Editor's Note: We are pleased to place the spotlight on Sarah O'Neill, a Barnegat teacher. Thanks for this wonderful insight as our guest columnist, Sarah!
I Wish I Had
Before I allow you a sneak peek into my day teaching during this epidemic, let me backtrack a few weeks. On a Friday afternoon at approximately 3:30 pm, my colleagues and I received an email stating that our school district decided to close until further notice. Monday would be a staff only day and the students would not be returning. Mind you, my 38 students just left the building. I wanted to run into the parking lot and hug them all; knowing now what I didn’t know then, I wish I had.
Is It Morning?
I’d like to say my morning starts at 7:30, but it really starts somewhere around 3 am. I’m up, worrying about this scary virus, worrying about my children, my family. Tossing and turning until it is finally 7:30 and I can say... My morning begins around 7:30 that's when I hop out of bed and take the 30 steps to my new classroom: part craft room, part spare bedroom, part yoga room. By the time I brush my teeth and put on a sweatshirt my early risers have begun checking in. Ding, ding, ding go the notifications under the I am Here thread.
Lights! Camera! Action!
My students' first assignment of the day is a personally recorded video- produced, directed, filmed, and starred in by my ME! This little presentation takes about two hours to create. First I need to design a Jamboard that will be the colorful backdrop for the presentation of my new material. I need to reference my teachers’ editions, scour the internet for approved pictures of quadrilaterals, and add some snazzy doodles to each board. Once my Jamboard is full of marvelous math material, I then have to present it! Soooo, I log into Google Meet and host a private meeting with my director, producer, cameraman, and leading lady (they are all me in case you forgot). Here I work the magic of recording the meeting, presenting the Jamboard, reciting the script that is in my head, doodling on the Jamboard and trying my best to make this sound fun and interesting without the teacher-in-front-of-the-classroom-thing that I am oh, so very good at. (see that hyphenated modifier? Yeah, that’s for my girl Michelle Burton) All the while I have to hope a dog doesn’t bark, a stepson doesn’t walk into the room, or God forbid I should mispronounce something! So my 12-minute video on quadrilaterals requires 3 takes, roughly 2 hours and 10 minutes since I clicked the “create a new Jamboard” orange plus sign. And that was around 11:00 PM.
My team meets before 9. And by meet, I don't mean at the photocopier (which is usually jammed) or in the hallway for a quick chat, I mean via Google Meet and sometimes through a group text. We discuss the day’s assignments, plan for the week ahead, discuss the kids and how everyone is doing. We laugh and wonder how it ever got to this...Oh well happy Tuesday! We got this! We’ll chat later, like 10 more times before this day ends.
Hats, Lots of Hats
By the time 9 am rolls around (that’s when I’m officially on the clock) I have already answered 30 messages...and these messages arrive through several platforms: email, ClassDojo Messenger, Google Classroom, text, and the occasional phone call. I’m putting out fires, answering questions, trying to respond to everyone in a timely manner. Tea! Thank goodness my husband is a nonessential employee and can spend the day bringing me caffeine. While I maneuver through the Google Classroom stream I am continually donning new hats! “Ms. O’Neill, what is my password to Think Central?” IT personnel, “Ms. O’Neill, my Google Slide won’t present!” Google Educator, “Ms. O’Neill, I’m afraid of this whole virus, when are we going back to school?” Guidance counselor, “Ms. O’Neill. Can you help me get my child to sit at the counter and do his work?” Family Therapist, “Ms. O’Neill, what’s a rhombus?” I know this one!!! Teacher-FINALLY!!! I’m exhausted and it is only 9:15.
I host a 10:30 Google Meeting with my students. They are to come prepared with any questions they may have about assignments. We talk shop for about 20 minutes. I answer their questions on how to make a copy of a google document, I explain how to navigate through their MultiMedia Text Set, I explain how to type in the text boxes of a Google slide, I explain how a square can be a rectangle, but a rectangle is never a square, and then we just talk. Today we played with Google 3D animals, so much fun. Then I let them chat with each other before I kick them out and send them back to their respective classrooms. And I cry, every time because I miss them so much.
Their day is made up of several assignments. These assignments are not just plucked from the internet willy nilly and assigned without thought. I need to look for assignments that are aligned with my curriculum. I need to set up assignments, make sure everyone has a username and password, gather the links and make sure they work. Each assignment is then put into Google classroom, given a title, a value, a topic, a due date and finally posted. Each of these assignments needs to be reviewed, graded and recorded. Any PDFs that are attached need to be formatted through Google Slides so the kids can type on them. I need to create a checklist for each day so my little learners are not confused about the day’s expectations. This. Takes. Hours. These hours are usually found between 9:00 PM and midnight. Everything must be scheduled for 8:00 am the next morning, because you know, some kids are morning people.
Google Meet Up Close
I take a break from 12-1 for lunch. I go downstairs, hang with the husband, pet my doggos, feed the lizard (my class pet, he misses the kids too). I will go for a ride in the car or a walk in the sun. But 60 minutes goes fast when there are 38 kids eagerly awaiting your return.
One o’clock brings out those sleeper-inners, those kiddos who start the day late. I field the same questions the morning crew posed. I host a 1:30 Google Meet where I don the same hats. Have you seen me lately? Up close? I mean Google Meet Up Close? Scary, no matter what the hat!
The afternoon is not so fast-paced, but now I am busy tracking down assignments. Looking for the slackers who did only one I Know It finding that kiddo who never logged into Khan Academy because she says I never gave her the password although I gave it to her at least five times she forgot to write it down so let's jump in Google meet and I will walk you through it and thank you Ms. O’Neill you really helped me oh my God how is it already three o’clock?!?! Yeah, the afternoon is like that, one long, run-on sentence.
But Is It
3:00 pm The final bell rings, school is out for the day!! The day is done, but is it really? Nope! I spend the next hour grading and adding those grades to our online grade book. I then message every parent to let them know how their child did, I send words of praise and messages with assignments missed. The parents are the middlemen at this point. Messaging me that Joe did do that Flipgrid. I hop on FlipGrid, no Joe. Sorry, mom, I don’t see it, Never mind Ms. O’Neill Joe didn’t do it, he’s on it now. Thanks, mom. Wait, Ms. O’Neill, what's the class code for Flipgrid? Yeah, the night is like this...all night. And what am I supposed to do, ignore them? I can’t -unless Tiger King is on- so I send passwords and pictures and thank you's, hoping they can do their work and spend some time with their family.
Ahh, 7:00 pm. Time for a delicious dinner and some family time. After dinner, I virtually visit my children. They are all social distancing in their own homes. One lives a few blocks away but I can’t see him. We video chat and hop on house party to play Pictionary. Boy, I miss them. April 30th can't come soon enough. This picture was taken in Disney on March 1st. MARCH FIRST! It seems like a lifetime ago!
The kitchen is clean and the couch is calling my name. I sit with my dogs as my husband finds something fun to watch (have any suggestions). We watch mindless TV, all the while trying to forget there is a killer virus lurking outside. (side note, I do think Carole Baskin fed her husband to those big cats) I zone out on the couch knowing I still have to make that darn Jamboard for tomorrow’s triangle lesson. So I kiss the pups and the hubby and head up to my classroom. I begin the task of creating a presentation for tomorrow, finding assignments for tomorrow, finding energy for tomorrow. By the way, it is tomorrow.