Saturday, May 29, 2021

I Got Through It

My school year has come to an end...finally, and quite honestly, I am currently running a gamut of emotions about it all. The following best describes how I feel about this past year:


Now that I have slowed down and am beginning to process it all, I feel raw. I feel like I am suffering some small form of PTSD, because I am finally allowing myself to feel all that I experienced this year. I feel mad. I feel frustrated. I guess that I did a good job of repressing all that I was feeling and just plowed through this year.   

  • Was this year ideal? ABSOLUTELY NOT IN ANY WAY! 
  • Did I "lose" many students in this digital setting whom I probably wouldn't have in a regular, face-to-face setting? ABSOLUTELY!
  • Did I experience frustration in administrative policies during this pandemic? ABSOLUTELY!
  • Did I have a clue of what I was doing in the classroom? ABSOLUTELY NOT!

In the moment of it all, these past 10 months have been SO HARD as a teacher, because I have never had to do something like this before while simultaneously also adapting to a pandemic. There were so many times where I wanted to leave the world of education during this and questioned my role as a teacher.

BUT when I take a step back from it all and truly reflect on these past 10 months, I am absolutely amazed, because quite honestly, I got through it. As I have said before, there is only so much which I can control, but I can control my own actions and reactions. And if I do not look for the positives in all of this, then I will become bitter and will not be able to move on, since I will still be stuck in this moment. I need to celebrate my victories here (because they certainly do exist in this situation) so that later on, I can reflect back on this and realize that this situation has created a foundation for me and has prepared me for future "get-through-its."

Quite honestly, I have learned that life is a continuous series of "get-through-its," of which some are small, some are large, some are daily, some occur sporadically, and some are long-term. As much as we want to deny this, no one is every going to be immune from any type of trial, tribulation, or suffering. But I am learning to "welcome" (and I use that word loosely with much hesitancy) "get-through-its," because trials, tribulations, and suffering will show you exactly of what you are made. If you allow them, trials and tribulations will cause your own personal shortcomings and faults to come to the surface. Covid caused everything to come to a standstill for me as a teacher and to take a long look at how I was reacting, to give up control over so much of this, to throw out that which was chaff, and to make firm that which needed to remain. I also know that I will have a TON of "get-through-its" in my future, so I may as well accept it.

That is why it is important for me to look back at my "got-through-its" and to celebrate my victories as a teacher this year:

  • I did the best that I could in light of the situation, and very early on, I resolved to be an "adequate" teacher this year. As a result of those self-imposed boundaries, I felt so free from any internal pressures and self-imposed expectations which I would place on myself as in past years.
  • I was truly stretched as a teacher this year in how to teach concurrently and to adapt my curriculum to this weird, hybrid learning environment, but wow, I learned just how "stretchable" I am. Because this pandemic situation has been so fluid these past 15 months, so has teaching. However, much like muscles adapt to more weight over time, I have learned that my borders of what I am capable are so much further than they were previously.
  • Apparently students got something out of my class, as these past few days, I have received a great number of emails and Remind messages from students, thanking me for being their teacher this year. Honestly, pre-Covid when we were 100% face-to-face, I rarely received any type of thank-you message at the end of the year, so I am cherishing these.
  • Back in July, I truly did not think that I would be able to do this. Fast forward ten months later, and it is over. There is a sense of accomplishment and joy in that. I got through it. 

This summer I do not want to think about anything academic or lesson planning for next year. I need time to heal. I need time away as a teacher. I need some space from education.

So for those of you who have yet to finish the school year, it is almost over, and the end is in sight. I completely understand and empathize that you feel emotionally raw and wounded, and so many of those wounds are still hemorrhaging. And as you drag yourself towards that finish line, clawing into that ground with every ounce of strength, I will be there cheering you on with this simple message: you can get through this.

As you reflect on this past year, what victories can you celebrate?

