Staying Connected with Students Despite Social Distancing

I have always been a bit of a self-proclaimed Hobbit. Last month, I was praying for a snow storm, hoping for a few days off, so I could just sit around and read. After entering week 4 of Virginia schools being closed due to COVID-19, I can see why Frodo and Bilbo eventually went on a quest. I’m ready. Anyone have orcs that need slain? Dragons to battle? Dwarves to hang out with? I need a quest. I am bored and sad.

Sooooo bored. So bored that I have already organized my kitchen cabinets and closets. I even tackled the bathroom drain, which involved rubber gloves and a wire hanger. (A disgusting endeavor that I never want to do again.)

It’s OK to Be Sad

But the worst part of this whole thing is that I’m sad and miss the kids. I was given a short time to return to my library to pick up a few essentials for online instruction. Reality hit me hard when I walked into my school library. Without students, the library is dead. I left with a few bags of books and a broken heart.

I realize now that we are all going through a grieving process. For as bad as I feel, I can’t imagine how our students must feel, especially those 5th graders, 8th graders, and seniors. They must be devastated, with all of the traditions they are missing.

Staying Connected

Despite schools being closed, I am so happy to see all of the creative ways that people all over the world are continuing to build community and stay connected. Platforms like Flipgrid, Zoom, Canvas, and Google Hangouts are the new norm.

During the second week of social distancing, our school had a teacher parade. Our principal let parents know the date and the time we would be having it. About fifty teachers and staff members drove through the school neighborhood, beeping and waving in their decorated cars. I couldn’t stop smiling as I blew bubbles from the sunroof and waved to all of my kids. The families’ faces were filled with love and laughter as they waved from their front yards.

Sadly, a week later, car parades were canceled when our governor issued a shelter-in-place order. Other schools in our county, who were planning car parades, created virtual parades instead. Teachers sent in video clips and pictures that were edited into a video that was sent to school families.

Other Ways to Reach Out

Phone Calls/Video Conferencing

The new expectation at our school is that our teachers will connect with each student, one on one, either by phone or by video conferencing once every two weeks. Our students have been so excited to hear their teachers’ voices. As a resource teacher, I have been invited to different teachers’ virtual morning meetings that are held in Canvas. The kids are always excited to see me.

Post Cards/Letters Home

Our PE teacher created special post cards to send to his students. I just finished writing letters to my Battle of the Books Team. Next, I will send letters to the students in my Writing Club. My goal is to send as many letters out to kids as I possibly can.

I sent a special letter to my Battle of the Books team since we did not get to have our final competition.

Class Pets

I have created a Facebook page for my bearded dragon, Merlin, so he can interact with our school community.

 

Our goal should be to stay connected to our kids in any way. If you have a unique way that you are staying connected to your kids, I would love to hear it.

 

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Author: Colleen R. Lee

Colleen R. Lee is a former middle school English teacher and Elementary Teacher. She is currently the Elementary Librarian at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, VA. Follow her on Twitter @MrsLeesLibrary.



Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Blog Topics, Community/Teacher Collaboration, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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2 replies

  1. Really enjoyed your article! It helped me feel more connected with other librarians and what they are doing during this time. it is a challenge to be a librarian without a library.

  2. Thanks for a great article! I miss my elementary school library, too. Over the past few weeks, I have let teachers know that I would love to be a guest in their virtual classrooms. Many of them have invited me to read stories to their classes, and that has been great. It was hard to read “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” to a 5th grade class, as they move on to middle school! I will miss them. I appreciated your comment: “Reality hit me hard when I walked into my school library. Without students, the library is dead.” So true. Our teachers pulled library books out of students’ desks and turned them in to the Library. Later I checked them in, and it was sad seeing so many bookmarks, marking the places where they left off with their reading. But our students are awesome and they will move forward, and they will learn and grow. :)

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