COVID19 – End of the Year Reflections

End of the year. Finally. Sixty plus school days out, from March 12th until June 12th.

Who knows what the fall will bring? More of the same, full distance learning? Some days in school, some distance? Totally back in person?

Full of questions. So I asked the students a series of questions, so that the poor students stuck in Mr. Anderson’s (virtual) classroom will be just a little better off next year. First question:

Let’s say that you didn’t know me, and you got stuck with me next year for Math or Tech class. How can I build a relationship with you over a distance? How can I get to know you and you to get to know me so that we can build a relationship so that we can set up the best learning environment? This is a tough question, I know. 

Wonderful responses. Instead of rewording I’ll let them directly speak for themselves. Here’s a selected set of direct student quotes.

  • Google meets are a great way to interact with students, and (even though I didn’t use them) I think having virtual office hours is a good resource for students.  If you want to form relationships with your students you could have occasional/optional “game nights” to get people to do something fun, math related, and engage them.
  • Maybe a form or document for both you and students to fill out about themselves
  • you can askme if im doing ok everyday, try to make me laugh, cause this social distancing is not really doing to well with some people.
  • I would hold a whole class google meet and make a presentation about you. Like talking about your family your hobbies etc. Just your students will get to know you a little better. Then you can ask students a little about them like share their name and one thing they like.
  • Set up small maybe even one on one meetings, like the ones we did preparing for fourth quarter. Require the students to have cameras on so you are able to match voices with faces and try to learn more about them and their learning style. 
  • Express your passions and hobbies early on, too which the students can fill out a google form too with their passions and hobbies.
  • right at the beginning do google meets/ video calls so they can get to know your voice and the face/ personality attached to it. 
  • I think the best thing to do is a google form like this with a bunch of questions to get to know your students.  
  • I guess maybe make a video about yourself, describing why you wanted to teach math and tech classes and some pictures of stuff you like to do.
  • Maybe a video introducing yourself
  • I think it would be nice if you posted lesson videos weekly for the assignment explaining it and used some sort of comment feature to respond to questions so that we don’t have to wait for a google to figure it out. But doing mandatory google meets is also a good idea o get to know the class. 
  • Maybe give the students a clearer understanding of what to do and how to do that same thing. 
  • Required google meets, maybe forms to ask about who they are, what they like and what their favorite math subject is
  • I think having google meets to get to know people instead of work meets would be good. Other than that, I’m not sure
  • I would make MANDATORY zoom calls so you can talk to everybody and meet them and ask them all their favorite… or how their summers’ were. I fit isn’t mandatory kids might not show up.
  • For sure do google meets to meet everyone and maybe if you have the time meet with each kid individualy for a short time just to talk to them a little.
  • I think in order to build a good relationship online the best thing to do would be group google meets or one on one meets. Also, I think I feel more of a connection when I can watch videos of my teacher doing the notes and going through them.
  • The best way to build a relationship is to show to your students that you are there for them. Tell them that yes, grades are important, but what comes first is mental health and that you are there for them. 
  • i felt as though i was able to form a relationship with you this year pretty quickly, more quickly than with the majority of my teachers. honestly, i think that little essay thing we had to do at the beginning of the year about our experiences with math helped the most with that, because you gave us our writing back with personalized comments that made it seem like you actually cared (?) about who we were as people and how we learned. i hope that answers things adequately for you.

Relationship building from the students:
Tell them about yourself. Learn about who they are. Show you care.

(these are good for any year, don’t just save it for a pandemic.)

What about what we did in class worked well for distance learning?

Students, on the whole, loved Deltamath (Algebra 2 and PreCalc) and found it to be very supportive with the built in videos. We had already been using Deltamath for weekly homework assignments, so it wasn’t a new experience for the Alg2 and PreCalc kids. When I did make my own videos of working out solutions with my voice, they liked that even more. Now were they learning from Deltamath over this time? No not a ton, much of it was review from the rest of the year, so it was doing something different then practicing brand new learning.

Here’s some direct student quotes: 

  • Delta math helps a lot because it provides examples and videos that walk you through it. 
  • I like the delta maths especially when there was a lesson that went along with the delta math and you could watch the video and answer the questions that go along with the lesson.
  • i liked having flexible deadlines and being able to set my own work schedule
  • In class we started at the beginning of the year using deltamath and desmos so I think with already having those websites available helped.
  • The deltamath assignments were nice because it was only once a week and I felt like it helped me to learn the topics pretty well.
  • Personally it is very very hard for me to distance learn, but I believe that google meets and deltamaths were helpful because they allowed for questions/examples were provided.

