Distance Learning

Spring, Flowers, and Miss Rumphius

Growing up, my mother was a gardener. I have vivid memories of her every spring, in the dirt, growing lettuce, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers…you name it.

There’s nothing like the taste of a salad, freshly washed, from your own backyard.

When I was in third grade, my favorite teacher, Miss Sykes read to us, “Miss Rumphius.”

It is a lovely children’s book about a lady who travels all over, works in a library, and settles down in a cottage by the sea. She spreads love and joy to others by scattering lupine seeds all over her town. She made the world a better place by growing flowers and planting beauty.

Thus, my love for flowers was born. (And reading!)

When I was twelve, my mother bought me some packets of wildflowers. I planted them by a small portion of a white picket fence outside of our red-tinned roof farmhouse. And they grew.

They were beautiful. It was everything I ever dreamed of.

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I like to say my mother is the vegetable gardener, but I am the flower gardener.

Every spring, I go to the Amish greenhouses and buy flowers. I love to spend a breezy warm day with my hands in the soil, potting the bright purple, yellow, pink, and you-name-it colors. A couple of years ago, my mother-in-law even put me in charge of completing her flower pots.

When the flowers grow even bigger and the sun shines on them, it warms my heart.

When my son was born in May of 2013, and we brought him home from the hospital, the bright yellow and red tulips I had planted the previous fall, welcomed us home.

When my daughter was born this last April, those same red and yellow tulips smiled at us again.

Flowers hold a big, happy spot in my heart.

So, no wonder I love to see them in my classroom, as well.

I put up this gem of a bulletin board this last week, and the flowers smiling at me make my heart happy.

Go check it out and using our flowers, spread beauty in your classroom today.

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Distance Learning

7 Tips for Teaching Face to Face in a Pandemic

As many teachers are preparing to shift from completely virtual to a hybrid model, they have many questions about how to teach face to face during a pandemic. Here are some surprises and tips.

At this point, I have been teaching full-time, face to face during the pandemic for nearly six weeks. Such a weird statement. I would have never thought teaching face to face was something to be shocked at. However, I have learned so much myself during this strange time in history.

Kids are resilient!

Surprise 1: The kids are really awesome about wearing masks all day. Yes, we have the occasional student who likes to stick his or her nose out of the mask, but they really do a wonderful job at it. It has become their new normal. Kids are resilient!

Surprise 2: You, as a teacher, will become accustomed to the mask. Sometimes even when the students have left the classroom and I can take it off, I forget and leave it on! It’s become a new normal for even the adults.

While teaching face to face during a pandemic, you will become accustomed to the mask.

7 Tips for Teaching Face to Face in a Pandemic:

Follow Established Protocols

  • Follow the school guidelines and protocols for Corona Preventive Measures. They are there to protect everyone. At my particular school, we have a disinfecting schedule, socially distanced floor stickers, and touch-less hand sanitizers. The list goes on and on, and we have guidelines to use everything properly. Follow them closely.
While teaching during a pandemic, you must follow proper preventive measures at school.

Keep Classroom Cooler Than Normal

  • If you have control over this, keep your classroom a bit on the cooler side. It helps with not getting so hot while wearing a mask and the cooler temperature aids in feeling like you can breathe better.
Teaching during a pandemic, keep your classroom cooler than normal. This seems to help the students breathe better with the masks on.

If Possible, Teach Outside

  • Go outside! Explore the idea of outdoor classrooms. You can enjoy socially distanced outdoor mask breaks. You can teach outside and it’s a wonderful thing! Students can read a book and enjoy some fresh air. If a lesson just won’t work outside, open a window to let in some fresh air.
While teaching face to face during a pandemic, if possible, take the classroom outside.

Use Yoga Mats for Outside Desks

  • My school invested in yoga mats for every student for our outdoor classroom and their outside desks. (Brilliant idea!) If that’s not possible for your school to do, you can put a yoga mat for each child on your supply list. They average between 10-15 dollars and even at Five and Below, are 5 dollars. Students take their yoga mat outside and sit on them to read, do assignments, and even lay down to enjoy a read aloud.
While teaching face to face during a pandemic,, teachers can use yoga mats to aid the students outside.
Yoga mats are the new outside student desks.

