Reflecting from a Distance

I’m not sure about y’all, but the transition from teaching in my classroom to teaching from my home office while wrangling a 4 year old was…well, let’s just call it “interesting” and leave it at that.

I survived the transition to remote learning with the help of the amazing online group of educators I’ve found and friended on Twitter. We shared our victories and our defeats, what was working and what was definitely not working, our hopes and our dreams, and our worries for what comes next. The community shared Desmos collections of eLearning activities, technology tools to aid in online collaboration, suggestions for physical math packet making/content, productivity hacks to keep track of all of the things, and methods for checking in on our students and keeping communication open with families of our students. My twitter feed became an overwhelming collection of things that looked amazing, but I no longer had the bandwidth to follow along as my school year came to a close. I suspect I was not alone in wanting to try to collect all of these resources while teaching, and that’s how this idea got started.

The Goal:

The goal of Reflecting from a Distance is to continue the sharing that started on twitter during this transition to remote learning as we look towards starting a new semester with a lot of uncertainty with regard to what the semester will look like. Will we be face-to-face? Will we be remote? Will there be a hybrid model of face-to-face and online? Will we start face-to-face and then have to abruptly re-transition to remote? Honestly, we don’t know; what I do know is that planning for what’s next will ease a lot of my anxiety, and from what I read on twitter, I’m not alone.

The inspiration for this initiative comes from a question asked by @druinok on twitter:

The tweet collected a lot of traffic and had some really good ideas from those of us whose students have access to the internet and a device. The thread had more teachers with synchronous learning environments, and the responses skewed towards high school teaching, with a few middle school teachers. To quote @mrsstipemath:

The tweet reads: “Middle school distance learning is not equal to high school distance learning is not equal to college distance learning” [person shrugging emoji]

So, in the theme of learning from this online community and implementing that learning through action: I asked, “Whose experiences are missing?” I noticed a lot of white voices and a lack of representation from teachers of students without internet or devices, in asynchronous environments, and the responses provide little to how experiences changed across elementary school and higher education experiences.

This blog doesn’t serve as a critique of the thread as much as the motivation for why we need to move the conversations from twitter, and its inherent silos, to a platform that is actively working to amplify the voices of under-represented teacher groups online and has experience sharing the amazing work that educators from around the world are doing daily in their classrooms: The Global Math Department.

While we are on the thread of thinking towards our next steps and navigating the tension between teaching in a pandemic while living in a pandemic I want to make sure we focus our energies on how we can humanize our students’ experience in our remote classroom. Back in November 2019, in what feels like a different lifetime, Hema Khodai (@HKhodai) participated in Making Math Moments Matter Virtual Summit (the summit was free at the time, but now requires payment to participate) and gave a session titled Who is a Mathematician.

The talk was an exemplar of how online learning could be structured to engage students, but more importantly Hema cites Dr. Rochelle Gutierrez (@RG1gal) in the need for math teachers to have multiple types of knowledge: content, pedagogical, political, and of diverse students. Math is not neutral and, as math teachers, we are not apolitical. Then, Hema shared a quote that I come back to over and over again in my daily planning, which has been at the forefront of my mind in these remote learning days:

“How can a fractured educator teach the whole student?

               -Hema Khodai, November 2019

Hema and Dr. Gutiérrez were referencing the internal work educators need to engage in to ensure that we are routinely confronting our own personal biases while actively questioning our practice of teaching and the impact that those actions have on our students. As educators, we need to view our teaching through a critical lens to ensure that we are not inflicting harm on our students. Use of instructional methods or practices that disregard the intersectionality of the identities of our students, that fail to see our students as a whole, actively cause harm. It is our work of learning (and unlearning) to continue to shape our practice in ways that allow us to see all of our students as whole.  This same reflection is needed as we critique our remote teaching practices to ensure they are addressing our students holistically.

So I challenge you to think of all the things that are draining for you, as the educator, right now in your remote teaching. If we, the adults in the remote classroom, are having a hard time with the over-abundance of Zoom meetings, the bombardment of emails and notifications, the cluttered calendar, and feeling like the foundation of our teaching practice is fractured, how do you think our students are feeling?

Collecting Videos:

We are working with the Global Math Department (GMD) to collect short videos (5-6 minutes) and blog posts of what you learned from our remote learning experiences from January 2020-June 2020 that worked for you and your students so we can be better prepared for what’s next in our teaching. 

Did you, in your experience of remote teaching, find success with:

  1. Tech Tools: You can go big picture and show us a learning tool (like EdPuzzle, ClassKick, SeeSaw, or some other platform) or show us how you create content within a tool (like pacing on Canvas or your LMS, creating assessments with Google Forms, or something else).
  2. Tasks: Did you redefine what a mathematical task looks like, for learning or assessment, during the remote learning phase of teaching? Is it something you want to share with the world?
  3. Productivity Hacks: Remote learning posed a whole new mountain of stuff for teachers and students to balance. Did you find a system for organizing your thoughts, documenting student communication, helping students stay on top of their work, or some other productivity hack?
  4. General Big Picture Take AwaysIn harking back to Hema’s virtual conference session, what ways have you found to help humanize the remote learning experience for your students? Have you found a system of checking in with students on their emotional health and well being that you will continue to use next semester? 

If you, or someone you know, has done something during this remote learning phase of teaching that you think others may find informative or useful, encourage them to submit their video(s) and tell us a little bit about their remote teaching experience on the google form linked here (and also available at the end of the blog post).

We ask that all video submissions contain closed captioning for those members of our community who would benefit from having a text transcript of the contents of the video. Apple Clips, a free app for recording that works with iOS devices comes recommended from our #DeafEd community. If you record with Screen-Cast-o-Matic and the Camtasia suite of video creating tools there is an automated closed captioning feature in the edit feature (Speech to text) that is very easy to use. Kapwing is another option that is web-based for creating closed captioning in your videos.

We are accepting submissions until June 30th, 2020 at 11:59pm EST. The videos will be tagged with descriptors and then added to the Global Math Department’s Youtube page. 

Thank Yous

Thank y’all for reading this post to learn about how we can continue lifting each other up as we move forward into the unknowns together. If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that:


Google Form for Video File Submissions:

One thought on “Reflecting from a Distance

  1. Pingback: This Week at Global Math – 6/16/2020 / Global Math Department

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