I was changing my five-month-old daughter this morning and, without thinking, threw her diaper into the hamper instead of the diaper genie!...Wait, was it this morning?? What day is it anyway?? Time is weird right now.
I know I’m not the only one having “brain farts” during this time. A friend of mine just realized while grocery shopping that he accidentally wore his slippers to the grocery store! I felt much better about my mistake when I heard this, because even though the phrase “we’re all in this together” has been popping up over and over to the point where I had been getting a little annoyed by it, I somehow thought that I was alone in my mental state.
Right now I am spending my days of quarantine multitasking between tending to the needs of my students (or “quaranteaching” as I’ve come to call it) and the needs of my infant while my husband works long hours. As if all of the demands of teaching or being a new mother weren’t enough, let’s combine them!
It’s easy to feel alone in this struggle, but as refreshing as it was for me to hear of my friend’s slippers in the store, it has been just as refreshing for my students and their parents when they hear my daughter in the background of a recorded lesson or watch me multitask with her during video chats. These are the things that make me human even while I’m on their screen. It’s easy to feel alone or become desensitized by our screens, especially now.
Although we need to be physically apart right now, we have to make sure to maintain human connections with our students and colleagues, and that’s where GoGuardian has been a godsend! My team of three other middle school teachers and I have created combined sessions in which all of us have access to classes together. When students come online, one of us will greet them and check in to see how they’re doing. The rest of us can easily see through chat notifications which students we have checked in with and which ones we haven’t.
Through these check-ins, we were able to identify different home situations which required differentiation that wouldn’t have normally interfered with academics if we were at school. We were able to provide accommodations right on GoGuardian with the new chat features. Some students now have check-in times when they chat with their homeroom teacher every day, and we work out a plan with them on how to tackle the day’s assignments.
When we started, there weren't any organizational systems for middle school students to take six different online classes simultaneously and without coaching. We knew going into this which of our students would struggle the most with staying organized with their assignments, so we set up GoGuardian Chat check-in appointments with them too. They check in with a teacher who gets them going on their first assignment. Once that is finished, they send a GoGuardian chat to their teacher, get a virtual high five, (we’re pumped about the new emojis!), and then the teacher can set them up with their next assignment. We were very thankful when the chat notification sound feature came out as well because it meant that a teacher could be working on another screen and get notified.
Unlike teaching in the classroom, students working from home end up asking questions during all hours of the day (and night!). One of my students has been spending this time helping to take care of her five younger siblings. She does her homework late at night when the house is finally quiet. Because GoGuardian Chat will save a conversation even if one party is offline, she has been using it to ask her teachers questions, and we can respond the next morning when we log in.
A lot can be learned just from pulling up a student’s timeline on GoGuardian as well. During the first week of online learning, one of our students who struggles with attention deficit disorder would pull up every class’s homework at once and then proceed to click through them one after the other without actually working on one. After seeing them online for a while but not actually getting any work submitted, a quick peek at their timeline showed us that we needed to work out a plan to help this student hone in on one assignment at a time so they weren’t overwhelmed.
Arguably the most helpful feature during all of this is seeing a student’s screen in real-time, coupled with the ability to chat. Whenever I have students who need help, they can message me on GoGuardian Chat, and I can have them pull up the problem they are working on, see their screen, and talk them through it. I have also made connections with students during this time by casually chatting with them after seeing a recorded sporting event play on their screen once they finished their work.
What started as a classroom management software has turned into an academic and relationship lifeline between students and teachers. Thank you, GoGuardian, for helping bring us together during this time.