Introducing Myself to My Students...Virtually

As the start of this school year got closer and closer a few weeks ago, I kept trying to think of ways I could make the start of the year special for students and get them excited for class, in light of all the changes that are being made to their educational experience.  Then I saw this amazing post from Annabelle Allen (aka la Maestra Loca) and it got my creative wheels turning.  In the post, she shared a video she made to introduce herself to her students using virtual backgrounds in Zoom and Snap Camera filters.  So off I went to make my own (and figure out how the heck Snap Camera might have to downgrade your Zoom for it to work!).  The goal was for curious students to be able to watch it before the start of the school year or at the very beginning.  Here is the video:

I also did a live version of the lesson, using the same virtual backgrounds.  Absent students were able to just watch the video if they hadn't yet.  During the live version (during the first week of school, which was all virtual for 7th graders), students offered to translate each statement about me, and put things in the chat about things we had in common, sharing that they too played an instrument or rode horses (some of them even ride at the same barn as me and were able to tell by the name of the horse I was riding!).  It was a great, informal way for everyone to connect and get to know each other and me.  I didn't expect so much engagement in the live version!  While sharing too much about yourself to your students can be a boundary issue, over the years I've found that sharing information about myself that is not overly personal really helps me connect with my students.  It also humanizes the teacher and shows he or she is just a regular human being too.  My students like finding out that I attended the same school they did and some of their teachers were my teachers!

In a subsequent post I'll be sharing more about the ways my students have introduced themselves to me and to each other so far this year.

How have you been introducing yourself to your students this year?

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Zoom Expectations for Synchronous Learning (Updated 9/16/20!)

Well, it's day three of Zooming with my students, and I'm starting to get in the swing of things.  In my district, we are doing a phased in hybrid model, so eventually I will be seeing most of my students in person one day a week each, but my 7th graders are online for this first week.  Thursday and Friday we held brief meet and greets with all our students, so today was the first full-length lesson I had with a couple of my classes.  I created these Zoom expectations, which I shared with them today.  They also contain essential vocabulary needed to communicate using Zoom.  I, like most teachers, am asking my students to use the chat for academic purposes only and not to unmute themselves unless asked to participate or they need to tell me something urgent, such as that I'm muted.  I have the ability to mute all students and disable the chat, but since I want students to be able to tell me if there's a tech issue or perhaps pipe in with a question, and there are academic uses for the chat, my plan is not to disable those functions unless necessary within a particular class.  So far, there haven't been any major issues keeping them enabled.  Feel free to copy or adapt these expectations for your own classroom.  My goal with these norms was to focus on Zoom specifically, and remind them that all other school rules of course still apply (being respectful, etc.).

Update 9/16/20:  After another day of Zooming, I realized there were definitely a few expectations I missed, so I have added those to the document.

Click here to access the Zoom expectations.  What are your videoconferencing expectations if you're doing that this year?

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My Covid-Conscious Classroom

This coming week I will begin a school year...wait for it, wait for no other I have ever taught in!  This year I will be teaching using a hybrid model, so I will have some students in class and others at home streaming in using Zoom and/or completing asynchronous work.  A lot of things have to change this year from the pre-covid world in order to keep the learning environment safe, but one thing that's not changing is that I still love my job and I absolutely cannot wait to meet my students and help them navigate these coming challenges.  Oh yeah, and help them discover the language and cultures of the French speaking world!  In a forthcoming post, I will share some of the ideas for hybrid learning that I picked up over the summer, but in this post I am sharing what my school and classroom look like this year.

Here's a great example of a community coming together:  the New York Racing Association, which owns our famous local race track (which is closed to fans this summer) loaned picnic tables to our school to use for socially distanced outdoor lunches (weather permitting, of course).  They are currently occupying what is normally a parking lot.

Normally, on the bulletin board outside my classroom, I try to convey through images the prevalence of French in the world and point out where it is spoken.  This year, however, I felt that the message I really wanted to send first and foremost to my students was that we're all in this together and that all are welcome.  I purchased the print rights to that image on Etsy and I made my own text in Photoshop.  I plan to actually talk about why I chose "Stronger Together" as the translation when it literally means "All Together."  The reason is that "Stronger Together" is the slogan that is often used in English for that phrase.  I will use this as an opportunity to point out that not everything can be translated word for word.

Inside my classroom, I removed the homework station, where students grabbed papers they missed, since papers will be minimal this year and must be distributed with gloves on, and replaced it with a graphic I made with helpful reminders to stay safe.  I also plan to go over the vocabulary with students since these words will be needed often.  The image of the coronavirus was designed by Manuela Molina and is part of a story published by La Mutualité Française Occitanie and is licensed under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0.  The images of the children were designed by Sandrine Lhomme and Thomas Tessier for Il était une histoire (I did add masks to the children in Photoshop, as these illustrations were created before mask guidance was put out).  They are believed in good faith to be permissible under France copyright law as pedagogical exceptions.

One thing that's not changing is my bulletin board of movies in French.

My useful expressions board is another mainstay.

A big difference this year is that there are only 15 desks and they are all 6 feet apart.  The library of books that usually sits by my window is no more...for now at least.  One thing's for sure, I'm glad we have lots of technology tools to get us through this pandemic, or things would be a lot more challenging.

To my readers, what is school looking like for you this year?  Are you in person, online, or hybrid?  What are some things you had to change?

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