COVID-19 brought with it many unexpected changes, challenges and lessons for me:
Lesson #1: Routine is important. It gives a sense of value and purpose in my life and in the lives of my students. Many parents told me that A.H.A.V.A.’s scheduled classes were an anchor for their children in a time of instability. For me too I knew that I had to get up and going - my Zoom or phone classes started at 8:30 and I had to make sure to get my personal chores done in between the lessons taught.
Lesson #2: Children enjoy learning. As much as students complain about school and schoolwork, being together with other children is fun. Students enjoy the sense of accomplishment they get when acquire new skills. Many parents told us how much their kids looked forward to the lessons. Students in fifth grade and higher often asked me to not 'end the meeting' but just 'leave' so that they could chat together and see each other.
Lesson #3: Priorities. Having less time in a lesson, fewer tools in a virtual classroom has clarified what is truly important to teach and what is extra. Do my students truly need to know how to write cursive or is the ability to read it enough? Do they have to read a poem, an essay and write a composition about bravery? Or can we cut to the quick - watch a short clip, 5 minute discussion, and a choice of one reading assignment amongst many to review.
Lesson #4: People are generous. Many sites and programs were offered for free during this period of time. We were able to enrich our teaching because libraries, educational sites, books sellers, teachers all were offering their services, products, expertise for free or at vastly reduced prices. Zoom - we love you! We too reciprocated with offering private teaching or extended times to many of our students for whom group learning did not work. When our teachers felt ready they in turn offered free seminars on how to use a lot of these products. It was gratifying to hear teachers thank us in the name of their students who were able to continue learning as face to face learning was delayed again and again.
Last Lesson - #5: Remote teaching. With over 40 years of teaching experience, I’ve taught different subjects, age groups, challenging and varied group levels. Yet for the first time I was thrown into remote teaching. I discovered that it can be just as exciting and effective as teaching in person. I found myself learning new techniques and seeing how we could turn this mess into an advantage. I have discovered powerfully effective tools online that work as well the classroom tools I am used to. As a matter of fact several parents indicated a preference for remote learning and those groups will do so until the end of the year.