Undoubtedly, this has been a school year unlike any we have ever seen. Students and families were forced to make tough decisions about their child's education and had to rapidly navigate a slew of online options. Many families decided to go with long-standing virtual schools which were already equipped for fully remote learning.
I am a virtual school teacher and want to share what this year has been like and why my students continue to inspire every day:
1. My students are not afraid to take risks, to make mistakes. I teach math, which can get messy and complicated; juggling all of the steps and procedures can be tough. We all learn from the mistakes we make in our class ... and not just from a mathematical procedural standpoint. My classroom community speaks volumes to their risk-taking mentality because we are learning together as a team and classmates/teammates help each other out if they get stuck. My kids know they will not truly fail as long as we are there for them; we've got their back.
2. They laugh at my embarrassingly corny jokes, puns, stories, songs, antics, etc. They're fourth-graders, so let's face it, they are too "cool," but they make an exception for me and let themselves be "uncool" for a minute to have some pure, childish, educational fun. This helps them let loose and trust me to teach them in a style they love in a class they don't want to miss.
3. Even during this crazy pandemic year, they still LOVE to learn. They are eager to absorb all that I throw at them ... even those challenging open-ended questions that don't have a true solution. They think. They struggle. And it's great to watch them try and ultimately succeed!
4. They are creative! Oh boy are they creative. Teaching online has forced all of us to push the limits. For example, I assigned a project for students to create a map of a zoo or theme park. They asked if they could create it on Minecraft or Roblox. Sure! Why not? I was left in awe at their amazing creations complete with the most minute details and a video tour from none other than the chief engineer and creator themselves. Screenshots and virtual protractors were used to measure the angles to satisfy assignment criteria. I was amazed at all they could do when they were put in charge!
5. They always rise to the occasion. They push me harder every day because they never cease to amaze me. With their logical reasoning as they navigate complex real-world problems and explain their creative, nontraditional strategies used to reach the solutions. With their resilience to battle with technology issues day in and day out and still demonstrate incredible growth. With their determination to be better than yesterday and to be better each day forward. With their initiative to reattempt an assignment they struggled with because they refuse to let it defeat them. I can't wait to see what they are going to do next.
My students inspire me to be truly present each day, to live in the teachable moments and to embrace my creative, outside-the-box problem solving side as I tackle teaching in a virtual classroom amid a global pandemic.
4th-grade math teacher at Cyber Academy of South Carolina
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