Still Learning

Three times a year we DRA students (assess them with the Developmental Reading Assessment). In the physical classroom I have done this for years and can knock it out pretty quickly. In the virtual setting we have scaled back to Progress Monitoring students rather than doing the complete DRA. I don’t feel like it is super useful assessment information, for a variety of reasons. I would find it annoying that we have to do it and, to some extent I do, but I also appreciate the one-on-one time with my students.

We’ve been virtual since March. I haven’t taught this group of 3rd graders in person at all yet. I’m holding out hope that it will be possible at some point. One result of being virtual is that I haven’t had an opportunity for those casual conversations with students. I have mostly managed to tamp down my irritation about spending my time administering assessments that don’t feel super meaningful or accurate by enjoying the chance to spend some one-on-one time with each of my students. Some of them go through the progress monitoring process with me with little else. Others jump at the chance to chat some without interruption. It’s a treat to have time and space to spend with each of them.

Regardless of how it flows, it is typically a long period for my students to have their mics on. We meet for 10-15 minutes and they usually have their mics on for the whole time. In the whole class virtual setting that isn’t true as many students speak for much shorter lengths of time.

As a result, I’m realizing how much is going on in some of my students’ homes. I knew that was true as I’ve heard it anytime they turn their mics on. But hearing it for a minute and hearing it for 10 minutes are very different things. Many homes have one or more adults working from home. Others have older adults in the home during the day and the television is on and conversations are happening. All but one of my students have siblings, some in school and others too young for school. Both of which add volume and distractions in their unique ways.

from Pedro Ribeiro Simoes’s flickr

I needed this reminder. I know this school setting isn’t perfect, both for things outside of my control and for things I could improve. I also know there are a lot of things that are wonderful about school in this way. There are definite positives along with the challenges. No matter whether virtual school feels great for a kid or they dread it, it’s important for me to remember that each of their settings are unique. When a student doesn’t respond or has trouble hearing the rest of us, there are lots of reasons for that. Maybe they’re just not paying attention or maybe they’re trying really hard and are working with lots of distractions.

I am a teacher. I am teaching virtually, both 3rd graders and undergraduates. I am seeing this reality all the time. I still find myself talking to my own children while they’re in class. Reminding them of a chore or asking if they still need something. If I, with all I am living and know about doing school virtually, am interrupting my kids, I can’t really be surprised when it happens to my students. Especially when those interruptions come from siblings.

This isn’t new. This isn’t unique to the virtual environment. There are always things we don’t know and don’t understand about our students and their lives. There is just a spotlight on some of it right now. In spite of that spotlight I still forget. I appreciate the reminders so that I hold on to patience and empathy rather than annoyance and frustration.

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