What are you already doing?

This year has held some regrets for me.

What I thought was going to happen didn’t happen.

What I thought I would be good at, I wasn’t that confident in.

What I thought I could manage well ended up getting lost in the shuffle.

What I thought I planned for changed too many times to make sense.

When I felt successful, I only got to enjoy the feeling for a week.

When I learned a new skill, I was enlightened to others I hadn’t figured out.

I knew this year would be unpredictable while teaching, and I’m pretty sure you knew that, too; still, I had no idea how many times I would have to “pivot” (I no longer think of “Friends” when I hear this word) and how many times I’d have to restart the year, redesign my classroom, change plans, and even move rooms! I really had no idea what was in store for me back in August. Which is why I’m telling myself and I’m telling you, “Give yourself some credit!”

I mean, I have done some pretty amazing things this year despite the circumstances. I’m proud of myself for trying new things and doing activities with kids. I have prioritized the most important things to me: reflection, morning meetings, games, repeated practice, small groups, stations, 1-1 conferences, projects and other meaningful work. I do think I’ve made progress, and I know students have learned. It has been difficult and crazy and exhausting, but I know I can make it through the rest of the year. You can, too!

Here are some things I’m proud of from this school year. I wonder if you can connect to some of it:

  • I did multiple project based learning units including where kids created their own “Scholastic News” article on a research topic of their own choice and a weather report news show
  • I used Wixie for the first time
  • I tried out the same game (Human Calculator; read my post on Educational Games to learn how to play) in multiple different ways and kept trying to embed movement into the classroom
  • I did yoga and mindfulness activities both virtually and in person
  • I found fun ways to have virtual class parties (compliments for Valentine’s Day with Slides Mania templates, virtual snow globes and gingerbread houses, bingo, crafts with supplies they picked up, and more)
  • I did my first breakout room using Google Sites
  • I got kids books even when it was hard (I even was able to let them choose their own books of interest which was hard to organize but worth it)
  • I taught kids how to use their screen share feature and all of the video conferencing tools so that they could work with one another well
  • I got kids invested in projects where so that for most final products 100% of kids turned in a product they were happy with
  • I used the 15 minute buffer time of virtual entry to build connections so that every day kids were willing to share about themselves when they entered class
  • I used my whole 30 minutes for morning meeting and didn’t try to sacrifice that time for more academics
  • I didn’t talk to kids as if the year was lost or bad or not worthwhile; I maintained a sense of normalcy for them.
  • I addressed the January 6th insurrection, anti-racism, Black History Month, AAPI History Month, and more by reading books and having discussions in a safe place
  • I kept my hours working to a reasonable time frame and didn’t overburden myself
  • I decorated my room in the way I could while following protocols and made it feel welcoming
  • I showed student work in the hallways once in person
  • I gave kids time to do artwork in person because they barely have art class and many didn’t have supplies at home; we shared our creations with one another
  • I split my time between virtual and in person students and made sure they felt connected to me; I focused on one group at a time to make this happen
  • I trusted other adults in my room to work with kids and support them
  • I adjusted to different class numbers of in person students multiple times – getting new desks arranged, moving people around, creating new seating charts
  • I moved classrooms and materials and didn’t agonize over what I would need in the moment; I trusted I would have enough with me
  • I relied on my teammate to give ideas, make packets, submit proposals for books, fill out forms, plan entire content areas, and I didn’t try to control her (this is good for me; I often want to make my own decisions and do my own thing)
  • I communicated weekly to parents with plans and updates ahead of time
  • I prepped a week at a time and was able to plan in batches
  • I got most kids to complete all of their missing work before the end of grading periods by creating prioritized checklists for them
  • I utilized the online resources provided to us as a district/school
  • I did stations virtually when I thought it would be really hard and most kids completed their independent work and participated
  • I tried bitmoji classrooms, fun activities I saw online, and different platforms
  • I used Flipgrid more than ever and was able to try different types of prompts several times
  • I taught students how to email for help and solve their own tech issues
  • I encouraged students to help one another that created a community of care and support even while virtual
  • I got to know students and could tell you details about their interests, hobbies, and family even when I hadn’t met them in person
  • I taught a brand new grade level to me and learned different curriculum
  • I taught Fundations for the first time and kept going even when the trainer told me if I couldn’t do it consistently or well to not bother (I’m a big fan of some is better than none)
  • I found virtual manipulatives that worked for kids such as base ten blocks and letter boards and students used them consistently with great success

Honestly, there’s probably more I could add to that list. I am not going to list all of the things I didn’t do, all of the ways I didn’t meet my expectations, all of the things I wish had been smoother or faster or better or easier. That’s not what’s important. What’s important is that I prioritized students, and I taught this year in a way I can be proud of. This year wasn’t my best. I’d be surprised if it was anyone’s best. That’s okay. I know what I did mattered to the kids in front of me, and I didn’t give up on them. I have already done a lot this year. You have, too. Give yourself some credit.

Want to see more of what I do in my classroom? I try to share on Instagram @charmedbychallenge and Twitter @aestohs

Here are some things I’ve shared this year:

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