In fall 2020, after a frantic spring, parents at Muskego Lakes Middle School in Muskego, Wis, wanted consistency and predictability. While this school year has had its challenges—kids are moving in and out of in-person and at-home learning—the year has felt more predictable. We sat down with Nancy Pasch, 7th grade math teacher at Muskego, to learn how she’s created consistency in her classroom this year.
WeAreTeachers: How is your classroom different this year because of COVID-19?
NP: This year, we have kids who come to school and some that are completely online. We’ve had kids who need to quarantine and work from home for a few weeks. So, the students who are in class changes all the time.
In class, we have a lot of mitigation measures in place, like distancing, Plexiglas separating desks, and more procedures around students signing in and out of class. We work really hard to keep students’ exposure low, and know who is where, in case we have to let someone know about a quarantine.
WeAreTeachers: With all the changes from last year, how have you kept this year consistent for students?
NP: The biggest thing I’ve done is create a digital daily agenda that has everything students need to know. It has their starter, mini-lesson, workshop activity, and wrap up. That way, whether they’re in person or working at home, they can access the learning, and it’s in the same format every day. Kids thrive on predictability, so that consistency in the school day helps them, and it’s a lifesaver for me too.
WeAreTeachers: How do you manage instruction with kids who are in person and online at the same time?
NP: The ability to quickly share and project information is critical. I may be in the back of my classroom, but I can send images from my laptop to the board. And, I record every lesson using my BrightLink Interactive Projector and my document camera. That has made my presentation more smooth and audible. In fact, there’s never a problem with kids hearing me, which is important this year because they’re so spread out in the room to keep them distanced.
I also use Go Formative to create and upload worksheets. That’s a great resource to use with in-person or asynchronous learning. I can see what students are doing and step in if I see problems.
WeAreTeachers: How do you handle reteaching and support during online learning?
NP: If a student has a question, they can call in during class time. That’s where the BrightLink Interactive Projector comes in really handy because I can project my screen, everyone can hear clearly, and they can get their questions answered during class. Other than that, I can adjust a kid’s agenda and help them prioritize their “must-dos” to keep them from getting overwhelmed.
WeAreTeachers: How have you helped parents this year?
NP: At the beginning of the year, I made a tech boot-camp video for parents so they know all the tools we’re using. And, we gave parents a document with all the information they need to help their kids at home. Then, we check in a lot. I try to empathize with parents. If they say they’re overwhelmed, I help them create a list of what their child has to do next and what to focus on.
WeAreTeachers: After this year, what are you going to keep?
NP: I’m definitely keeping the digital daily agendas. Those have been good for the kids and me. This year has given me a work-smarter-not-harder mentality, and I’m working efficiently, so I don’t burn out. I’m also better about setting boundaries. I have times that I’m available, and I keep those consistent for kids, so I don’t feel overwhelmed like I did when we went virtual last spring.
WeAreTeachers: What advice do you have for other teachers?
NP: Consistency and problem solving are key. We need to keep it as consistent as possible for the kids and for ourselves. And problem solving together is important. After our first big quarantine in October, we learned a lot of lessons from checking in with parents and listening to what they had to say. This year we have to realize that we’re a village, working together.
Interested in using interactive displays in your classroom to help create more consistency?