How to successfully end the most critical month of the school year: August? And more in times of pandemic and virtual teaching.

Have a Happy day Altamira community!, my name is Mariangela Vergara and I am currently a second grade teacher. Next, I share with you what has been my experience as a teacher from virtuality. Last year, in mid-March, we had to vacate the school’s physical facilities to end our school year from home. Like all changes, it created resistance at first, but as the weeks progressed we achieved greater flexibility and adaptation. I think that last year was not as hard as it has been the current one since I knew my students very well, their academic processes and their family contexts. When my students are finishing Second Grade, they become more mature; aspect for which they managed to finish their degree successfully.
Now, the interesting thing has started this year at the beginning of August; new school year. The first thing I asked myself was: I don’t know my students, how to create powerful relationships that allow them to engage with the complexity that a second grade implies? How to make them fall in love with the virtual program if all they need and want is to be back at school to run and play with their classmates? Day by day more and more difficult questions to answer arise. I got rid of all fear and anguish and decided to take up the challenge giving my best every day. As we well know, each day brings its battle because I will be ready each day to receive and give it a solution.
The first days of August are key days to create connections with students, reach agreements and norms that together we will respect in order to live in harmony, meet parents, carry out diagnoses to discover strengths and “gaps” (gaps that may lead to previous years) in order to know what the student has and how to better help them to flow successfully and learn better, among other aspects. Of course, to meet the parents, I designed a Google Form with questions that gave me so much valuable information and allowed me to know the reality of each home and each student. On the other hand, to get to know my students I invented the great idea of visiting them in a surprise way in each of their homes. It was a Saturday morning, together with my assistant Miss Diana we made some brownies and we brought some pencils with erasers. Their reaction let me know that the effort we had made had touched their hearts. The children were in complete “shock”, they were surprised with surprise but it was inevitable to see their faces smile and their hearts burst with joy. From there, the classes were not the same. The connection and the closeness was greater.
I must emphasize that I am happy with the group of parents and of course the students that I have had this year. Many of these students I knew from a Summer Camp that I did with my sister Maria Teresa (better known as Miss Tere). It was there that I met my “petit committee” who today are my students. I send greetings to Martina, Valentina, Gabriela, and Mari Caro. Similarly, I have two new students who have come from other schools in the country. My purpose was to welcome these families from day one and make them feel part of Altamira. I want you to rectify once again every day that the best school decision for your children is Altamira. As for the rest of the families, I have tried to show you that I am available 24/7 to solve any questions and concerns that arise. They know that they can contact me when required. During the month of August I have had several meetings by Zoom with parents (whole group or private families) where with great respect we have reached agreements, I have listened to them, I have given them security and confidence and above all I have given them a lot of clarity and tranquility so that do not feel any kind of discomfort or dissatisfaction.
Now, as for “distance learning”, I have learned I have made a mistake and I have reflected along the way. I think that no teacher in the world was prepared for this sudden but necessary change in education. The time has come to reinvent ourselves! The moment is now! There is something that we must be clear about and that is that we cannot try to replicate the school as it is at home. For this reason, a group of teachers were working during the month of June selecting from the academic curriculum those achievements and priority objectives outlined for the school year. This means discarding some other content and skills in order to focus only on what is important. Of course, several interesting debates arose as to: what is important? We did not want to discard important content that would later be necessary for future years. Apart from the curricular content, it was important to take into account the role played by socio-emotional competence and the emotional well-being of our students. I applaud and admire you! I dare say they have responded in the best possible way. Each one has done their bit not to give up and keep fighting despite adversity.
I want to highlight the importance of having the support of mom and dad at home. I need us to be allies and stay in constant communication. Parents are my key support from home. Together we agreed on the importance of having a computer, good internet connectivity, a work space free of distractions and toys, a visible class schedule, among other aspects. We had to start from 0. Build day by day together. For this reason, communication is key to making the necessary adjustments along the way so that everything flows naturally. Like children, parents are also constantly learning. The aim in mind is to create an autonomous and responsible child who attends her classes, who delivers quality work, who solves problems, who asks for help when she needs it, who participates in class and all this is achieved with the passage of time. To achieve autonomy and responsibility I need parents to trust their children and allow them to learn from their mistakes. We are not overprotective parents or teachers who try to solve the lives of our students without them doing it themselves.
Of course, my biggest challenge now in September is to ensure that my students attend their classes, comply with their schedule from Monday to Friday, enjoy the virtual teaching process and above all do not lose faith and hope that soon, if very soon , we will return to the classroom. The great challenge is to design classes that are very dynamic for students in order to avoid possible distractions, demotivation and boredom. Weekly when designing classes I think about my students, I think about what they deserve the best! I try to think of creative and fun ways to convey the content and skills expected for your grade. I like to start my classes with a song, a TikTok dance, a check-in (ask them how they are and how they feel), a time of prayer and gratitude, and / or breathing exercises, stretching and creating awareness in them of the importance of taking care of your eyes when facing long periods in front of a screen. Regarding virtual teaching, I can highlight the power of technology and the speed with which my students access, know and enjoy the digital platforms that I have shown them. There I can see their autonomy and their character at the moment of assuming the challenge with maturity and facing the difficulties that may arise and we must mitigate.
Finally, I thank life that our reality forced us to rethink education and reinvent ourselves as teachers. This time it was not an option but an obligation for everyone. I trust and know that education, life and my students will not be the same as they were before Covid-19. They have certainly grown up as human beings and are ready for the new challenges that life will bring us. Counting the days to go back to school and watch my students run and play at recess with all their friends. Going back to school is necessary for all of us! I will write an article again to tell you about the return to school and the end of virtuality.
To finish, I share an image of my classroom currently without the joy and presence of my students.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *