Several weeks back, I packed up my classroom. Frozen in time, everything was set up and ready to go for teaching on Monday, March 23, post-spring-break… that day had LOOOONG come and gone, though my classroom was ready to propel to the “normal” routine. I couldn’t wrap my heart around why I was packing everything up, even though my brain knew full well that I had been quaranteaching for WEEKS already. My gloved hands went into autopilot while my exposed eyes fought back tears in my eerie, empty, silent classroom.
Here we are, staring down the last week of school. The official school calendar says next week is the last week of school. It always did. Normally, if we’re being honest, most of us would have had a countdown of how many teaching days were left until the coveted ***LAST DAY OF SCHOOL***. While we usually count the days down out of jest and sheer exhaustion of end-of-year testing, field trips, and all the wonderful interruptions that make the end-of-the-year enjoyable and terrible all at the same time… this year, it feels flat. Abstract. Really, really sad.
Wishing we could meet for class for one final farewell is not uniquely my wish… MANY teachers’ hearts out there have yearned for this for over two months now. Though technologies are amazing and have maintained the learning and community-building to a degree, there’s nothing quite like the heartbeat of the classroom… IN PERSON. I’m grateful! We’ve accomplished A LOT! It’s okay to celebrate that and be thankful for our Zoom-time and technologies while also feeling sad, tentative for what’s to come, and even angry… about ALL of it.
When I need to do something with a pile of feelings, I create. I have to make something. Something that will potentially make things better. Content creation is my outlet. It makes me feel like I am countering the blahs with joy and practicality.
After cleaning out my “real” classroom, I made this. I kept seeing this virtual classroom Bitmoji idea on social media, and scanned past it… but after packing up my classroom in real life, creating a virtual one helped organize some things NOW while also providing an editable platform for next year, when we meet in person and/or virtually. I used Apple’s Keynote to create the bones of it… the things I really don’t plan on editing. I used the actual paint color of my classroom walls, used a photo to fill a shape with the actual floor tiles, and included some cherished pieces, like my MISTAKES art canvas and my carved wooden MRS. YENCA name sign given to me by my husband’s Nana… who is the ORIGINAL Mrs. Yenca for whom it was carved! 🙂 It’s a busy and silly Google Slide full of hyperlinks and animated GIFS, and making it was therapeutic. Google “Virtual Bitmoji Classroom” for tutorial ideas galore.
I’m hoping that students have also found creating to be therapeutic. That’s why my PLC-mates and I have assigned Desmos Projects to every class the past few weeks. You can access and read about project ideas for Math 7, Math 8, and Algebra 1 here. In other tabs on my MacBook, I’m watching them work now, as I type, and these open and creative tasks never disappoint!
Next week, I’ll have one final Zoom meeting with each class. We’ll begin with a showcase of students’ graphing projects to celebrate their work and progress! Here are screenshots from the work they’re finishing up in Math 8, Algebra 1, and Math 7 respectively.
When I cleaned out my classroom, I grabbed the stack of “WHO I AM” papers that students had completed on the first day of school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them yet. Generally, I return them to students on the last day of school. They barely remember ever filling them out, and are always surprised to read about how their interests have changed since August. And we all have a good chuckle at their hand-drawn self-portraits!
I was compelled to create something for my students, given that I wouldn’t be able to hand these back in person this year. So… using Keynote to sort out the portrait images, I created custom Desmos Card Sorts for each class! Students will attempt to match their peers’ (and their own!) names to their self-portraits, sketched on the 1st day of school this year. I wonder how many of them will even recognize their OWN creations! It’s going to be fun and light-hearted… creating it has left me a little heavy-hearted too.
AND… thanks to the Desmos Educators group on Facebook, I found @rachael_degnan’s end-of-year reflections activity, modified it for my middle schoolers, and tacked the self-portrait Card Sort screens at the beginning of the activity (the ability to COPY and PASTE screens between Desmos Activities is a DREAM FEATURE).
Maybe **I** need a teacher-version of a Desmos End-of-Year Reflection Activity… there’s so much to process about how we “got through” these virtual teaching days, and even more uncertainty regarding how school will operate in the fall. Let’s all promise to give ourselves permission to rest, and not try to anticipate every “what if” the next school year might bring. Reflect, celebrate, and rest in knowing we’re all doing the best that we can.