I’m going to start by apologizing for the length¬†of this post. I made it as short as I could. ūüôā Please take the time to read it in its¬†entirety. Thank you!

Ten years ago in Ethiopia, my travel group was visiting the home of a Peace Corps volunteer who was living in the village that we were working in. I noticed a quote by Maya Angelou hanging on her wall, the words of which have been etched in my mind ever since. It expressed the exact thoughts of my teaching soul…words I had believed in from the time I had started teaching eight years earlier, expressed in such a pure, simple way:

People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.

Those words have been boldly displayed in the front of my classroom ever since. It is my main teaching philosophy in a nutshell. Kids remember things better when they are attached to feelings. If a child loves going to school, that feeling translates to more learning. If I present something to my students in a way that makes them feel a spark of inspiration, excitement, or joy, they will remember what is being taught, even if it is something as mechanical as math or grammar.

Taking that thought a little further, I have always believed that teaching is not a delivery system in which I just pass on received information. My job is to facilitate learning. To inspire my students to want to learn. For learning to take place, the natural power of imagination and curiosity that all children have has to be tapped into. When that happens, children are like sponges, soaking up and retaining everything they are taught.

When I learned a week ago that all Arizona schools will be closed through the end of the school year, I was crushed and heartbroken. As I said in my last email, I have so much more that I want to teach these kids. The school year feels so incomplete. I have never felt so helpless in my life. So many mornings I wake up thinking it was all a bad dream and I will head to school and teach my students. I miss my students more than I could possibly express.

So much of the learning that takes place in my classroom happens through the interactions and¬†discussions that we have…being present with them and connecting with them. Giving them a bunch of busywork to do has never been my style.

Which is one of the reasons why last week was so difficult for me. As you know, last Monday ALA launched Google Classroom throughout all of their schools. Many teachers, bless their hearts, spent countless hours preparing templates and online content. A scaffolding approach was taken, where the first week we were all told to use the EXACT content that they give us and to not alter any of the instructions or content. I’m sure it was very helpful to many teachers, especially those who are new to the profession and who are not tech-savvy. In my case, I had already taught a lot of that content and some of it was presented in a confusing way. So I imagine that your child might not have been very excited to work on it. Sorry about that.

I am grateful that now that the first week is over, we can pull lessons from other ALA-approved sources and also supplement with other resources that we feel are beneficial to our students.

It has been so hard to not be able to hold virtual class using Zoom, Skype, or other video conferencing software. ALA is not allowing this. I’m sure they have their reasons, but it has¬†been hard when my siblings talk to me about how their kids are having great Zoom classes where all the students can see each other and still somewhat learn together. I hope and pray that ALA will allow this in the near future.

There are a few¬†things that they did not allow us to do initially but partially allow now. One is individual “virtual tutoring” through ALA’s approved online platform, Google Meet. I say partial because they¬†are only allowing the video in the call to go one way. The student is allowed to see me, but I am not allowed to see them during the tutoring session. Students are also allowed, with your written consent, to submit videos and allow me to privately distribute them to the rest of the class using an unpublished YouTube link that only those with the link can view and no one on the outside will have access to. I am attaching a PDF permission form for these two things that can be printed and signed or signed online and sent back to me.

These now-approved abilities will allow students to do their astronomy presentations. I will take pictures of each poster and send them to you. Then you could display that picture on a computer screen and take a video of your child doing their presentation and explaining their poster. Some students may even be able to show their actual poster in their video. Our school is coming up with a plan to get all of your child’s belongings back to them, and their poster will be included in that.

Assignments and Grades

I hope you all received the email on Thursday from ALA about grades. In summary, All K-6 students’ 4th Quarter report card grades will default to 100% (A), regardless of their participation in distance/virtual learning. All Semester 2 report card grades will be an average of 3rd and 4th Quarter grades.

A few things to remember pertaining to your child’s school work that they do at home:

  • Some of you may have multiple kids who all seem to need your help at the same time. You can only do so much. Schools are unique environments, and home is where kids relax and play. Don’t expect more than about an hour or so a day of school work, in addition to reading time. Some days they may be able to put in more time than that, but they will not work like they do at school. Keep your expectations simple.
  • Set aside a specific place in your home where your child will do their school work. Then they can compartmentalize the activities of schoolwork and home.
  • Remember what I said at the beginning of the school year…you are your child’s number one teacher, and I am your partner in their education. Don’t be afraid to teach them things that you have wanted to teach them and haven’t had time to, to watch documentaries with them, to explore with them, and to count that as school time.

As none of the work in Google Classroom or the supplemental materials that I send are graded, the resources you use are your choice. You may use the material in Google Classroom, the supplemental materials that I send, or your own resources. A few things to remember:

  • It is important that they continue to read at least 20 minutes each day.
  • If they don’t know all of their 1-12 multiplication facts, that may be the most beneficial thing for them to work on in math.
  • By the time state testing would have occurred, two weeks after spring break, we would have covered all of the 3rd grade state standards. I will specify in Google Classroom which math and language arts lessons (ELA) contain new concepts that were not taught before March 5 by placing an asterisk before the lesson name. Starting today, these will be the first lessons that are assigned. After the state standards are covered, math and ELA will be extensions and review.
  • If your child would rather work on printed paper, there are three websites on the Math Extra Practice Page on my class website, mreyre.com that have all kinds of worksheets that can be printed out. If you would like specific recommendations for your child, let me know.
  • We just learned recently that this is the last year that ALA will be using Saxon Math. Next year we will be switching to Eureka Math. ALA taught one year ahead in Saxon math, so the book we used this year was the 4th grade Saxon book. We have already covered nearly all of the third grade standards that are in that book. So if your child is doing really well in math and you feel that they need more of a challenge, they can continue working on the Saxon math lessons from where we left off (Lesson 73). Links to the book and answer sheets are available on our class website on the Math Assignments Page.

The time after state testing is always my favorite time of the year because we get to expand beyond the standards and learn some really fun and exciting things, particularly in science. This is what makes me the most sad about the current situation…not being able to do some of that with my students. I am trying to figure out ways that we can still do some of these activities, using video and other means.

Students seemed to really enjoy doing the facts practice in XtraMath, so I will continue to include that in Google Classroom. If you recall from the email I sent on March 16, I encouraged students to use Khan Academy for math lessons. Students are somewhat familiar with that because we have used it in class, and it is an approved ALA resource, so the math lessons in Google Classroom will be from Khan Academy instead of the confusing lessons that were in the template last week.

We wrote in journals almost every day in school, and I think it is so important for my students to continue writing in a journal. They’re living in a time in history right now that students will be reading about in history books for generations to¬†come. Sports are canceled, schools are closed, and people are living in quarantine and social distancing on a global level. For writing assignments, I will continue to give them journal topics in Google Classroom just like in class, with most of them relating to the current situation. It will be a good record for them to keep forever and share with their own kids.

Thank you so much for reading this. I hope it all made sense. As always, let me know if you have any questions about anything. If you agree to what it says in the attached permission form, please sign it (either by printing, signing, and taking a picture or signing by typing and saving) and send it back to me.

Thank you so much for all you do!