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

End of the Year Survey - The Hybrid Year

Normally at the end of every school year, I give my students a survey to garner feedback about the past school year in terms of what activities worked in helping them acquire the language, what do they want to to see more of next year, what they enjoyed, etc. This year, because of the teaching situation, I was very hesitant to give students a survey since this school year was, for lack of better words, so weird and as a teacher, I really had no clue what I was doing. However, I still gave the survey to my Latin 3 students (I only teach Latin 2 and 3 this year, and we have not done a survey for Latin 2) but with revised questions. I was very surprised and touched by their responses. Let me share what some of my Latin 3 students had to say about this year in Latin:

1) This year's Latin class has been very different from your previous Latin classes due to the pandemic. What are some digital activities which you enjoyed or helped you learn Latin?

  • The Gimkit and the Pictionary dictionary really helped with learning the words and phrases.
  • The Nearpod assignments helped a lot they engaged me and also taught me the Latin.
  •  I enjoyed playing Gmkits (sic). It was a fun competitive game that allowed us to compete while still learning.
  • i thought that the assesment where we would hear the reading and have to match it with the correct sentence helped a whole lot for my understanding of the passage.
  • I enjoyed booksnaps because I am a visual learner.
  • The assignments involving getting pictures and being creative
  • I enjoyed doing dictionary pictionaries and answering questions about the readings on Google Forms. 

2) What are some face-to-face activities from previous Latin classes which you missed this year and would like to see return next year?

  • Latin bingo, story scavenger hunt
  • Some Face to face activities which we missed this year due to covid, that I would like to see return for other students next year, i'm graduating so I won't be here, is the activity where we used whiteboards with expo markers to illustrate sentences from stories. I missed doing that. Also when we would draw the definition of words and then they would be pasted on the wall for future references, which was a cool little activity as well.
  • The highlighter game
  • I miss that drawing game where there would be teams, and each team would have to draw a specific scenario, and one team wins best drawing. I also miss the basketball game. I also would like to see that guessing game with the people who sit at the front draw, and the teams guess.
  • The thing that I really missed was just being able to work in groups and the group activities.
  • To be honest, I don't really miss any of the physical activities we did the last few years in Latin class. This new chill atmosphere to the class is what I prefer most.
  • I missed Hot Seat, Trashketball, and teaming up and drawing pictures that represented the sentences on the projector. 
  • Brain breaks and drawing stuff on whiteboards.

3) As difficult as this school year has been in many ways, what did you enjoy most about Latin class this year?

  • I enjoyed the stories. This year had the most interesting stories. I also appreciated the use of different learning platforms like gimkit, nearpod, and more. 
  • I enjoyed the short assignments on google classroom, they were easy, not much writing involved. 
  • The fact the assignments could be done at many times and in many places, there was the time in school but nothing held anyone back from doing it whenever they thought was best.
  • It was still very fun and engaging 
  • I enjoyed that the class was fun even though it was digital.
  • the flexibility with due dates and how we can resubmit our assignments to get a higher score.
  • I loved how Mr. Toda was very chill and understanding while making sure we were actually learning and having  fun. 
  • Having some asynchronous days for when the workload for other classes can sometime pile up.
  • I enjoyed the versatility this year. The activities ranged from drawing to answering questions and it was doable. This class, unlike many others, was easygoing and it wasn't so much of a load. It was definitely a class that helped to relax a little bit in that I could find images or draw. This is what I mostly enjoyed. 

So now as this school year is ending and as I begin to look ahead to the next school year, based on this feedback, the question for me is what will my post-digital classroom look like? What are digital aspects which I wish to keep, because they worked and students found helpful?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Is My Classroom Better Now Because of Technology?

These past months of teaching digitally in a hybrid learning environment and of having to rely so heavily now on technology for delivery of instruction and for digital assignments have definitely taught me a lot. I will say that I am quite proficient now in Google Classroom and Zoom, two web app tools which I had never used before July 2020! So now with only 1.5 weeks left in the school year and as I look ahead to next year, I have to ask myself: Is my classroom better now because of technology?

