Junior Kindergarten Online – Journal – Day 4

C’s morning went well: woke up well-rested, enjoyed a couple of episodes of Paw Patrol, ate frozen fruit for breakfast, dressed himself, and then chose to make a new name card for attendance.  Today’s card featured his drawing of his newest “Bumblebee” figure, and his name with all the letters in a row, in the correct order.

The link to the Google Meet was late to be posted; due to a staff meeting the teachers were delayed. And when we joined, there was a lot of conversation about why one of them could not see the children’s video, only their initials. C was still drawing, and not ready to hold up his name card, but he hurried and was able to share both the card, and his new Bumblebee. The attendance process included a personal greeting to each, and C was happy to see everyone on screen, especially one who had a new train set. C was able to name everyone on the screen, even those whose camera’s were off. He would have loved to have been able to talk to a few of his friends, but so far there has been no opportunity for student-to-student interaction.

The opening exercises now include C turning off his camera, since he doesn’t want to stand.  Today’s class began with the same physical warmup from yesterday, and C was happy to be up and jumping… at least for two minutes.  Then the call of his Bumblebee was too strong, and he returned to imaginative play with his new toy. I chose not to redirect him, observing to see if and when he would re-engage. He was interested in the instructions to everyone to turn off their cameras, but happy to hear the music. We added all three of today’s songs to a playlist, to listen to later today in the car. When I asked him why he wasn’t dancing, he said “because I don’t want to now”. 

Today’s letter was “P”, and C was quick to identify it and its sound. He found “pocket”, and since he had no pockets in his pants, he borrowed the pocket from my hoodie, to share. His first attempt was to turn on his mic and shout! When all of the class was instructed to turn microphones off, he complied, and was then called on to share. However, after doing so, instead of continuing to watch the other shares, he then headed to the bed for some bouncing. The teacher was attentive, ensuring that all students were permitted to share, and there was quite a list by the time they were done. C wasn’t sure that bringing a “potty” to the screen was a good idea, but it was handled well by his teacher. Then they were asked to think of a “P” activity: pedal, penguin walk, push, pull, or pop. C’s choice was to have Bumblebee dance, rather than doing it himself.

At the transition there was a suggestion that the students thank their parents, grandparents, siblings and caregivers, for the all help they are giving their children online. This was a beautiful acknowledgement of the assistance that all of them are receiving at home, working online. I echo this thanks, knowing how difficult it has been for me, a qualified teacher and experienced parent.

The message of the day was posted by “J”, and he was invited to read it while the teacher shared the screen. The students were invited to comment on his post in the “stream”. I had to enter C’s response for him, and it would be interesting to see how many other JK students could do this independently. Since the question asked them to vote on their choice of snack, it was suggested by one of the teachers that they return to this later in the day to see all the responses.

At 45 minutes into the day’s activities, C chose to leave the room, and play elsewhere. I closed down his Chromebook, and will check in later to see if there are other activities that we could plan for, within his attention span.  I would love if there were an agenda for the day, so that we could plan together, to participate selectively in those that would have the greatest impact.  While the sharing and conversation that was going on when he left were very important to the child sharing, it was an exercise in patience for the rest of the class, as they had no role in the process.

So I have chosen to adopt the philosophy of Suzuki, and follow the child.

We did not make it back to the “classroom” by the end of the day.  The only message as of 11:00 was that they were meeting at 11:45, but no clues given as to the activity planned. We instead drove an hour away to deliver yesterday’s baking to C’s great-grandmother, meeting her in a parking lot to ensure that we distanced. By the time we returned, it was the end of the day.  C had packed his lego firetruck into his tote for the trip, but unwisely chose to place it at the bottom. So rebuilding his truck was an excellent spatial activity with which we ended the school day.

I had a webinar scheduled at 3:30, sharing D2L/Brightspace with principals from across our province.  Having taught with D2L at Laurentian University, I had a basic understanding, but learned much more about the use of curriculum expectations and the portfolio. The ability to track achievement of expectations for each student, as well as for courses and classes looks very powerful.

Is anyone in the K-3 panel using Brightspace with their classes? It looks like it might be a strong environment to support students on a daily basis, as well as to communicate with both students and parents. I’d love to hear from you, if you have moved to this VLE.

School Online – Journal – Day 10

This morning I met via MS Teams with my Principal colleagues, in our monthly association meeting. The meeting was structured around questions we had for our Associate Directors, System Leads, and others with central responsibilities. Many of the concerns will also be relevant for us when our students begin online next week, so it was time well-spent.

Cohort B arrived today, for their “bonus” Period 1 day.  They will also be in attendance tomorrow, with an identical schedule as today, and then will return on Friday for their Period 2 class. They were new, but the teachers are pros by now, and the day went very smoothly.

The issue of transfers to the online school is a contentious one, with both technical and ethical roadblocks. The deadline was last Thursday, but there are many families who missed the deadline and are now appealing to school staff, Principals and even Superintendents. Not only is this an issue for the timetable, it could potentially impact all of our schools when reorganization takes place for the next Quadmester.

One of the challenges today is the list of 74 vacancies that have yet to be filled.  These are long-term-occasional positions for those on leaves of various types. We are “cold calling” in seniority order, and inviting these teachers to join our school. However, the list that we have does not indicate who among them are already committed to similar positions in our bricks and mortar schools.  Several have taken this as an opportunity to change their assignment for the year, neglecting to recognize that they are obligated to fulfil the duties of the position they originally accepted.  So, some of our Principal colleagues are understandably upset when these teachers inform them that they’re switching jobs.  Thankfully there is a consistent message that this is not possible, and they must honour their agreements.

Our numbers are now more than 10,000, and so the timetabling process involves lengthy “simulations”, and is moving slowly as a result.  One glitch today was where there were 10 classes of the same subject in the same period, but the program was putting twice the number of students in five classes, and leaving the other five empty.  No idea why the program might do this, but thankful that there are software developers able to jump in and remedy the situation.

I am anxious to hear which group will become my “school”. We will be dividing into subject-based groupings, so that we can better support the teachers for whom we are responsible. And I am looking forward to being able to respond to emails about teaching assignments with more information than “we’ll be able to let you know once the timetables are built”.

In the meantime, I hope our teachers are working their way through the Brightspace training materials, reflecting on changes they might wish to make to their courses, and anticipating a year of learning and growth.  I hope that the opportunity to work on course teams that could be as large as 10 to 15 teachers will result in stronger connections, better courses, and improved student achievement.