Monday, May 3, 2021

Guests in the Online Classroom

 Friday, April 30 marked the 30th week of this school year. Of these 30 weeks, 10 of them have been online. (6 were in January-February 2021 and 4 so far have been in April.) My students, who have been working on rates and ratios, will recognize that this means that the amount of time spent online compared to in-person is a 1:2 ratio. Or, they might say that 1/3 of our total time has been online. This is hard on the students but even more challenging for the students in virtual school, who have been learning online for 100% of this school year. Regardless of the numbers, learning through a computer instead of in a classroom with friends still takes a toll on everyone's social, emotional, and mental health. 

To make things engaging as we enter the home stretch, which equals about 8 weeks of school remaining, I've tried to jazz things up by bringing guest teachers and visitors into our online class. It's not quite the same as a field trip, but it adds a new energy to the online environment. I want to thanks the three that I've had recently.

Mary Maliszewski

Mary is my daughter. She has just finished her third year of undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. She is an English major with a minor in Creative Writing and Media Studies. She has popped by unofficially a few times prior to this to interact with my students, as a vehicle for students to practice asking questions and to provide a persuasive argument on watching a certain book-to-film adaptation. This time, she was present for a longer period, to give a short presentation on role-playing games. The plan is to incorporate RPGs into our language program, for those students interested in trying it out. This will count towards some of their reading, writing, oral, media and mathematics (probability unit) marks. 

Neil Andersen

Neil Andersen is the president of the Association for Media Literacy and a former TDSB teacher. He had a wonderful idea about a media literacy project that my students could do and I enthusiastically welcomed him in to introduce it to the class. The topic is the creation of Digital Media Nutrition Labels. I don't want to say too much more about the project, because it will be revealed more on the AML website. The students did a bang-up job creating them.

Francis Ngo

Francis Ngo is a friend of mine and one of the members of the newly formed TDSB Digital Content Team. Our upcoming partnership will be an interesting one. Usually I am the teacher-librarian in collaborative ventures with other educators, but this time, Francis will play the role of the TL while I act as the classroom teacher. We plan on co-planning and co-teaching for my current Grade 5-6 math unit on Patterns and Probability. I had the pleasure of teaching with Francis for a single year together, but this was a number of years ago. My Grade 6 students were in JK when he was there, so it is like he is a new face to many of them.

Another guest I should thank is Sheila Whitmore, a retired teacher who works as an occasional teacher. She has supply taught in my class a few times this year, including twice in April online. I appreciate how willing Sheila is to jump in to this environment and support the students. 

I've got a pile of marking and planning to complete, but I need to be patient and kind with myself, just as much as I need to be with my students. My other regular "guest", SERT teacher Renee Keberer, has been a huge help, especially with her Herculean efforts marking the health test and tracking our social studies student progress; she eases the pressure off me. Let's hope that the last eight weeks will be ones with happy memories, even if they aren't generated in the ways I had hoped.

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