Stacey Miller

Virtually transformed
Posted on 12/16/2020
Hallway

I had to think on this for a little bit because I am really so happy to be teaching and working with my students in person.

In the spring when we went to virtual, I connected over social media with a group of teachers who were also teaching virtually.  Being home was isolating, so finding a group of people across the country who were also alone and experiencing the same frustrations as I was made my job seem lighter. When I found like-minded people with similar attitudes and the same love for all things Kindergarten, I began to find my stride.

As the year ended and summer came, I worked together with many of the teachers I had met virtually: brainstorming ideas on what we can do to make Zoom kindergarten bigger and better.  We also talked about ways to make in-person safe for our students.  One of the big things that I did this summer was to obtain enough materials for my students to have safe play areas, safe work areas, and enough supplies for all 14 of my students to have their own of everything -- and not just enough for them at school but also for them at home.   Sharing is one of the core learning goals that comes out of Kindergarten.  Keeping kids 6 feet apart, and not sharing materials was one of the biggest hurdles that I knew I had to get over.  Through some of these relationships I made over the summer, I had 6 projects funded through (classroom funding site) DonorsChoose

When school began, my students’ desks were already full of all the supplies that they needed to work safely.  Shortly after school began, T-Mobile came across my class wish list of math and literacy games, magnets, coloring supplies and more, and they purchased the entire wish list.  For days on end, my class was given more supplies to make sure that their learning experiences were rich, meaningful, and exciting.  I am eternally grateful for T-Mobile's generosity!

The teaching and learning that is going on in my classroom continues to be exciting because I have enough supplies and hands-on materials for each student to have what they need to be successful despite the fact that we cannot share.  We sanitize a lot. We take breaks to observe the materials the other students are using and get ideas for ourselves. We take videos and pictures and share them with our families so our parents can see what we are doing.

On my class Instagram Page, I have shared over 1,200 photos and videos, celebrating small moments, exciting celebrations, and successes within the classroom. The parents of my students have a window to our world every day so they can witness their children’s growth. I have made excellent personal connections with the parents of my students, even more this year than a typical year. 

I keep a running conversation via Remind with the parents of each student in my class, giving them weekly tips on where their student is successful and where their student can use a little push, and then I give them suggestions on what they can do at home.  Because my class size is 14 students, it is much more conducive to this type of regular dialogue between myself and the parents.  I have explained to the parents how important it is that we are working together to help their student reach every goal that we have.  I have learned to rely on parents to be a true partner in their student's learning experiences.

I have had many Zoom meetings with the families.  It is surprising to be welcomed into their homes and to get a glimpse into their home life. In a typical year, there is no chance I would see that side of my student's life.

The students in my class have come together to make a little family.  They care about each other; they are making friendships that I know will only grow stronger as they can be physically closer to each other.  I have helped some families connect out of school via playdates at the park. 

The most surprising thing, though, is that our fabulous little town has been able to offer in-person learning for our students in a safe way. As we know, many towns have not seen one single day of in-person school. I hope we can continue to be healthy and help the students in our town be safe and excited learners.

 

--Stacey Miller, Kindergarten teacher, Harding Elementary School

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