If you told me a year ago that I would be teaching kindergarten music online for a quarter of the year, I would have told you that you were crazy. I would have told you that nobody would ever think we could teach music online. I would have told you that no district in their right mind would have kindergartners doing online instruction.
Clearly, nobody knew that this past school year would have ended the way it did. Everything changed when schools began to shut down due to COVID-19. We had to adapt. It wasn't perfect by any means, but we made do.
I learned a lot while teaching online. I truly did. I learned about myself, my students, and my content area. I learned a lot that I think will shape how I teach for the rest of my career.
1. Technology Inequity is Real
While I guess I always knew this, teaching online has really made me understand just how important it is for our students to have access to high-speed internet, as well as devices to connect to the internet.
The inequities of education were exponentially amplified for our most at-risk students during remote instruction. As we return to whatever school looks like in the fall, we need to ensure all of our students have access to education, even if they don't have access to the internet or devices.
What does this look like? I'm not sure.
Maybe it looks like states and districts creating more programs for devices and hotspots to be checked out from the district. Maybe it looks like an increase in grant funding for 1:1 devices for students. Maybe it looks like sending home more paper packets for those in rural districts that don't have access to high-speed internet.
Whatever it looks like, we need to make sure we are setting our students up for success.
2. Human Connection is Important
Okay, I think we already knew this, but it's worth repeating.
I had students emailing me and logging into optional Zoom meetings that I never would have guessed would. Honestly, there were a few of my students, especially my upper-elementary kiddos, that I thought hated music. Imagine my surprise when these students were the ones excelling at their assignments and going above and beyond my sending me emails and logging into optional Zoom sessions.
I honestly learned a lot more about how schools need to make sure we are taking care of the emotional needs of our students during this time. Human connection is important, and we were all more or less locked down for months. Our students needed that type of interaction during a crazy time.
Human connection is important. It always will be.
3. Technology, Technology, Technology
We got thrust into teaching online pretty much overnight. This total (and sudden) immersion into technology was a huge adjustment. But it was also a great way for us to be forced into using some of websites, apps, and programs that have been around for a while.
I know I ended up using Flipgrid for all of my recorder assignments and assessments during this online teaching. And honestly, I'm thinking of at least keeping it as an option for those students that want to be able to work on their playing tests at home and submit online.
I also feel like I've become somewhat of an expert at using Zoom. While I'd used a bit here and there prior to this year, I've ended up using it daily. When my piano lessons ended up transitioning to Zoom, I was a little concerned, but after a few weeks, I think I got the hang of it.
4. I Shouldn't Work From Home
While this one is more personal, I think it's worth sharing. After a few weeks, the novelty of teaching from home, more or less on my own schedule, wore off. Pretty much every day was identical to the one before it, and I started to get into a funk.
I've always wondered if I would ever enjoy working from home, and after teaching from my home office for the past few months, I can definitively say that working from home is not for me. I like a schedule that changes from day to day, and I need interaction with others to recharge.
5. Schools Don't Just Teach
This is another one that I guess I already knew, but I was shown just how true it was over the past months.
Schools provide meals to those students that need it. They provide social interactions for those that are neglected at home. School counselors, social workers, and teachers provide a social safety net for some of our most vulnerable students.
Schools aren't just about imparting knowledge. And I think that's a good thing. We can't teach a student if they aren't having their basic needs met. I truly hope that this pandemic has shown just how much schools do for the communities they serve. And I hope that funding is allocated to help us achieve these enormous tasks.
6. So Much More
I know that there will be things I don't realize I had learned until we transition back to in-person instruction (hopefully) in the fall.
I fully expect to realize how much this past year has shaped me as an educator, but I won't have any idea what all I've learned until we get back into the classroom. I truly expect these lessons to stick with me for the rest of my career.
I pray that we never have another situation like this. I truly hope that we never have to try to educate our students from such a distance for so long.
But as much as this situation has been terrible, I believe we as a society have learned so much. I believe that we as educators have been forced to move into a new era of implementing technology into our classrooms. I truly believe that we will use this as a catalyst for change in our schools and our communities.
And hey, at least we've made it through the year.