A teacher Responds to the Pandemic with Books | Mentoring in the Middle

A teacher Responds to the Pandemic with Books

1.  When I left my office that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me

When we left school on that sort-of spring-ish day, none of us had any idea what was in store for us.  One week?  Two weeks?  Oh the things we'd get accomplished in that time at home!

I didn't do any of it.  My mind went into slow "What-is-this?" mode.  Instead, I spent hours trying to stay connected with my students.

2.  When I was a baby, someone tucked me into an old boat and pushed me out to sea.

We all were babies, weren't we?  Especially those of us who didn't use technology much in our classrooms, whatever the reasons.  Even for those of us who did, we were navigating completely new territory.

I had never heard of Zoom until after March 13th.  Now it's my new best frenemy.  I love that I can connect with kids under their beds, in their living rooms, with their dogs, cats, birds, and yes, even snakes.  But it's wearying, too.  Three or four Zoom meetings in one day?  I'm worn out.

There's research to show that our brains depend on physical cues to make sense of the words someone says.  When we're Zooming, our eyes usually only see someone's face and shoulders.  We work hard to make sense of that.  No wonder we're tired!

3.  Words.  I’m surrounded by thousands of words.  Maybe millions.

I had so many dreams about fun things my students would do.  All the blended learning projects!  Let's explore new websites together!  We can do this.  We did this in the classroom, right?

That all came to a screeching halt the first week.  We didn't have each other to guide through the "Wait, how do you get there?"  "Mine's not showing that."  "I got an error message."  My mailbox was filled with tons of messages from discouraged kids who couldn't navigate that territory without me or other kids to help.  Too many words became suddenly unfamiliar.

4.  I never thought of myself as “different” until my first day of kindergarten. 

Some of my students surprised me.  Some of the ones who were so outgoing in school struggled mightily.  I was grateful that some shared how much they missed school.  Some were able to talk about it with me, the guidance counselor, or their parents.  Others took longer.

This wasn't different, it was just plain weird.  While some kids could roll with it, others struggled.  Adults reacted similarly.

5.  Have you found the last two?

Try tracking down some of these kids!  When I reached parents and they responded, the kids were able to get on track.  But I received several emails from some parents who were working overtime just to get their own jobs done and keeping their children on track was more than they had time for.

In some cases, I asked for kids' cell phone numbers, if they had phones, and if parents were willing to share.  Every time I asked, parents were happy to share that responsibility.  I get it.  This is hard!

6. Boys don’t write in journals, unless it’s court-ordered.  At least, this is what I’ve figured.

It's not just boys.  We wrote in journals every week since the second week of school.  Why stop now?  I don't know.  "I'm not interested in reading a book right now" is understandable, but doesn't make me happy.  Thankfully, there are so many choices for online and audiobooks right now, and I was able to get most kids back on track.

I used book trailers to get them interested in books.  They videoed their responses or took pictures of their journals.

7.  Grandchildren, you ask me about this medal of mine.  There is much to be said about it. 

Teachers, this one's for you.  We deserve a medal and I hope your parents and administrators know it.  In a very short amount of time, we created and connected and cajoled and insisted, and our students responded.  

Some of us learned new systems before we could get started.  That meant on some levels, we were winging it.  Some of us took our students down familiar paths and still needed to figure out how to best engage, get good work, and respond in a timely fashion.

We were teachers, coaches, counselors; we listened to stories and jokes, shared enthusiasm for pets, encouraged our students to get off their phones while Zooming, looked at butter sculptures of family rooms, praised artwork, and listened to the Star-Spangled Banner played on the kazoo.

My hat is off to all of us!

First lines were from these books:
1.  Where the Red Fern Grow, Wilson Rawls
2.  Beyond the Bright Sea, Lauren Wolk
3.  Out of My Mind, Sharon Draper
4.  I Can Make this Promise, Christine Day
5.  Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, Richard Paul Evans
6.  House Arrest, K.A. Holt
7.  Code Talker, Joseph Bruchac
Although it was totally my intention to look at this pandemic through the lens of first lines, if this writing is something you'd like to have your students do, I have this product in my TpT store.

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