Personally, I struggle with this week's topic. It's tough and it's been even tougher the past twelve months. Today, I am focusing on BOUNDARIES.
A little background ... my district has been in-person from the start of this school year. I dared to hope we could remain this way for 2 weeks. Two weeks came and went. Then a month. Then the entire first quarter. Yes, we had positive cases and plenty of quarantines. But we stayed in-person. We switched to remote learning for the final two day prior to Christmas break and for the first week after break. Computers were sent home with the kindergarten through 4th grade students who needed them during this time. (They don't take them home on a daily basis.)
Here's the story. I was sitting at my daughter's indoor soccer game the day after we sent computers home. I received a text message from Laura, a friend who teaches 4th grade. Laura is an amazing teacher and was reaching out for advice.
She tells me a student of hers had already sent 14 comments through Google Classroom. (This is the NEXT morning ... a Saturday morning!) Laura hadn't answered any of them yet and I could feel the guilt oozing through her words. She goes on to say she is trying hard to be present for her own children. But her final comment made me pause ... "Am I being a meany?"
Wow. How many times have YOU been in that spot? Exhausted. Given all you have AT school that day/week and it's the weekend. But a student asks for help. I knew exactly what Laura was feeling. Every bit of it. I also knew she KNEW the right answer. She just wanted to hear it from someone else.
I responded quickly with "Not. At. All."
I went on to suggest she respond ONCE. Tell the student she is excited the student is eager to learn, but it's important to enjoy the weekend and if the student really wanted to work on the schoolwork, read and follow the directions. I also suggested to Laura she tell the student that she'll answer additional questions on Monday and even do a virtual meeting if needed.
Laura responded with relief. Like so many teachers, she was exhausted. She just needed to hear it's ok to put school work to the side on the weekends. I told her "Computer access doesn't mean you have to be accessible 100%."
I knew this would help this student, but it got me thinking about ALL of her students ... all of OUR students. I told Laura that students need boundaries with computers, too. The students we sent chromebooks home with might not have regular access to a device of their own and therefor this was big for them. I suggested she spend some time during her virtual meeting with her students creating agreed upon boundaries - very similar to what she'd done at the beginning of the year in-person. I firmly believe we must specifically TEACH our students the boundaries. We cannot expect them to just "know".
Laura's guilt quickly turned to excitement and she told me she was definitely going to have that conversation with her students on Monday. She agreed - this was really our first extended remote learning time. Remote learning was new to our kiddos. She wanted to everything she could to set them up for success!
Here's my thinking - boundaries WILL work, IF everyone knows where they are. We cannot make assumptions. Teaching & learning is no exception. We HAVE to make boundaries - both when we are in-person and virtual (or hybrid or whatever the case might be). I believe it is important to bring our students in on this conversation.
Our remote learning week has come and gone. Laura shared notes with me about this process and I'm excited to say she has agreed I can share the story with you, too! The first image is Laura's classroom rules, created at the beginning of the school year. Our elementary has had a pride pledge for longer than I've been working there. They say it everyday during announcements. "I am respectful. I am responsible. I am a peaceful problem solver. I can learn and I will learn." Laura's class based their rules on this. And I think it's brilliant!
Laura shared her updated classroom created rules for virtual learning. They kept the rules based on being respectful, responsible, and a peaceful problem solver. How awesome is this???
It's never to late to set boundaries with your students.
It's never to late to set boundaries for yourself. (I work on my boundaries daily.)
I promise, you won't regret it.
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