Tag: education

The COVID Chasm: Educators Stuck In The Pandemic Divide

Posted on July 15, 2020 by

Educators, do you feel the COVID chasm?

“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.” – Nelson Mandela

Since March 13, when my 29-year teaching career suddenly pivoted into unknown territory, I feel the COVID chasm growing deeper in education.

So much of what we always did, what we always knew, what always ‘worked’ dissolved with the movement to online, crisis teaching.

Some teachers literally pivoted over night. Some, like me, had an amorphous ramp-up time, highlighting the literal and physical break in our system.

Four months later, rethinking how we ‘do’ school isn’t a place most teachers thought we’d be. Many of us thought we’d be out of the building for a few weeks at best, just enough time to let the virus blow over. We’d be back for the last quarter, be able to see all our hard work pay off with celebrations, projects, graduations, and promotions – all the best parts of the school year showing themselves off.

When we left our classrooms, many of us never realized we wouldn’t open the doors again for months, not anticipating it would be like unlocking a time capsule that would bring us to tears.

And the most disturbing part is, this chasm, this great divide between what we knew then and what we know now, continues to widen, to separate and fragment, and is leaving all educators – particularly teachers, wondering where to find solid footing.

The COVID chasm divides

This COVID chasm divides the risk-friendly with the risk-averse, crisis teaching with online instruction, parents with teachers, the government with education, people of color with what’s equitable, and what YOU say with what I hear.

It’s the reason why teachers are scared – me included.

Before, the split between education’s early adopters of technology, (the risk-friendly types), and mainstream teachers (the more risk-averse types) was less visible. Suddenly, ALL teachers adopted technology in order to keep the school going – thus exposing students and families to staggering levels of preparedness. Those who used to rely on ‘the way we’ve always done it’ found themselves lost, isolated, and overwhelmingly untrained to execute distance learning.

The COVID chasm exposes

COVID chasm

It exposed a systemic problem in education, a deep, broken and yet firmly foundational system that locked our schools in place – and a system that can benefit from disruption.

When conflict happened pre-pandemic, it was easier for parents and teachers to ‘agree to disagree’. Many times – or most – teachers would breathe deeply and try to remember that they are the education experts, even when parents were telling them how to teach. With teachers planted as responsible for a failing economy if we refuse to support face to face instruction, the chasm between parent and teacher gapes.

As our country confronts the COVID-19 crisis, the deep separation between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ reveals the inequity in educational funding. Big business bailouts versus devastating cuts in education pit neighbor against neighbor, political parties against each other. Educators, expected to do more with less, feeling devalued and expendable, wonder if it’s worth it anymore. Why wonder if they can be expected to resume ‘business as usual’ and put their life on the line. Do teachers need to die for their jobs?

And the chasm between BIPOC and whites, between those who are most impacted by the virus, least likely to have healthcare, job security, or choice about sending their kids back into school buildings – including BIPOC educators – perhaps they feel the COVID chasm most intimately.

Educators can tell you what’s best for children – it’s to be surrounded by people who care, people who want to listen and hear what they’re saying, by people who understand that the trauma of being put into unsafe school situations is greater than the trauma of missing one fall or one year of face to face instruction.

Educators know what to do

COVID chasm

Educators are trained to do what’s best for kids – and when you say, “It’s not that bad…kids need to be in school with their friends”, what we hear is, “Your life is less important than mine – otherwise I would be fine hosting all 30 of my kid’s classmates for a play date”.

When you say, “We need to have a Zoom meeting to discuss re-opening ideas”, what we hear is, “The virus is too dangerous to meet in person, but not too dangerous to put teachers in classrooms”.

When you say, “Just put up a tent outside – it’s safe out there”, we hear,”Teachers are babysitters and camp counselors, not educators”.

And when you say, “Distance learning didn’t work for my kid last spring”, we hear you say, “Teachers failed – even though we did our best with little time and no training.”

It’s time to think about Nelson Mandela’s words: “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us.”

Bridging the divides

We know better and we can do better. Together, we can bridge the divides before us, and take this disruption and run with it. We can take care of our students, we can figure out solutions – but only if we take the time. The time is now. It’s time for teacher training in online learning and increased government funding for education. We need equitable access to healthcare and collaboration between families and schools. This pandemic shouldn’t bring out our worst – let us work together to heal our wounds and do what’s best for our kids.

Teachers shouldn’t have to be forced to decide between their profession and their life, or the lives of their families. That’s not going to make education better. That’s one chasm that we cannot bridge – but so many of these we can.

What do you say – are you willing to help fix the COVID chasm, or not? Remember – you are what you DO – not what you SAY you’ll do. Time to step up for education.

primark

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

Posted on August 4, 2017 by

As a teacher, I’m always looking for ways to make the most out of the time my students spend with me. As a parent, I look for ways to keep track of my kids’ progress inside and outside the classroom. Both of these roles require a little creativity, as well as some tight budgeting, especially when it comes to school supplies. I’m excited to share 7 money saving, creative uses for binders in the classroom with you!

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

Do you want 7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom?

That’s why I love the ideas in this article and handy infographic. No matter what ages your kids are, picking up a few extra binders so you can utilize them in these ways could be a real time, money, or space saver. Or perhaps they will inspire you to repurpose some of last year’s binders?

If you try out these projects or come up other clever uses for these inexpensive back-to-school supplies, please share. Get creative with your binder projects and let me know how it goes!

