Isaac Newton’s Third Law of motion states, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If I am trying to balance an egg on my head, gravity is trying to prevent me from doing so, as it is pulling the egg downward, toward it’s center. This scientific principle can be seen almost anywhere you look. Even as I type on this computer, opposite reactions are happening. When I press a key on my keyboard, it gets pushed downward, and when I release the pressure on the key, it pops back up. That’s pretty cool stuff right there. As I often tell my students, science is everywhere. However, I believe that this scientific law also applies to everyday life. The words I use when conversing with someone will produce a reaction within the person to whom I am speaking. If I use kind words, then the person might feel happy, relieved, or some other type of positive emotion. Hopefully, in turn, that person will then spread their happiness to other people as they go about their day. Check out this video to see how kindness can spread. If I, however, use unkind words or do not stop to think before I speak, then I could cause the person to feel all sorts of negative emotions, which will in turn, cause them to spread negativity as they go about their day. Every action we commit has a reaction.
In uncertain times like these, it can be very easy to focus on the negative aspects of life. “I have to stay cooped up inside all day. I’m so bored. I just want to do something,” some people might think or say, which is completely understandable. It is difficult to stay put and not be able to live life like we once did. It is what we need to do right now though for the health and well-being of all humans on earth. I say, let’s try to flip the coin and perceive life through positivity. “I get to stay home and clean my house. Yes, I haven’t had a chance to do that in weeks” OR “I had so much free time today that I learned a new card trick.” OR “I found a way to help the cause because I had so much time on my hands.” We choose how we act. Like Newton’s great Third Law, every action will have a reaction. If we choose to be negative, then negativity will find it’s way back to us. If we choose to be positive, then positivity will seek us out. It’s like Karma. When you do something good for someone else, something good will come to you.
This idea of perception is so crucial to Distance Learning in which schools and children around the country are participating. Parents could view it as another thing to worry about at home, or choose to see it as an opportunity to connect with their children in new and different ways. Teachers could see remote learning as one more hardship in front of them, or view it through the lens of a wonderful new challenge they are able to overcome. While distance learning could never replace the connections made and relationships forged in the classroom, it can be something meaningful and real that will allow students to continue to learn and grow while being at school is not an option.
My first full week of distance learning was fantastic, overall. Were there challenges to overcome? Oh yeah. Did everything work out the way I had intended? Oh no. Were my students able to connect virtually with their peers and I in meaningful and engaging ways? Most certainly. Did genuine learning happen for my students? Indeed it did. While there were definitely struggles to my first week of remote learning, the positive totally outweighed the negative. What excited me the most about this past week of distance learning was the amazing, symbiotic relationship between families and schools. The families of my students worked so hard behind the scenes to help keep our students focused on the schedule. Despite all of the extra work, I’m sure, they had to deal with at home, they made it a priority to help their children make the virtual lessons on time and complete the assigned work. I want to give a huge shout out to all of the families out there supporting their children. YOU ROCK! Thank you so much for making this transition almost seamless. This piece of it all allowed for the phenomenally positive outcomes I saw this week.
Here are some of the other positive puzzle pieces that came together during my first week of distance learning:
- I had time to address some academic issues with students that I don’t normally have the time to do being physically at school. I was able to virtually connect via Google Meet with students, one-on-one and put plans in place to help them continue to grow and develop as readers, writers, thinkers, and students. I worked with one student on her reading prior to the official start of our academic day this past week. We worked together to implement a plan to help her work on decoding words and adding to her vocabulary repository. I worked with another student on using complete sentences in his writing. While he knows how to write in complete sentences, he sometimes chooses not to do so. I helped him see the value in using proper grammar when writing. I enjoyed having the flexibility to meet with students outside of our academic day to work on areas in need of improvement.
- Every Friday, we usually discuss current events altogether as a class. We complete the New York Times Weekly News Quiz for Students and chat about the issues mentioned in the questions. It’s a highlight for many of the students, as they can share their thoughts and feelings on events that we are all living through. Knowing that I wanted to bring some aspect of this to our remote learning program, I was concerned that it would be challenging to do so in any sort of meaningful manner. Then, as I allowed my brain to process this dilemma while focusing on other issues, I came up with a plan that ended up being a huge success. I called it: Current Event Roulette. I assigned small groups of students to separate Google Meet Hangouts. In those groups, they discussed the news quiz as well as any other current event that moved them. The trick was, they did not know who they were going to be working with until they got to the Google Meet session. Then, they got to work. I popped into the separate meetings periodically throughout the 30 minutes to observe what was happening. I was so impressed, once again, with my students. They were discussing current events. They were debating the answers to questions and genuinely sharing their thoughts and opinions with each other. It was so cool. We closed our current events discussion with a whole-class discussion via Google Meet. The students really enjoyed this format for discussing current events. Check out this video of our wrap-up discussion.
- The students challenged themselves to maintain really high standards throughout the week. When I provided each student with feedback regarding their Daily Effort in Google Classroom, the students utilized that feedback and made the suggested changes in successive days. If a student hadn’t been writing in complete sentences when documenting their work for the day, the next day, that student used complete sentences when updating their Done Journal. If a student was late to a Google Meet session during a day, they did not miss another meeting after that. While my students are usually really great about exceeding my expectations and making changes to grow and learn as students, I did worry that this would be difficult for them to do on their own, virtually. However, they are totally doing it.
- The feedback I’m receiving from the parents is very positive. They are happy with our schedule and like the workload. They are amazed with how focused and independent their children are during our academic days. I have one family who has a student in my class and students at other local public schools in the town in which they live, and she is pleasantly surprised by the amount of contact I have with the students and the amount of focus that her child is committing to to our remote learning program. She loves it!
Here are some challenges I faced during this first week:
- I found it very difficult to have the students peer edit and revise each other’s writing. While they are all familiar with using Google Docs, as that is how we do most of our writing in Language Arts, they struggled to connect with each other via email when they shared their documents. They did not check the email with the shared document link or did not make any comments in the document for the other student. I had to make some changes to this process later in the week based on this outcome.
- Technology is both wonderful and awful at the same time. The Internet is a bevy of excellent resources for students and teachers; however, it is also full of inappropriate content that students or teachers should not be viewing. Google Meet was a bit glitchy at times throughout the week. The students did begin to figure out how to address these challenges throughout the week. If a student couldn’t see or hear the rest of us, they ended the call and then rejoined it. if a student had trouble hearing me or their peers, they turned on captions. We found workarounds, but it was still a challenge that we all needed to overcome.
As my first week of distance learning was filled with positive outcomes, there were some equal and opposite reactions that proved troublesome at times. However, all in all, it was a fantastic and meaningful first week. The students seemed engaged, interested, happy to be connecting with each other, and excited to be learning. That’s a pretty swell week in my eyes. As the theme song for the television show The Facts of Life taught us, “You take the good; you take the bad; you take them both, and there you have, the facts of life.”