Time Management, Tech Skills and ‘Air Hugs’ All Part of Jones’ New Routine in Teaching DECA Second-Graders

Teacher: Susy Jones

School: DECA

Grade/subject: 2nd Grade

Years in district: 14

What does a typical school day look like for you now? How do you organize your time?  

A typical school day is very different than before. Now, it’s about the computer. The first thing I do is check my district email messages and Class Dojo messages from parents. Then, I log in to Google Classroom and check off completed student assignments. Turning on my document camera and logging into Zoom comes next to ensure they are all working and ready for our class Zoom meeting. After that, the remainder of the day consists of answering parent questions and concerns, making phone calls home to students who didn’t attend our Zoom meeting and meeting with families on Zoom during my office hours where I assist in completing assignments posted online. Time management is more important than ever. I make sure I am available during school hours for families to contact me at any time; that is a priority. I organize my time based on the needs of my students; it’s different every day. 

What are some of the things you are doing during live instruction with students?  

During our live instruction, we begin the day with a daily check-in called “community circle.” Students rate themselves on a scale of 1-5 (1 being the worst day ever to 5 being the best day ever) and share with peers why they have given themselves their corresponding number. I typically ask an icebreaker question, too. We move onto our daily skills in English Language Arts, where I teach the skill and we apply it using an assigned worksheet or an online activity through Google Classroom. We take a quick 5-minute brain break and then move on to math. We review math facts using flashcards and whiteboards, and then then onto our math concept for the day prior to releasing them to work on asynchronous work. I keep a small group of students logged in to address English Language Development needs as well as teach our phonics lesson for the day. 

What are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make? 

The biggest adjustment has been trying to figure out what lessons can be taught well enough during our very short live instruction that students will be able to apply on their own at home. Trying to determine how much work is enough to make an impact on their education yet not too much so that families aren’t overwhelmed. Distance learning isn’t meant to be a burden on families, yet we still have to teach the standards. 

What are your favorite teaching tools? Why?

I am fortunate to have a document camera that I use daily. The document camera allows me to project worksheets and/or examples of work where students complete and follow along from home. The document camera allows me to show my students how to complete an assignment as if we were in class. I also am using Screencastify to record my lessons and send them to students. They can re-watch the lessons as many times needed to be able to master the skill. I also use Screencastify to help push out technology tutorials for families who may have a difficult time accessing websites and/or programs from home. 

Are there teaching techniques you’re using now that you’ll be able to apply in your classrooms when in-person classes resume? 

I plan on continuing to post assignments for students to complete using Google Classroom. I began using Google Classroom a couple years ago with certain assignments in class. Now that I’ve become used to using it, I plan on using it more in class when students return. I think it can give students a different perspective on learning and allows them more creativity when completing assignments.  

What are your biggest concerns about students and distance learning? 

My concerns aren’t any different than any other teacher or parent. How do we ensure our students are making growth during distance learning?  How can our children still acquire the social and emotional connection through distance learning? As I plan my live instruction, I take these questions into consideration and try to apply them during our time together. 

How often do you interact with parents? What are their most common questions?  

Parent communication is daily and often. Typically, parents message me throughout the day using Class Dojo. Most of their questions relate to their Google Classroom assignments. Google Classroom is new to most of our second-graders and their parents. It can be tricky to navigate until it becomes familiar. Most parents request assistance in how to help their child complete the assignment using this new platform. 

Do you have a favorite distance learning story to share? 

During one of our first Zoom meetings, a student expressed how she missed giving her teachers hugs while on campus. I offered to give her an “air hug,” which she gladly reciprocated. We now end our meetings with “air hugs” to each other. I can’t think of a better way to end our meetings. 

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