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What I wish my Teacher knew about me!

What I wish my Teacher knew about me!

Learning in an Online Environment

Written by Rebecca Beltramo
November 24, 2020

In the beginning of the year when I was calling families to tell them about me and how our crazy and unprecedented school year would start out through distance learning, I made it a point to ask a lot of questions that I felt were student centered. I wished to know more about their child, how I can best teach them online, how distance learning went last year and any goals they had for them during the first segment of second grade. I had a lot of different responses from academic to personal needs, medical issues and childcare needs. I heard a lot about the students but I heard about them through the perspective of their parents and what their parents wanted for them in order to succeed. I thought this was an important way to start the conversation so I could get some introductions to the students through the lens of those who care about them the most. Also, I found this important for me to build essential relationships with the families and caretakers of my students, as I know I would become an integral part of their daily lives, entering their living rooms and kitchens through zoom daily. When I first met my new students through Zoom it was more challenging than I expected to build authentic relationships as the teaching seemed to shift to less of a community to a single speaker at a time and providing a lot of technical help along the way. Let me just say that explaining how to open a new tab to a 2nd grader takes a lot of patience and a vocabulary that neither they nor I were familiar with. Needless to say, we learned together and relationships formed along the way! I felt I was able to best learn more about my students in our weekly one-on-one sessions where we would read and do math together than our whole group sessions. I was lucky enough that this year I had a small enough class to provide this service and try to really tailor instruction to the students’ needs.

When I read the article with the activity asking students, what is one thing you wish your teacher knew about you, I thought it was an amazing way to connect to my students and learn more about them. I was interested to see the responses that it would elicit but also was anticipating that I would need to scaffold this activity to try to get some more thoughtful answers. I started a morning circle off with that question and led that day by saying my answer first, saying that I wish my teacher knew that I didn’t really like to work in groups and that I sometimes get scared when I get called on in class. Students mostly recanted things they did or didn’t like or interests they had. I told the students that they would also be responding to a SeeSaw activity with the same question later that day so they could really think about their answer. I told them I would use their responses to learn more about them and to try to be a better teacher for them. I also told them that they could be honest with their responses and reminded them that our community was a safe space where I encouraged creativity.

It is always a challenge to pinpoint exactly what you need, especially for the little minds of 2nd grade students. I heard a multitude of responses from what Augustin’s favorite lego toy was to Eliana’s aspirations of becoming a doctor when she grew up. I heard about Kamden’s brave jump off the diving board when she faced her fears. I heard about Kevin’s desire to be known as “smart”. I heard that Reggie was moving out of San Francisco. I also heard Jordan was getting a pit bull and Chauncey’s birthday was coming up. I was able to start conversations with students and understand more about what they cared about but most responses were very practical. The one thing that really stuck out to me was the responses I didn’t get. 6 out of 15 students never responded and 4 of these students have not been attending online schooling consistently.

I wondered about what those responses could have been, possibly a plea for stable housing, a need for a more conducive learning environment, or asking for food or clothing. I wondered how I, as their teacher, could best help them safely in this Pandemic and how I could connect with them. If there is one thing this pandemic has made very evident to me is that the achievement gap is widening and those hard hit by the pandemic are unfortunately falling through the cracks. How can I work to help fix these disproportionate societal strains? I am still searching for the answers and am also wondering the longterm effects on eduction that COVID-19 will have on my students and their futures.