A typical day in the life of a teacher is carefully planned for, yet somewhat unpredictable. Each day there is wonder and anticipation… Wonder about each students’ agency and engagement? Wonder about how students will solve problems and take action? Wonder if students will be excited to learn? Today is no different. As teachers across the country navigate school closures in the midst of COVID 19 Pandemic, teachers continue to wonder in service of their students. Wonder about how students will demonstrate agency and engagement in a digital learning space? Wonder about how students and families will solve problems and take action for learning? Wonder how to maintain excitement for learning?
Sarah Love, PEBC lab host, is one of those teachers. Sarah is tackling this new “normal” in a positive way. In a recent conversation with Sarah she said, she is taking in each day with a new perspective. She’s striving to value the small moments, moments she feels pass her by when life gets too busy. Sarah has enjoyed family meals and conversations that have been able to take place as everyday life has hit the pause button, temporarily. “These are the moments I miss when life seems to get busy with everything else that needs to get done. We’ve been able to go for walks since the weather was nice. We’ve had conversations about things that we don’t normally have time to talk about. I am trying to look at each day and what’s positive about it versus the negative that’s happening around us. I value this time to slow down.” Life doesn’t always allow us time to hit the pause button, but with our current national situation the pause button was just what Sarah needed to find the silver lining in the midst of chaos.
Sarah is a talented teacher in the Cherry Creek School District. She has dedicated herself to this profession to make a difference for students. Her work with PEBC has been a beautiful partnership in her journey of supporting students in the pursuit of understanding. She strives to meet each and every learner on their journey, not hers. Sarah is taking this new situation we have before us in stride. She is determined to provide some form of learning and instruction while away from the traditional school setting. While her district has not reached a final determination about how they will do this, Sarah is committed to her students. Sarah has previously used Zoom and plans to utilize this in some way to keep her student community together as best she can, “Zoom provides a way for students to be able to see each other and be able to feel like they are together,” Through Zoom, Sarah feels she can still implement the workshop model for instruction and then move students to break out groups to further their learning. Through these breakout groups, students can have small group conversations and she can pop into their groups, listen in, and provide additional support as needed. An additional bonus for Sarah right now is her student teacher, as two adults will be able to navigate and support students in this online learning environment. She is excited to plan lessons with her student teacher and “have a go” in this virtual learning environment. She anticipates a bit of a learning curve for all, but is excited to give it a try.
Not only does Sarah plan to use Zoom, but she has also used Generation Genius and Mystery Science. Both of these websites provide hands on, interactive ways for learners to engage with science content. Through these websites learners have to create ideas to solve problems. Her class has actually used Mystery Science with their 5th grade book buddies. Together, they have built their “buddy” community while engaging in real life science problem solving.
Sarah is approaching this new adventure in an extremely positive manner. While we can’t change the current situation we are facing, we certainly can have an impact on how we respond. And Sarah is responding with appreciation of time, time with her family, and time of how she will spend it with her students while we are away from our traditional school setting. So, if you are wondering about your students and their needs, you might find inspiration in some of these resources and embracing this challenge with curiosity and positivity.
Heather Kuzma is Director of Education for PEBC. She consults with K-12 educators, in Colorado and nationally, across the content areas. She supports teachers, teams, instructional coaches, and administrators through coaching, facilitating, and collaborating around professional learning. Heather integrates her training in Advanced Cognitive Coaching to engage learners in advancing the teaching profession.