We’ve been virtual all year and are scheduled to continue to be for another month still. I have so many thoughts and reflections about school completely online and they are mostly jumbled and unclear. I had lots of concerns at the beginning of this year about really getting to know my students and building a strong community.
I am confident I don’t know my students as I have done in past years. I am equally confident our community isn’t what it could have been. However. It is so much better than I feared.
A big part of that is using the chat. (And yeah, I’m beating myself up for waiting too long while also celebrating all it is bringing us every day.) Today the chat showed me our community in such amazing ways.
I teach 3rd graders. They are 8 or 9 years old. When their classmates get goofy in the chat, they tell them to stop. They’re generally quite respectful, but they are also strong and make it clear that using the chat in those ways is distracting them and is not okay. Equally impressive, at least to me, is that the students who were being goofy respond respectfully and stop. (They don’t stop for good, because they don’t really notice what they’re doing until it is pointed out to them, but they do stop in that moment.) Self-advocacy and care for each other. I couldn’t ask for too much more.
In one reading group today we read a nonfiction book about spies. It was interesting to me, as all of my students are in military families, to find that so many of them thought spies were fictional. They were astounded to learn about real spies and the tools they use. In a discussion about the tools, my students had many thoughts on how complicated they all seemed. One girl (who I adore, hard core) typed in the chat, “Spies are too extra to do anything simple.” Thank goodness I had my mic off and could totally crack up.
Then a student asked me what my spy name would be. Students chimed in with suggestions. Thank goodness they aren’t in charge of this because the suggestions included Agent Orr and Agent Teacher. But it set the ball rolling and they began sharing spy names they liked. Even when we returned to the main room, the conversation about spy names continued. (We returned just as we took a 10 minute break so they just kept sharing.) When we took a GoNoodle break a little later, students started asking one student for spy names. “What would be my spy name?” showed up in the chat again and again. She was great. She’d respond with things like, “I see you as the good cop type, I think your name would be Agent Positive.”
The student giving out names is new to our school this year. She’s never met these classmates in person. But she knows them. The names she offered were spot on and her classmates loved them.
When we’re back in person in a month, I hope I love these kids as much as I do right now.