I have been teaching virtually since September. I am online synchronously with 3rd graders for four hours four days every week. That’s a lot of time.
I am a strong believer in students having control over their learning, their spaces, themselves. (I fail regularly at not holding tight to control over things with students but it is a constant goal to let go of it.)
I state those two things to make it clear how badly I needed to get over myself.
All year, I strongly restricted the chat in our virtual classroom. We used it some but most of the time I had it turned off. I didn’t want to deal with it. I recognized that I needed to give my students some time to play with it, have fun with it, explore it, before they’d be ready to use it well on a regular basis. And I was unwilling to exert the time or energy to do that. I justified it with lots of different reasons. We were working hard on how to use another tool right then. It was about to be Thanksgiving break so we shouldn’t start it right before that. It was about to be winter break so we shouldn’t start it then. I finally opened up the chat after the winter break.
Of course, this will surprise no one, I wish I’d done it sooner. The opportunities, learning, community building, questioning, advocating opportunities, that we missed for so long will haunt me. I know better. (I’m human. I screw up. Moving on.)
Yesterday, after our independent reading time, a student shared about a book she was reading. She started with, “No one will want to read this.” As soon as she stated the title, another student grabbed her copy of that book and held it up to the camera. After the first finished her share, this conversation happened in the chat.
Then this afternoon, we read the poem, Double Trouble: Yolanda Griffith, from Hoop Queens by Charles R. Smith, Jr. After reading it and talking about it, I suggested to my students that they might want to look up Yolanda Griffith and learn more about her. So a student dropped this in the chat a moment later:
I’ve got a third grade researcher on board.
Finally, also this afternoon, we continued our current mystery from Solve This! Forensics by Kate Messner and Anne Ruppert. My one and only ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) student (after 21 years of working in schools with a significant majority ESOL students, only having one is odd), shared her thoughts about the suspects in our current mystery with this comment as I read:
There’s still plenty of ridiculousness in our chat. And two kids today arguing there. Monitoring the chat while teaching and working with kids is a challenge, but totally worth it. Which I knew.