Another thing that, on the whole, worked for most students was the class setup of having weekly assignments assigned once a week and due at the end of the week. So instead of daily assignments and daily required google meets, like in some of their other classes.
<teacher brain>Does this mean that they actually learned more? Or does this mean that they really just liked it that we had less work?</teacher brain>
I dunno, I think they had a fair amount of work each week, true use of the word “fair”. Did they learn? I dunno. No idea.

What about what we did in class DID NOT work well for distance learning? 

This, as usual, is a bit more muddled. A minority of students mentioned that deltamath didn’t work that well for them. Also some students mentioned that the videos didn’t work that well for them, because having a single video to watch over and over didn’t help answer their questions (and then they couldn’t come to office hours?).

Another minority of students mentioned Desmos activities for what didn’t work. We had done probably a dozen activities in class while we were in person, and they weren’t used to doing a Desmos activity without feedback about how they were doing as they progressed through the activity. When I assigned these activities, I certainly used the new Teacher to Student comment features, but I didn’t think that many of them were checking back in with the activity a day later to see my feedback even if I directly asked them to check for comments. I think I need to improve how to run these Desmos activities from afar. There are other features that would help too, like a student preview of the teacher dashboard for a screen…. I’m not sure.

Here’s some direct student quotes:

  • I didn’t really like desmos because there was no video help and if you were confused you couldnt complete the assigment.
  • I think it all worked out pretty well sometimes it was just hard to find the motivation to do the work so the work got to be difficult at times.
  • The math videos online, I think the videos of you explaining them were better.
  • The lack of a set class schedule, but I know that wasn’t really your decision, it was the school’s. I kind of need that sense of structure to function in school.
  • I think there needed to be more periodic due dates. I tended to just sit down the day before and work for several hours once every 2 weeks. That really hurt me cause when I didn’t space it out, I didn’t have time to ask you questions and wait for a response. I had to bash my head against a wall until I figured it out. 
  • the weekly quizzes we had done in class wouldnt work too great for distance learning, it would be too much on the students and it can be stressful as it is even when we went to school physically. It felt a bit non ending
  • I wasn’t able to learn from the videos, they moved too fast and I couldn’t absorb the information
  • The google meets were not a necessity for people that didn’t have questions. I think there should have been a few mandatory ones.
  • Desmos. Some of the questions were so hard so I’d just skip them and then I’d feel I didn’t learn much. Especially the marbleslides one. I feel its a good concept, but there’s better sites to do it than Desmos.
  • i didn’t really like doing desmos out of class as much as i liked it in class
  • i didn’t really like the desmos because I felt that it kind of was too open-ended and I can infer what I was suppose to learn but I wasn’t 100% sure. It also was kind of hard to know the right answers + what to do at some points. 

Anything else you want to tell me?

Gonna miss these kids. Lots more like that. Really repetitive.

  • I am going to miss you next year, so thank you for being such an incredible teacher.  I promise to come back to visit if and when possible.
  • Youre a really fun teacher and I hope I can get you again senior year 🙂
  • When I say you are the best math teacher I’ve had by far, I genuinely mean it. My grades weren’t even that good this year in math and still hold that statement true.
  • I enjoyed this year’s class. It was pretty different than most of my classes and it allowed my to learn better due to the way we do things. Some things were almost self taught which was good for me. 
  • Just wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my time in your class and was expecting a typical math teacher that just went through the motions but was pleasantly surprised. I really liked that change up and hope more teachers can be like you and use your teaching style. Thanks for a great year once again and have a nice summer.
  • I remember once I didn’t understand something while you were giving a lesson on it. I asked you a question and you explained, but I still didn’t understand it. I asked a question again, and you explained it, but I still didn’t get it. So I asked another one and you explained it, and finally I understood. I vaguely remember other students saying something like: “Bruh how do you not understand it?” while that was going on. Thank you for helping me through it. 
  • This year was a lot of fun, I really loved coming to PreCalc each day because I knew I’d have a good laugh and learn something interesting. I have a deeper appreciation for math and made closer friends this year in this class. I’m sad we won’t all get to see each other again, but hopefully next year will be just as fun! Thank you for all you’ve done to help me and others!
  • we are gonna miss you! Also please if we ask you a question stop telling us to ask a friend. WE ARE ALL CONFUSED MOST OF THE TIMEEEEE
  • Thank you Mr. Anderson for making my least favorite subject in one of my hardest years better overall for me. 
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