Resource for Home

Many teachers, parents, and students are looking for ways to continue learning at home during school closings. There are many resources available online. I’m going to try and share an at-home resource at least once a week.

Here’s a great resource from Scholastic that teachers, parents, and students can use during Coronavirus shutdowns. Hope it helps.

Kids Miss School

Okay, maybe kids don’t miss every aspect of school, but it has become abundantly clear after a week of closing that students do miss school. My class uses a Google Classroom throughout the school year. I’ve been using that as a way to communicate with families during the Coronavirus shutdown.

What I love seeing is students starting their own threads in Google Classroom to ask each other questions. Questions like: What did everybody do today?

One of my young scholars wrote something that really made me smile.

One student asked: Who misses Cougar Bowls? Just me?

This student wanted to know who missed one of our regular elementary lunch options: Cougar Bowls – mashed potatoes, chicken, corn, and gravy in a bowl. Who wouldn’t miss that deliciousness? He posted this at almost 7:00 on a Monday night.

All of the conversations happening in our Google Classroom shows how much students miss school. They crave the structure, the social aspect that school brings, and the normalcy that school brings. Hopefully we can get back to normal soon. In the meantime, who misses Cougar Bowls? ME!

Students Coping with Stress

Every time I think I have my head wrapped around what is happening in our country right now, it seems things change. Every minute of every day seems to bring a new directive or set of guidelines. No matter how resilient a person you are, there’s a good chance all the uncertainty has you a little anxious.

This is also true for our students and children. So how do we know when children are stressed or anxious? The CDC has shared some signs to look for in children:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor school performance or avoiding school
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs

They also shared a few ways to help your child if they are feeling stressed or anxious:

  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
  • Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
  • Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
  • Be a role model.  Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.

That last point is so important. Be a role model. Children are going to learn from our lead. More is caught than taught, and that is especially true during difficult times.

A Difficult Time for Everybody

Yesterday my daughter asked me, “What’s a mortgage, and why won’t people be able to pay them?” While I always enjoy discussing personal finance, this was not the kind of question I was expecting from my 11-year-old. Why was a fifth grader asking about mortgage defaults? The answer: She heard about it when the news was on last night.

We are living in an unprecedented time right now. The increase in coronavirus cases in the United States has many states and school districts across the country closing schools for an extended period of time. My state, Pennsylvania, just cancelled state testing for this school year. All of this has raised a lot of questions and has parents and educators trying to determine the best way to help students while they’re not in school.

Parents are stressed, teachers are stressed, and policy makers are stressed. Knowing how stressful the unknown is for adults, imagine what our students are facing. Adults want to keep things as normal as possible while students are not in school, but life is anything but normal right now.

There are so many great resources available online and I’ve seen wonderful ideas from both educators and parents about how to fill a child’s day from beginning to end. While all these efforts are fantastic, I wonder if some of our kids would benefit from a little less “structure” and a little more self-directed learning.

There’s been so much talk over the last few years about maker spaces, Genius Hours, and other activities where students have more control over their learning. Is this the perfect time – while “school” is so up in the air – to let students choose what their learning will look like for even an hour a day or maybe an entire day?

When my daughter asked me about mortgage defaults, I realized we needed to take a step back and let her be a curious kid for the day. I wanted her to try and forget about all the uncertainty happening outside our house. Instead of the math, ELA, and science lessons we’ve done the last few days, today we explored an interest she’s had for a couple months – stop motion animation. We found some videos online, downloaded a recommended app, and spent the entire afternoon, and some of the evening, creating stop motion animation movies.

Our family room became an instant video studio.
One of the first problems we encountered was how to keep the iPad from moving. My daughter’s solution was to put it on the mantle. Not bad problem solving.

As we worked on her project, Anna realized pretty quickly that this was challenging work. She had to learn how to use the new app, develop a storyline, create all the visual elements, and solve problems along the way. We did not talk about factors and products, compare the theme of two stories, or determine the impact humans have had on ecosystems. And for today, that was okay, and I think it was just what she needed. In fact, I think it’s what more of our kids need right now.

This is my daughter’s first stop motion animation.

Smile

This is a crazy time in the world. Coronavirus has brought much of the world to a screeching halt. During all this uncertainty, it is important to try to find some lighthearted content to bring a smile to your face. Here are a few posts I’ve seen that are sure to lift your spirits during these challenging times.

Learning At Home

Many schools around the country are closing for extended periods of time. My state, Pennsylvania, is closed for at least two weeks. Washington state has already cancelled and the governor of Ohio said there’s a good chance schools in that state might not open again this academic year.

This has caused many educators and parents to wonder what learning at home will look like. There are some challenges to online learning, and I think the challenges we’re facing right now are going to make us take a long look at equity with regards to internet access. Those, however, are discussions for another time and another post.

With many trying to determine what learning will look like at home, there is a wonderful Google Doc shared by Katie Novak. It is a great resource for families at home, and could be a great starting point for teachers looking to create an online learning setup for their students.

Real Men Teach

I’m huge believer in education. The power of education can literally change somebody’s life. It can help move somebody out of poverty, solve injustices in the world, and find solutions to a multitude of problems facing humanity.

As important as learning is, the education system in the United States struggles with staff diversity. Statistics show that female elementary teachers outnumber their male counterparts 89% to 11%. Why does diversity matter? One report found that having at least one African American teacher in third through fifth grades reduced an African American student’s probability of dropping out of school by 29%.

This week, I saw a tweet from Nicholas Ferroni that mentions the need for more male teachers, and especially male teachers of color. When I started teaching I was the only male fourth grade teacher not just in my building but in my entire school district. I often attend elementary meetings and am the only male in the room.

Mr. Ferroni asks a great question: Dear Male Educators/Teachers, why did you become a teacher and why do you believe we need more men in teaching?

Another important question: Men, how do we get more of you to become teachers?

Accountability Partners

Accountability partners are a great way to keep you motivated and ensure that you are working out, reading, losing weight, saving money, or meeting any other goals.

When I need to decompress a quick walk around the block is a great way to reset my mind. There are so many times when I find other things that are “more important” than taking this time for myself. That’s when my accountability partner Max comes into play.

He’s always up for a walk no matter what the weather is like or what time of day it is. We will walk anywhere from a half mile to two miles. That time outside, away from computers, phones, and email, is usually what I need to get me in a good mindset. It is just Max and me with our thoughts. The best part about Max is his schedule is always open. Of course, that’s what happens when you’re a five-year-old Labradoodle.

Max is always ready for a walk.
Max leading the way on a one mile walk in our neighborhood.

Max is a great accountability partner. If we don’t go for a walk one day, I start to feel bad that he’s not getting enough exercise. I’ve walked more in the last five years than I did in the 15 years prior to getting Max. While you might not have a canine who loves to walk, there’s a friend, colleague, significant other, or somebody else in your life who would love to help you. When you have an accountability partner the fear of letting them down will often get you going. So go find somebody to keep you motivated. Be the best you and good luck!

Conferences

Spring conferences were tonight. That made me think of this list of from Scholastic. It is their five ground rules for successful conferences with parents.

  1. Begin the year by explaining how and when you’ll keep in touch with them. 
  2. Never feel pressured to make an important decision, evaluation, or assessment during a parent conference or conversation. 
  3. Let parents know they can trust you. Be discrete: Avoid discussing students with other parents or engaging in any negative faculty-room talk. I also make this a rule for par
  4. Assure parents that you will inform them immediately about any concerns you might have with regard to their child. 
  5. When presenting a concern to parents, ALWAYS be ready to explain what strategies you’ve already used to address the issue and what new strategies you are considering. 

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