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Funniest Home Videos—Teachers Share Trials, Tribulations, Tips, and True Stories from Distance Learning

A virtual forum hosted by CEA brought elementary school classroom teachers, special education teachers, media specialists, literacy coaches, school social workers, and others together to share tips, tricks, and challenges—and a few laughs—related to distance learning.

Among the hurdles teachers reported:

  • “Different schools and districts are comparing themselves to each other, but we don’t all have the same capacity and resources.”
  • “If we have to do this in the fall, we need time—teachers need time, teams need time—to really plan and make this work. We are already finding ourselves working long days and nights, often until 11 p.m.”
  • “The level of documentation for special education teachers is through the roof. It took me four hours to update my assignment log and parent contact log. I’m working 10-to-14-hour days, seven days a week. It’s a good thing my own children are grown, but many of my colleagues also have school-age children at home.”
  • “Some Facebook groups have become pretty hostile, so set your boundaries.”
  • “One student told me she left her apartment yesterday for the first time in eight weeks. How can that be good?”
  • “My own son has regressed a little bit during this time, needing me—his parent—around all the time.”
  • “I’m afraid we’re either going to see a zillion new referrals for special education in the fall or none at all. And neither is a good scenario.”
  • “Student engagement has not been tackled or figured out, so grading is going to be a challenge.”
  • “There is a huge difference in live versus asynchronous learning within and among districts. Some districts have legal guidance prohibiting certain things, such as live video conferencing, while others allow it. There’s no consistency.”
  • “As a school media specialist, I’ve been on the tech end of it, rolling out Chromebooks, figuring out how to get them handed out, helping students and parents learn how to use them, getting families access to Wi-Fi. Not every parent or child has the same facility with technology. Not every family has the same access.”
  • “I had a parent say this about his student: ‘I had no idea he would be like this. I am so sorry.’”
  • “You can definitely tell that some students are getting a lot of help from parents while others are left on their own.
  • “In the beginning, we were told that we didn’t have to track students’ assignments, but now we are having to track all of this and to pick standards for grading first-graders with all these varying degrees of help at home.”
  • “Sometimes you are seeing students who were having trouble composing a complete sentence and are now submitting whole opinion pieces with an introduction, body, and conclusion. I had a parent admit to me that she’s been doing all of her second-grader’s work all week.”
  • “What is this going to look like in September, if we are still doing virtual learning and I have five-and six year olds that I don’t know? At least with this class, I had more than half the school year to get to know these little ones. I just am so concerned about what’s going to happen when these very young children are new to this, and I’ve never met them and have to teach them this way.”

Southington teacher Gretchen Yatzook says that educators sometimes make distance teaching look too easy. She shared this real-life outtake (below) of an attempt to read a story to her students online while her own two kids had a meltdown

Teachers also traded tips and tricks they’ve picked up to make distance learning easier and more effective. These included:

  • “Zoom is only when I want to meet with the entire class, because it’s too hard to see everyone’s facial expressions and gestures and truly read a child’s faces. We have to have a parent present in the background or close by, and we also need small groups. Google Hangouts is a much better platform for teaching, especially if meeting in small groups of no more than four.”
  • “When you’re working in Google slides, go into presentation mode and you’ll get a cursor that’s very visible—a red dot that makes it easy for you to point things out to students.”
  • “If you’re using Google Classroom and have trouble reaching some students, if you click where it says ‘Students,’ you can pick just one student, and your comments land on just that individual student’s page.”
  • “I have Zoom chats with my students every day, and each week on Friday, we play games that are fun, interactive, and connect with what we’re learning. A site I like for games is https://meaningfulmama.com/fun-games-to-play-over-zoom-or-facetime.html.”
  • “To make you more comfortable with video platforms, try using a virtual background so that you don’t need to show the inside of your home.”
  • “From Audible to Capstone, there are plenty of free resources teachers can use right now.”
  • “We set expectations for going live versus using recorded videos. We thought about connections between teachers and kids. We started with read-alouds and announcements that could be recorded, and then teachers hosted one-to-one or small-group Google Meets with students.”
  • “Flipgrid has been really great for book buzzes, creating videos for book clubs and small groups.”

On the lighter side, teachers shared some of their funniest moments, which have included younger siblings appearing on the screen; special appearances by pets, including cats, dogs, snakes, tarantulas, rabbits, and ducks; disembodied parents just off-screen handing their children pencils and papers; and impromptu haircuts during live meetings.

As for teachers’ own peculiar moves, a few reported some of their quirkiest quarantine purchases:

  • “I just bought dental tools to scrape tartar off my own teeth? What is that? I’m not a dentist!”
  • “I bought a butt cushion. And something to help me text from bed. And a portable standing desk.”
  • “A puzzle and sweatpants. The sweatpants were actually too small.”
  • “A tub of dice, Gas-X, and a face mask.”
  • “I accidentally bought Region B Blu-ray discs, so then I had to buy a European Blu-ray player.”

Participants were grateful for the chance to connect, unwind, and learn from each other.

“This was informative and lively,” remarked one teacher. “It was great to talk to people who love the things you love.”

“Thank you all for the smiles and laughter,” said another. “My face feels great, and my heart feels happy.”

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