As I ask myself this question, keep in my mind that I am viewing this through my own lens of personal classroom experience and of having a graduate degree in Instructional Technology, so I have both personal experience and academic theoretical knowledge on the topic. 

I think that we need to be careful when we think about technology facilitation in our curriculum because it is easy to make a blanket statement by responding with a hearty "yes, my classroom is better now because of technology. Look at what I am using!" Rather, we should divide our technology implementation into two categories: 

  1. Technology which makes my job easier as a teacher.
  2. Technology which aids in student acquistion of material, raising critical thinking among students, and allowing students to create new meaning with the material.
Allow me to explain this further. When implementing any type of technology or web app tool, the question to ask is cui bono - who's to gain from this? And honestly, there is no clear cut answer for this when evaluating technology facilitation because in and of itself, hopefully classroom technology usage fulfills both categories when used properly. However, just because one may use a learning management system such as Google Classroom, that does not necessarily equate to facilitating student learning; its primary student usage may be solely for turning in digital assignments and viewing grades. Throwing technology at students does not equal proper implementation.

if I am going to assess my own technology implementation this year, here is what it looks like:

Technology which makes my job easier as a teacher

Technology which aids in student acquistion of material, raising critical thinking among students, and allowing students to create new meaning with the material

  1. Google Classroom

  2. Zoom

  3. Brightspace learning management system

  4. Remind

  1. GimKit

  2. Blooket

  3. Movie Talks

  4. EdPuzzle

  5. Whiteboard.fi

  6. Screencastify

  7. Google Docs

  8. Google Slides

  9. Nearpod

  10. YouTube


While I can pride myself in that the 2nd column is longer than the first, I must then ask myself: how closely did these web app tools correspond with the higher levels of the SAMR model (the Bloom's taxonomy model for Instructional Technology)? Did thse web app tools actually lead to student acquisition of material? Or was I just entertaining students? Could I have achieved the same student learning outcome without technology? Was only lower-order thinking activated in students when using these web app tools?

Of course, this past year's teaching situation dictated a full "technology-centered" classroom, but next year looks like we will be returning to a somewhat, pre-Covid, face-to-face learning environment. What are web app tools which I will continue to use? What are web app tools which I will bring back that this year's teaching situation would not allow?

I do not profess to have any answers to my original question of "Is my classroom better now because of technology?" but this type of reflection has been very helpful to me as I look ahead to next year. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

I am So Ready

With just 3 weeks left in the semester,

  • I am so ready for this hybrid teaching situation to be over.
  • I am so ready to NOT be "chained" to my laptop screen in order to teach both in-person and digital students simultaneously.
  • I am so ready to be mobile again in order to interact with students, instead of being 100% stationary behind my desk.
  • I am so ready to be "teaching to the eyes" again, because quite honestly in this hybrid situation, I have NO clue what students (especially Zoom students) are understanding and not understanding.
  • I am so ready to tell a story to students in the target language, to have them act it out, to ask them questions, and to do PQA's AND to move around when I do all of that.
  • I am so ready to NOT have to rely completely 100% on digital assignments and activities in order to accommodate both in-person and digital assignments at the same time.
  • I am so ready to finally get to know my students personally and to learn of their interests and strengths and for them to get to know me.
  • I am so ready to do face-to-face interactive activities with students again which Covid, Zoom, and hybrid-teaching have made impossible.
  • I am so ready for my classroom to be arranged like it was pre-Covid and not be spaced out in the way which it is now where I feel like students are so distant from me.
  • I am so ready to not be teaching wearing a mask which I feel so impedes my level of communication and comprehensibility.
I also understand that this time will eventually come. I just need to be patient.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The Smoke Seller - Movie Talk

Here is another one of my go-to movie talks which I tend to use quite regularly over the years, because I like the plot and because I can manipulate the animated short to fit the vocabulary which I need for a particular reading. Words which can be targeted in this movie talk are young man, old woman, dog, drives a car, city/town, approaches, goes/comes to, sells, life, miserable, better than, citizens/people, wears clothes, transforms/changes, and airplane.



Observations

  1. I really like the music in this animated short!
  2. I think that this is made by the same animators as Snack Attack, because the young men in both animated shorts look strikingly similar! I did not catch that, but students have certainly pointed that out to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Dragonboy - Movie Talk

This is one of my all-time, go-to movie talks. I really like the story, and because I have done this movie talk so many times, I can manipulate it to preview whatever vocabulary words which I need. I just have to remember which levels have seen this Movie Talk and when! It is a great animated short for level 1 for basic words like boy, girl, take, flower, make, see, love, wants, has, happy, sad, and angry, but I have also used it in upper levels for very specialized words such as attack, punch, seek out, chase, pretend, princess/queen, leader, kingdom, dragon, roar, and cruel. 



Observations

  1. I have found that students really like this animated short. 
  2. Every time I do this Movie Talk, students will always ask, "Where the heck is the teacher during the play?! Are there any grownups there?!!!"

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Using Blooket

I feel like I have totally come late to the party on this web app tool, but near the end of last semester, I was introduced to the website Blooket. Around November 2020, the German teacher at my school shared it with my department, and Rachel Ash (one of my Latin colleagues) then created a novella chapter review for our Latin 2 team. My students really enjoyed the different activities which we played, so it is now one of my digital web app tools which I use for review. 


Blooket has so many different games and activities which you can assign students to play either as a whole group or as individual work. The best part is that you only have to create one set of questions, and then you can choose which activities you want to do with those questions.


I will usually do 2-3 different activities in a classroom lesson.

Racing
Usually, I will first start out with Racing, which is simply students answering questions, and if they answer correctly, they can move forward one space in the race course. The more quickly one answers questions correctly, the faster one will move across the screen. However, as you answer questions, you gain chances for random rewards, which can move players up a space, players can choose to move leaders back a space, and players can shield themselves from attacks. I like doing this activity first, because it exposes students to the questions in a quick 4-5 minute game. This will prepare them for the longer game which we will play next (I learned this from Rachel too).

Gold Quest
This is a really fun game to play for about 7-9 minutes! I tell students that they will either love this game or absolutely hate it, because it is all based on chance and just because one may know all of the answers, it does not mean that person will necessarily win. 

The premise is very simple: players will answer a question and if they answer correctly, they can choose from one of three treasure chests. Each of the treasure chests has a different reward or "punishment," e.g., 100 gold pieces, lose 10% of your gold, triple your gold, take 25% of another player's gold, swap gold with another player, etc. Because this is based on chance, no one has an advantage over another in terms of being able to win. It all depends on which treasure chests the players choose.

There was a holiday version of Gold Quest released for December, and that was a lot of fun to play!

Observations
  1. I will usually make about 35-45 questions, which means that students are getting LOTS of repetitions of questions during an activity.
  2. I have found that students enjoy playing Blooket more than GimKit. I think because it does not necessarily cater to the students who know how to "game" GimKit to get to a million points within a minute, so it seems more fair. Also depending on the game, everyone has a fair shot at winning due to the chance factor.
  3. I always play along with students. Just because I know all of the answers (and questions!) does not mean that I will win the game. On the contrary, I usually am the one who ends up doing all of the heavy lifting, only to have my points taken away from me by other players. 
  4. Some of the games have rewards such as blurring everyone else's screen so that they cannot read what is on it, putting trees all over the screen, minimzing screens, turning the screen upside down, icing players' moves for 10 seconds. It is a lot of fun! 
  5. During this hybrid teaching situation, Blooket has been a godsend!
  6. Although it is "free," there is a limit to how many "blooks" you can create with a free account. For a price, you can upgrade to an unlimited amount of blooks and exclusive features. I suppose you could rewrite existing blooks to make new ones?
  7. A lot of these activities can be assigned as individual homework - great for asynchronous learning days!
  8. Much like GimKit, I will do Blooket every 5-6 weeks in order to preserve the novelty.
Have you used any of the other Blooket activities in your classes such as Cafe or Battle Royale? Let me know how your students liked them.