Reflections of a Kindergarten Teacher on Distance Learning

Hello Friends,
Distance learning is hard. So much harder than walking into  the classroom and teaching "live." I miss the sounds of kids discussing topics. I miss the smell of paint and crayons. I miss having one of my students run up to me in the morning excitedly telling me that he/she lost their first tooth. I miss watching my students compromise and negotiate pieces at the Lego table. I miss recess duty - yes, I MISS recess duty. I did not know how much I would miss it until it was so drastically removed from my life. All the things that we took for granted, as well as all the things that annoyed us, seem so great and so small now that we are not at school experiencing daily life with our students.

In a matter of a few days, our lives as teachers totally changed. All of a sudden, we were told that we had to teach our kids remotely. That we had to come up with a curriculum that would reach our students and continue to educate them. And.... it needed to be user friendly and easy for parents and kids to use. I am eternally indebted to so many large corporations that stepped up to help educators in this time of crisis - Seesaw, Zoom, ABC Mouse, Epic, Mystery Doug Science videos..... So many companies offering to help for FREE. It is because of these companies that I am able to create lessons in which I try to create some sort of classroom normalcy.  It has not been easy - between sharing devices, internet breaking up, kids not able to move the mouse on the trackpad.... so many factors keeping those precious kids from learning. On the other hand, I am so thankful for parents who have stepped up to help their kids navigate digital learning. I cannot express my gratitude enough for gracious parents who have been forgiving of my bumbling and mistakes as I recorded lessons, figured out Zoom, and have read the hundreds of emails that now come home weekly - sometimes daily.

 Distance learning consumes my days. When I am not creating activities, recording myself teaching, and having Zoom meetings with my kids, I HAVE to walk away from my computer. I take daily walks. I dig in the dirt preparing garden beds for the time when MAYBE I can purchase seeds and/or nursery plants. I read novels. I do laundry. I run the vacuum. Anything to give myself a break from my laptop.

On the other hand, some good things have come from Distance Learning. My kindergarten partner and I communicate often with each other. We have weekly meetings with our principal. At our last Zoom meeting, she reflected on how distance learning has helped her become a better teacher. And she is right. In the Seesaw platform, we have 5 minutes in which to record a video. This has forced us to focus on the lesson and not get side tracked with things that are off topic. Because we record our lessons on both Seesaw and Zoom, we can watch ourselves teach. That has given me a whole new look at what I do! I will remember this when I enter the classroom next year. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that smiling makes EVERYTHING better. When I smile in my videos, it doesn't matter what I am saying or teaching, it makes the lesson happy.

I hope on my last day with my students that I smiled and that I smiled a lot!  I hope that I told them how amazing they were. I hope that they felt how much I loved them. I hope that they will remember kindergarten as the year that they had the best of both worlds - that they had 7 months of centers and play dough and Lego structures and games and silly classroom dances. I also hope that they remember  2 months of playing outside, board games, cozy movie and popcorn nights, and tons of time with their families.

To all my teacher friends.... Hang in there! As teachers we know how to adapt. We have been given an opportunity to showcase what we do best - reaching and teaching even our youngest learners in unique ways. I appreciate and respect all my teacher professionals. You are amazing and I am proud to be a teacher!