Diary of a Math Teacher: Quarantined, Part II

Content Developer

Ahh, the good old days, when I thought this was more temporary. Looking back on my previous post about teaching in quarantine, how young I was! How little I knew! 

It's undeniable that some things are truly flourishing in this new environment. Others are not. It's basically daisy-petal-picking at this point. Here are my takeaways from our second month at home:

  1. I love it: My colleagues have great ideas. We have a newly-created Slack channel where we collaborate, and—despite over-saturation of sourdough loaf photos—I'm gaining insight into my colleagues' teaching choices that are truly inspiring. One teacher shared her trick of enabling her Zoom waiting room so that she can admit students one at a time to personally welcome them to class. It adds time, but who cares? Connection is paramount.
  2. I'm learning to make instructions interactive. My students' reading comprehension mysteriously evaporates when it comes to my homework directions. After the 17th submission of incomplete homework—and the 25th chorus of "Oh, I thought I finished it"—I have learned to make my instructions interactive in two ways.

    First, I'm writing my instructions in Google Forms, followed by multiple choice options like: A) I definitely understand the paragraph above! or B)You know, I didn't initially understand those instructions, but then I stopped looking at my phone and actually focused, and now I understand! (Students think this is hilarious and I've seen improvement.)

    Second, I have made drag-and-drop emoji checklists as a slide in my Google Slide deck homeworks. Students have told me, "I LOVE THIS."

Emoji Checklist

  1. I’m becoming enamored of Flipgrid. Having students capture their mathematical thinking with video is allowing me to catch things that I would otherwise miss in remote learning. I can limit their videos to a blessedly short one minute... and then (of course), one student just films three separate videos because "she wasn't done talking." I kind of love that too. I also kind of hate it. It's a strange time. 
  2. I love it not: I’m spending so much more time teaching. Don't get me wrong: I love my profession. I just wish that I wasn't reverting back to Year One of being in the classroom, where I'd pour my heart and soul and spend three hours toiling over a worksheet that took my students nine bored minutes to complete. I stopped committing that offense years ago, but now I'm back at the scene of the crime.
  3. I love it: I am having to be more diligent about differentiation, in both directions. I am finally seeing my students as the individuals they are rather than the lump-sum sitting in front of me. Remote learning has elevated the sense of individualism, and—as a result—I'm crafting couture homework for certain students. It takes SO much more time. But it's SO worth it

School's almost over, and I am alternately grateful and saddened. I've had fantastical ideas where I drive to each student's house and slingshot a lovingly prepared arts-and-math packet into their yards, driving away with my windows down, blasting "Bittersweet Symphony." And then I remember that it's still rainy in Portland, and that I don't really like that song.

I will never teach the same way again, knowing what I know now about what's possible with online learning. But mostly, I will never take for granted a student who wants a high-five, a hug, or a fist-bump between classes; who needs me to hold their books while they situate their backpack; or who throws a piece of paper and misses the recycling bin. Anything tactile? I'll take it.

Related toolkits

Learn more now with materials from these toolkit and resource collections: