What worries me
There are so many questions and concerns I have, beyond teaching the lesson itself. If I want to give students a paper so we can break from the screen time, I worry about passing out papers or collecting them from students. I worry about them having to sharpen their pencil. I worry that a student did not clean their desk or the desk shield enough. I worry about it all.
When I’m looking in my classroom with my students, I worry that I’m losing the engagement of the students who are at home. That I’m doing them a disservice because I’m somehow not providing enough and that there’s something that I could do better. I asked myself: Should I create a video of myself teaching every single lesson and then have all of the students watch it? Should I have the students at home watch the video while I teach the students in my classroom? When I give a test, do I provide students in the classroom with a paper copy and create a digital assessment for the online students? Should I wait to give all students the test when they’re physically in the classroom so I can answer their questions and make sure they’re not looking up the answer somewhere? But what about the students who are fully virtual? There are so many things to consider each day.
I believe that if schools were doing the four days synchronously and one day asynchronously, then all students would be getting the same instruction, the same activities, they could hear and see the teacher at the same time. In the hybrid world, as it is in this definition of hybrid, I feel like because of the split, we are going to lose more of the students. If we would have them together four out of five days in virtual, I do truly believe that the hybrid cuts that in half. That might be an unpopular opinion but that is what I notice based on my own experience, my thought process, the conversations that I’ve had, and everything that I’ve seen shared from teachers over the last couple of months. It is how I am feeling during my own experience and I’m working on finding ways to improve.
My best tips
What has helped me with some of those initial challenges is bringing in some extra equipment and deciding on a few digital tools to use consistently. First, by using my HUE HD Pro Document camera, students could see me in the classroom and I didn’t have to stay in front of my netbook computer webcam. It also helps with being able to write on paper and share it on the screen for all students to see. Connecting a microphone to my desktop so that the sound could be heard in the classroom, students can speak to each other and I was not attached to my computer, and could move around the room. Making sure that I set everything up ahead of time, keeping a list nearby that reminded me of the time for each class, and a checklist for each period of what we need to do to maintain our safety.
Choose some different digital tools to provide interactive lessons. The tools that I’ve been using the most have been Buncee, Edpuzzle, Formative, Nearpod, Gimkit, and Synth. These are tools we have used for several years however they provide more possibilities for collaboration and are great for having students engage more in the lesson.
The first couple of days of hybrid I felt like I was not managing everything very well. Shifting from fully virtual to hybrid is a big transition for students and teachers and families of course. But when we started virtual, it took a few weeks to feel like I was in a better workflow, and then making the shift to hybrid I felt like I was starting all over again. Although this has been a challenging time with all of our transitions since March, we are much better prepared than we were then. Even if we do have to continue shifting between virtual, hybrid, and in-person, we have more experience and versatile tools available to us and our students that can help and we are building our skill set in the process.
There is no perfect solution but the best that we can do is to keep trying and being open to new ideas and tools and strategies. We need to embrace the challenges and times where we feel like we failed, and learn from it and move on.