Day 4 of full remote-instruction.

Dear Diary,

Boy, I am thankful that my coffee pot is within steps of my makeshift office. Coffee comforted me while I struggled through some tough moments during my first class this morning.

My day began with an unexpected defiant artist, immediately after my first direction. I addressed it with calm, but it sure took me by surprise and raised my anxiety a bit. I find with that as the age of the artists increases, the more overtly I must teach the expectations of how to act when one is on the screen for a class.

I’ve quickly noticed the dialog has changed from “make sure your mask covers your nose and mouth,” “please put your mask back on,” and “remember to stay a safe distance from your friends,” to “everyone should have their microphones off at this time,” “just raise your hand if you have a question or answer instead of everyone trying to talk at the same time,” “you should be acting and speaking on screen as if you were in the classroom,” “choose a background and stick with it,” and “so-so, you need to turn off the presentation mode right now.”

This morning I had an artist repeatedly set herself on presentation mode, and I am certain that is was a mistake every time, but the one time everyone’s screens and audio went completely NUTS. I’ve never had that experience of noise and I hope that it doesn’t happen again.

There were a number of kiddos having difficulty entering into my Google Meet, but I think that overall we worked it out. This is an adjustment for everyone. Now that the district has successfully handed our devices to those who requested them, my online classes have been fuller with artists eager to create.

With every class that I see, I am making it a point to say the kids’ favorite word. Do you know what that is? I bet it might be your favorite word, too. I say their name. I welcome each artist by name as they hop onto our screen, and I say their name at least once more during class.

I took my lunch break to walk again. Why haven’t I taken time to do this over my lunch breaks at school? At one of my schools, there’s a long walking path around the playground. During my lunch, I could have the path all to myself because my lunch falls between the kids’ lunches. At the other two schools, the parking lot or campus traffic loop would be a perfect place to get some fresh air and physical movement to recharge for the afternoon. Instead, I usually eat my lunch as fast as I can in order to do more work on my laptop or in the classroom studio. I never take the lunch fully for myself.

Over my planning period today I revised my lessons for the remote-learning model, and thankfully discovered that I can transition most of those lessons for artists to do at home. Phew! This week I have been playing art drawing games, using drawing prompts, and taking inventory of what artists have available in order to properly plan for the next week of remote-instruction. It seems that a lot of elementary artists have access to basic supplies, so we will be able to focus on artistic behaviors and offer choices of materials.

Google Meet went a little whacky during my afternoon classes. I had read S.O.S. signals my colleagues posted on my school’s GroupMe, but it wasn’t happening to me and I disregarded this issue. During both my 1st grade and kindergarten classes, all of the camera views disappeared and were replaced by the first letter of each artist’s first name, and nobody set that into effect. Seeing my artists and their artwork is a critical part of class, and my immediate troubleshooting did nothing to solve the problem. I even ended the class early for all of the 1st grade artists so that I could completely shut down all programs, restart my computer, then reload all of the Google Classrooms, attendance sheets, Meet links, and other documents I needed for classes. Didn’t help either. It wasn’t just me experiencing problems either. My young artists and their parents were having similar issues. I reached out to a Google Support Group for teachers online seeking a hopeful solution, but no solution could help me finish classes successfully.

At the very end of our teaching day, a large group of educational professionals gathered together online to share how the transition to online learning has gone, but the support one another. It is valuable to have a platform where others can voice their celebrations and concerns while being supported.

In my last class, kindergarten, before Google Meet went bonkers, a little artist unmuted and said, “I’ve missed you these last few days.” Oh, my heart melted.

We wrapped up our “school” day with virtual parent-teacher conferences for our own children. Our children’s teachers are lovely, compassionate, and dedicated to their students. It was a pleasure to discuss our kids’ education with them, and listen to them gush over some of the positives. I’m thankful for community schools.