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

1. Student Portfolios

Do your students take the time to evaluate, organize, or reflect on the work they do in your classroom? If not, they could be missing out on a powerful and authentic learning opportunity, not to mention a handy way to hang on to their best work and share it with parents, future teachers, and scholarship or college admissions committees. Research suggests student portfolios are beneficial because they involve students in research, writing, problem-solving, and assessment.

Here’s how to help students make meaningful student portfolios.

  • Determine the primary goal for the project. It could be to:
    • Display a student’s best work
    • Display a student’s learning progress
    • Display evidence that learning standards were met
    • Help students reflect on their work
    • Provide students with keepsakes from the year
  • Decide on the primary audience for the project. It could be:
    • The student
    • The teacher (either the current teacher or the student’s next teacher)
    • Parents
    • An administrator
    • A scholarship or college admissions committee
  • Let students help plan and make their portfolio.
  • Supply students with two binders, one for the portfolio and one as a working binder, where students keep materials to be evaluated for inclusion in the portfolio.
  • Collect, date, and store work samples for a specified period, either a term, semester, or year.
  • Choose regular intervals to evaluate work for inclusion in the portfolio.
  • Encourage students to routinely evaluate and improve their portfolios by asking questions such as:
    • Have I shown a variety of work?
    • Does the work I’ve chosen show how I’ve improved?
    • Does the work I’ve chosen reflect my interests?
    • Does the work show where I’ve come from and where I’m going?

2. Student Profile Binder

Effective classroom management relies on forming positive relationships with individual students. But it’s challenging to get to know each student personally in a crowded classroom. A student profile binder can help. Designate a binder for each class, and make a tab for each student. File information there such as:

  • A completed information sheet about a student’s family, pets, and interests
  • An “all-about-me” essay
  • A completed learning styles inventory
  • Individual Education Program (IEP) goals and notes

Review a student’s information whenever needed and before a parent conference or IEP meeting to help you understand the student’s background, needs, and concerns. This practice helps teachers build individual relationships based on trust and respect, which makes managing the classroom easier.

3. Substitute Teacher Binder

Preparing for a sub is no easy task, and it too often needs to be done at the beginning or end of an already long day. Get a head start by making a substitute teacher binder to store up-to-date information your subs may need. As an added bonus, subs will love you. It’s challenging to stand in for a teacher. With a fully loaded binder, substitutes won’t need to search for information about your school, students, or procedures.

Consider including the following:

  • A welcome page introducing yourself and your classroom
  • Phone numbers for the office, nurse, and special education room
  • Names of teachers and students who can answer questions when needed
  • Explanation of your daily procedures
  • Class rosters
  • Seating charts
  • Directions for using technology, such as a projector, smart board, or document reader
  • Explanation of your classroom management practices
  • Forms or hall passes
  • List of students who need to leave the classroom for support classes or who have health issues that may need to be addressed
  • Emergency lesson plans in case you’re unable to prepare customized plans
  • Filler activities in case the class completes assignments early
  • Map of the school with important rooms highlighted
  • The school’s emergency evacuation procedures
  • A feedback form for the sub to leave notes for you

4. Phonics Flip Books

Primary teachers or reading specialists can transform a binder into a fun tool to help beginning readers learn to sound out words.

7 Money Saving, Creative Uses For Binders In The Classroom

5. Puzzle Organizers

Primary school teachers are often inundated with stacks of puzzles in tattered cardboard boxes. Downsize the clutter by transforming binders into handy puzzle organizers.

Supplies:

  • 3-ring binder
  • Gallon–size slide–lock freezer bags
  • Duct tape
  • 3–hole punch
  • Labels
  • Marker

Instructions:

  1. Line the bottom two inches of the bags with duct tape on the front and the back.
  2. Make sure the hole punch is set to the North American 3–hole standard, with the center of the holes 4.25 inches apart. Then use it to punch holes in the tape at the bottom of the bag.
  3. Label the bag with a description of the puzzle or game it contains.
  4. Insert the puzzle pieces into the bag.
  5. File the plastic bag in the binder.
  6. Repeat with the rest of your puzzles
  7. Use the same method to contain and organize games, magnets, and other props

6. Mobile Art Stations

Tired of storing and moving around buckets of crayons, colored pencils, and other art supplies? Transform binders into mobile art stations. Use the same method as above to make pockets out of plastic bags. Place a bag of crayons, colored pencils, and markers in each binder, as well as a bag containing a pair of scissors, a glue stick, two pencils, and an eraser. At the end of the binder, include coloring sheets, word searches, crosswords, and blank paper. Mobile art stations fit neatly on shelves, and students can grab one during choice time or after they’ve completed all of their other tasks.

7. DIY Clipboards

Physical activity shouldn’t be confined to P.E. and recess. Getting kids up and moving around during regular lessons is also important and beneficial. In one study, 13.5 percent more students reached their goal on the state standardized test after physical activity was incorporated into regular lessons. But how do kids work when they’re on their feet? Transform binders into clipboards that can be used as mobile workstations. Students can make and personalize clipboards, and bring them along on nature studies and hands–on learning activities. Bonus: The project can double as a lesson about recycling materials.

So, which of these 7 money saving, creative uses for binders in the classroom inspire you? I’d love to hear what you come up with – just leave a comment and/or a photo below!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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