So today starts Remote Learning 2.0 in Melbourne. For those not in the know, Australia has been doing pretty well with the whole coronavirus thing, with deaths around the 100 mark for the whole continent. Things were starting to loosen up, but then here in Melbourne the quarantining of overseas travellers was badly botched and the virus escaped. We’re back in stage 3 lockdown, with the wearing of facemarks being compulsory from Thursday onwards.
Fortunately, I’ve been making facemarks for the family for a while now.
Here’s a nearly-finished one that I made for Ryan25. He’s got 6 masks now – 3 are sensible, ‘manly’ ones and 3 are more whimsical. When the directive from the premier came through on Saturday I was inundated by requests from friends and colleagues about whether I’d make masks for them.
“I’ll pay you…”
It’s amazing how things have changed! Fifteen years ago – hell, five years ago I would’ve been up till 3 AM every morning sewing masks to make a bit of extra money. Now, I’m able to knock them back and say that I’m only sewing masks for my family. It’s honestly not the sort of sewing I enjoy, so if I don’t need the money I’m not going to do it. Past Frogdancer wouldn’t be able to believe it!
In Victoria all VCE students are back at school, but every other year level from prep to year 10 are back to remote learning. Teachers of junior classes, such as my good self, are allowed to stay at home to teach at their principal’s discretion. Thankfully, my principal gave the go-ahead for this, as long as we all came into work last week and set up 6 week’s worth of lessons, resources and Google Meets.
It was a very productive week. Last time we were thrown into remote learning, teachers were pretty much doing things on the fly and making things work. It was an intense time.
Now, we had a week to meet and to talk. We found out what things worked well and what didn’t. We were able to refine our lessons and give the kids far more face-to-face time with their teachers this time around, because all of our prep has been done. It was really good.
This time around, our lessons run as follows:
Every class has a Google Meet. The kids and I log on, I mark the roll and then we begin the lesson. I might play a quick game with them or just launch straight in – it depends how ‘meaty’ the lesson is.
I talk for maybe 10 minutes, setting up the expectations of the lesson and what it is that they’re expected to do. Then the kids log out of the Meet and go and do their work. I stay on the meet, mic and camera muted, in case any kid has a question or a problem. If a kid jumps back into the Meet, I switch my mic and camera back on and I’m able to fix whatever the kid needs help with.
So basically I stay available for them for the whole lesson. So far, it’s worked really well.
Last time, some kids avoided doing work. But now I’m able to see what they’re doing in real time and shoot them a quick message if they seem to have gone AWOL. A boy in one of my year 7 classes who barely did any work last time was so surprised by my email that he jumped into the Meet to talk to me.
Turns out he couldn’t find the document that had the questions he was supposed to answer, so he was on the verge of giving up. Two quick chats later, he completed the work, I made him laugh when he thanked me by saying to him, “That’s why I earn the big bucks!” and we now have a kid who has finished the school day with a success, instead of feeling like a failure.
A VERY satisfying interaction was with a kid from my other year 7 class, earlier in the day. The kids were expected to do some research on the Holocaust and WWII – we’re studying the novel ‘Once’ this term – and put whatever they’d learned onto a slideshow in our Google Classroom online. This kid just wrote “I’m a lizard” and another kid wrote underneath this, “Just answer the questions, Liam.”
I shot an email across to him with nothing in the body of the email, just a subject line which read, “Liam, you lizard!! Do the work, please.”
Within 5 minutes I could see him working on the slideshow. Heh heh.
I felt a bit like Orwell’s Big Brother.