, please offer support/feedback about the work your students do.
  • Update plans as needed. Most of you outlined a weekly schedule of activities in your plans. DO NOT continue to add plans beyond what you already have, which should be through April 3rd.

Expectations – Communication

  • #1 priority right now is to continue corresponding with parents and students in the following ways:
    • Email – send an email to your students at least twice a week to touch base with them. Believe it or not, they do like hearing from you. Besides encouraging them to do the activities you assigned or answering their questions, maybe throw a joke or pic of yourself in the email, letting them know something about yourself (what your favorite CoronaVirus at-home activity is, what book you’re reading, what funny thing that has happened since spring break, etc.). Maybe even ask them those questions and have them respond to your email.
    • Phone calls if needed
    • Google Hangouts, Zoom, or other video conferencing platforms – this works really well but make sure larger groups have their microphones muted (unless you are talking) as it gets really difficult to understand the speaker. 

I’ll be honest, I am really struggling with these expectations. I love my job so much and I feel like I am being held back from actually teaching. On the other hand, I know that a good percentage of our population does not have access to the internet and would miss out on new instruction. I get it, I really do, but I was still very disheartened this morning.

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Small Victory

Until I received an unexpected email from a mom of one of my students. (Names are left out for confidentiality reasons)

Good morning!
    I just wanted to say THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH for your daily video messages! I cannot tell you how happy it makes E— to hear your voice and see you every day. You have made such a huge impact on her and she’s really missing school, engaging with her teachers and class mates. thank you for adding a bright spot in her day! You are definitely a blessing to so many students and absolutely a blessing to E—!
Thank you!!

Even now, reading the email makes me tear up a little bit. See for my current events class I used to do a morning briefing. I would listen to some podcasts as I got ready in the morning and when I got to school I would write down one local, two national, and three international news pieces for the class to discuss. This was my favorite part in class because it allowed the students to hear the news, ask questions, and research topics they were interested in. I didn’t want to give that up when we went online, so I decided to record daily briefings as well. Below is an example of the daily videos I am posting in class. This was the first one 3/19.

It was so uplifting to receive that email. I honestly had no idea if my students were even watching these daily updates. Turns out, some are!

Small Victories are still Victories

I think it is important to count the small victories in times like these. I know that as a teacher I really miss my kiddos. Yes, I call them my kiddos because they are so much more than just my students. I pour my heart and soul into this job and I care deeply about the well being of my kiddos. If they can get some sense of happiness, ease, or enjoyment from my classes while we are apart, then I know I am doing the best I can.

With so much love – Mrs. Pettit

Interested in hearing about the lessons I learned during online teaching, click here!

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