This post was originally supposed to have been published in early March right around the time our report cards were due. According to my PGP(Professional Growth Plan), I was to share out my plans for my global connection projects for the rest of the year. I was so excited about the plans and projects that I had in store for the last term of the school year.
My projects had my students launching their blogs, taking part in the Student Blogging Challenge, writing, and recording, a trilingual song for the World Peace Song Project. I also wanted my students to make a connection with students in Taiwan through the use of Flipgrid. My culminating and final project of the year was to have the students make their podcast about one of the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that they were passionate about. I had been teaching my students about the SDGs through the use of picture books and novels this year. These projects were meant to personalize learning for my students, give them a voice, hopefully, let them shoot for the stars. I envisioned my students taking greater ownership of their learning and excited about the whole process.
I postponed writing this post, I was busy with report cards, I was busy with Innovation Day, I was busy with life. On March 12th my life changed, my teaching job changed, and my plans and projects were put on hold. My colleagues and I started planning for distance learning at our school. I vividly remember my teaching partner looking a little scared during one of our virtual planning meetings on March 13th. She looked at me and asked if I thought we could do this, and teach from our computer. I was confident that we could pull this off and that our whole school would function beautifully online.
Many of our teachers had taken part in big school initiatives over the last two years with No Tosh and Silvia Tolisano. Our teaching and learning practices had changed. The OJCS became more innovative and more aligned for teaching 21st-century skills. We were so ready for this moment, our head of school, Dr. Jon Mitzmacher was almost giddy with excitement for the moment of transitioning to an online school. I was excited to start teaching this way as well. I had prepared my students well over the last year and a half. They could work online and share google docs, they had attended research workshops, and could locate information on the internet. The students had learned about blogging, copyright, hyperlinking, and digital citizenship. I remember feeling so thankful for putting so much time and energy into my professional growth over the last two and a half years. I was ready to leap online learning as well.
As I update this post after five weeks of teaching online, I am reflecting on my experience with global connection and my teaching practice. My projects have been put on hold except for one, connecting my students with students all over Taiwan via Flipgrid. I had met an English teacher from Taiwan through #GridPals in February, and our students starting connecting on March 12th, our last day at school. The students kept making videos and got to know each other during our first weeks of distance learning. One of my students surprised us all by speaking English and Mandarin in his video and holding up English and Mandarin speech bubbles he had written. The students in Taiwan were so excited to see this bilingual video. I was thankful that I had met Jyun De Lee. He helped me navigate my way in the first few days of distance learning.
I have also had the good fortune of making another global connection with Gali Lev Ari, a teacher in Israel. A chance post on Facebook brought our two classes together. It has been amazing to watch our students in zoom meetings talk about their lives and distance learning.
I am hoping that my students are getting a sense of how they are part of a larger global community and how meaningful connections can be made even during a pandemic. I know that I am grateful to be connected to a global teaching community. Some questions remain about my other teaching projects. Will my students ever get blogs? Will they make a song for the World Peace Song project? Will they ever record a podcast? Only time will tell.