A few weeks ago, earlier on in this time of “distance learning,” I was in a grade level where I teacher broke down in tears as she described the first virtual read aloud that she did live with her students. “I felt like a teacher again. I felt like myself,” she explained. I remember being moved by her emotion and a little envious. There have been times through all of this, that I have longed to be a classroom teacher, to have a group of people to shelter and take care of.
This past week, I got to experience a sliver of what this teacher described from her read aloud experience. I joined several teachers to observe and even lead some small group sessions with students. It was the first time, in over a month that I had seen any of our students “live.” I didn’t know what to expect. Part of me wanting to join in on these sessions was to learn. How can I troubleshoot or offer suggestions about what small groups could look like if I didn’t even know what they looked like, or how they were currently going? How could I assure people that we could do this work from a distance if I had no idea what it looked like anymore?
I met with teachers to plan, in a Google Hangout rather that in my office or in their classrooms. I took what I learned from our planning sessions and prepared for the groups in the same ways that I would have if we were at school. I had to rethink some of the delivery and work around some of the methods, but it was largely the same work that I was used to.
As I clicked, “Join Hangout” for my first writing small group with a group of fourth graders, I’ll admit, I had butterflies. What if I didn’t know how to do this work in this environment? I was doubting what I usually know for sure.
As soon as I saw the kids faces and began chatting with them as we awaited all of the members of the group, my butterflies vanished. This felt normal. Then, as we began the work of the writing group, studying a mentor to learn about a new genre of writing, I was filled with hope. It was in that moment that I believed that we could still do good work here, from home. The kids were right there with us, engaged in the work, sharing their ideas with each other, and learning together. When I sent them off, to disconnect from our meeting, I knew that their writing that day would be better because of our work together. I also knew that the connections we made, not just kids to teacher, but kids to kids, would also fuel them, even just a little bit as then continued in their new reality.
Last week, I attended many small groups in almost every grade level and every time, the hope grew. Each day as I reflected on the bright spots in my day, these moments always stood out. Just like the teacher describing finding herself as she connecting through read aloud with her students, these connections with kids and teaching helped me to feel more like myself than I had in weeks. I hope kids felt a bit of that as well.