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The First Week of School

22 Sep

My students and I survived the first week of remote learning. I was more nervous Monday than I usually am on a first day of school. But as the days passed, I felt better. And things got better.

Most of our work this week has been get to know you activities that help us all learn how to navigate the online platform we are using. Friday’s activity, intended to teach students how to upload a document into our platform to turn in work I will grade, was meant to be fun, and a way for me to get to know my new students better.

I asked them to write a poem about how the week went. Of course I gave models. First, I modeled how they could use the rhythm and rhyme of a song or poem they knew to write a poem. To model this, I shared My First Week of School (v1.0)

Twas the night before school started
And I tossed and I turned
My mind wouldn’t shut down
My thoughts were all churned.

The air smelled like smoke
My dreams were overtaken
By thoughts of my students-
There might have been bacon.

And yet as the days passed
My worries abated
I was able to teach
The classes I created.

So now it is Friday
And though things aren’t flawless
They have greatly improved
And in that I find solace.

But not every kid has a sense of rhyme or rhythm. I have read (and written) enough terrible poetry to know this. So I taught them a trick to write a free verse poem: start with a paragraph. Thus, My First Week of School (v 2.0) was born.

It was the night before the first day of remote learning and my brain wouldn’t shut off.  I tossed and turned in bed, fluffing the pillows, hoping sleep would find me. Eventually, I fell into a disturbed sleep where, due to the presence of smoke in the air from Oregon’s wildfires, I dreamed of bacon – a food I have not eaten in decades.

Monday dawned orange, the wildfire smoke obscuring the sun. I hoped this was no indication of the sort of year I should expect. My online lessons went fine, though I talked more in those four hours than I had in the previous week. 

With each lesson, my confidence grew. I tried more features of Zoom and Canvas. I arrived at the point where, when I messed up in Period three, I was able to problem solve quickly.

The wildfire smoke is dissipating and my anxiety about online teaching is waning. I still have a lot to learn, but I am no longer daunted by the prospect of this school year.

I then demonstrated that, by thinking about logical breaking points – maybe places where a reader might take a breath, or want to emphasize a word or phrase – you can turn your prose, into a poem. I shared My First Week of School (v 3.0)

It was the night before the first day of remote learning
And my brain wouldn’t shut off.  
I tossed and turned in bed,
Fluffing the pillows, 
Hoping sleep would find me. 
Eventually, I fell into a disturbed sleep where, 
Due to the presence of smoke 
In the air 
From Oregon’s wildfires, 
I dreamed of bacon – 
A food I have not eaten
In decades.

Monday dawned orange, 
The wildfire smoke 
Obscuring the sun. 
I hoped this was no indication 
Of the sort of year 
I should expect. 
My online lessons went fine, 
Though I talked more 
In those four hours 
Than I had 
In the previous week. 

With each lesson, 
My confidence grew. 
I tried more features 
Of Zoom 
And Canvas. 
I arrived at the point where, 
When I messed up 
In Period three,
I was able to problem solve 
Quickly.

The wildfire smoke is dissipating,
My anxiety about online teaching is waning. 
I still have a lot to learn,
But I am no longer daunted 
By the prospect 
Of this school year.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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