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#DPSBackToSchool | Reflections from Week One


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I knew the first week of this school year for my students and me was going to be drastically different in this new normal of social distancing and virtual learning. Upon reflection, I was surprised at how many similarities there were to the old normal of in-person learning. I was still a nervous wreck the week before, the day before, and the night before school started. I still planned, re-planned, and then made contingency plans. I still asked my teammates and other teachers for advice. I still looked for ways to engage my students while building a positive learning community. I still communicated with students and parents about our classroom expectations. I still tried to make learning meaningful and fun.

In some ways, it was harder to do these things in a virtual classroom, but in other ways it wasn’t because technology made it easier (when it worked). Instead of a think-pair-share summarizing activity, we made Flipgrid videos. Instead of building upon each other’s ideas through a grand in-person conversation, we used the Padlet app and connected ideas. Instead of collaborating in small clusters for group work at school, we used breakout rooms in Zoom.

Of course, at a distance it’s harder to connect and build a community of learners than it is when we are within arms’ length. Even though it is harder, my goal doesn’t change. I am still going to build a close-knit community regardless of distance. I am a teacher and that’s my job: finding ways to reach students.

During this pandemic, we hear about how much students need their teachers. I’ve come to realize how much teachers need students as well. I need them to try. I need them to take risks and make mistakes. I need them to talk about mistakes so others can learn from them. I need them to share their experiences, so it enhances everyone else’s understanding. I can’t do this by myself. It takes a team. I also realized that I need parents, grandparents, guardians, and anyone else who invests in their children’s education. I need them because they are a lifeline. They are a connection. When everything else went wrong and it seemed like technical issues limited all of us, I relied on my parents, grandparents, and guardians to connect children to our classroom. At times it was a struggle, but it would have been almost impossible without all of us working together. It truly took a village this week.

It was a different week. It was a difficult week. In the end, we still gave air hugs. We still gave air high fives. We still pretended to drop our mic when we dropped some knowledge. We still showed we care about each other and ourselves. We persevered and we didn’t do it alone. That’s the message we all shared in this week: This is going to be tough, but we won’t struggle alone. We’ll persevere and succeed together. We are a team.

Brandon Daniel
5th Grade Science and Math Teacher
Burton Magnet Elementary School
DPS 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year