Floor Markers for Social Distancing

  • If given permission from your school, set up socially distanced floor markers in your classroom. I have a coffee farmhouse themed classroom, so I taped coffee bean posters around the floors next to the walls of my classroom. Students can go to their designated coffee bean while I disinfect and they can take a mask break.

Quality Masks

  • Choose a good quality mask and try it out beforehand. I purchased a couple of different masks and wore them at home for just a bit to see how I liked them. What I thought was going to be my favorite mask since it was soft and made of cotton material, was horrible because it sucked into my mouth every time I talked. You definitely can’t have that when teaching all day. A great place to purchase some high-quality masks that are adorable too is at Charlotte Mynt on Etsy.com. No, I am not an affiliate, I just love her masks.
Charlotte Mynt on Etsy.com has many stylish and practical masks for teachers.
Charlotte Mynt at Etsy has many quality masks.

Take Care of Yourself

  • Take care of yourself. This whole way of teaching has never been done before, so give yourself some grace. Make sure to rest throughout the week. A tired, grumpy teacher is no good for his or her students during this crazy time in education.

Conclusion

Once you jump head first into teaching in-person during a pandemic, it feels overwhelming, but you will soon realize quickly that it actually is doable.

Teachers are super heroes. Together, we can.

Do not be afraid of the unknown. We are teachers. We are rock stars and superheroes. Together, we can most definitely do this!

Distance Learning, Farmhouse Decor, Virtual Classrooms

Virtual Classrooms for Remote Learning

The year 2020 has been an interesting time in education. Well, interesting is a lesser word to describe it. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the United States, and many schools went to virtual and distance learning, education has had a major shift. 

With many schools continuing a virtual or hybrid model of education for the fall, the teacher trends have exploded in a fascinating direction. No longer is it all about the “flair pens or ink joys” debate. Sadly, it isn’t about “the type of planner you use” debate.  No longer is it about the latest craze to decorate a physical classroom. 

Now, there is a booming trend to decorate a virtual classroom. Say what?! Yes, teachers can have a virtual classroom where students can log on and see a mock-up of a physical classroom online. It is a way to provide some familiarity to students during these crazy times, as well as provide a fun, engaging, and interactive environment. A virtual classroom, in this context, can provide a place for students to navigate links, videos, lessons, and materials, all within a version of the regular classroom. Students can click on a whiteboard for a link and then move over and click on a picture of a laptop for another link. Students love seeing a virtual classroom format. It provides some visual interest to online learning.

Teachers have also been all abuzz about creating a virtual classroom. For many educators, having a well decorated and welcoming physical classroom has always been important. A welcoming environment can be termed as the “third teacher,” following parents as first and teachers as second. A 2014 study “shows that optimizing physical characteristics of classrooms such as light, color, and seating options can improve academic performance by as much as 16 percent.” (Edutopia.org).

Teachers are taking the knowledge of what a physical classroom can do to academics and applying it to a virtual classroom. We don’t know if academics improve by having a well-decorated and colorful online environment. However, teachers are having a blast delving into these new and exciting waters. 

Once I saw the virtual classroom trend exploding all over Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram, I wanted to do that! My mother, the artist, saw the popularity too. I expressed to her that I didn’t have the time to possibly make a virtual classroom of my dreams, but I thought it would be awesome for my students to experience and explore. 

We realized that there’s probably hundreds of teachers in the same boat as me, with kids and demands and just not enough time to make one. (Mad props to all the teachers that did spend so much time on these! I don’t know how you did it! You are supermen and superwomen!)

My mother started exploring the virtual classroom craze and realized there were some issues arising with the online classrooms.

First, some teachers were painstakingly putting each and every piece of clip art in the perfect spot on their slides, but it wasn’t locked down. 

So, once shared with a student, the child was free to move the clip art all around the room, thereby disrupting the teacher’s wonderful creation. 

Next, the classrooms were becoming visually overcrowded. This was because it is so difficult to fit in everything that you need in a slide like this; yet, distance education pedagogy states to always keep things simpler for students. For more, check out 4 Tips for Teachers Shifting to Teaching Online.

Lastly, copyright laws were being violated. Clip art that was not free and clear to use was being copied and pasted into virtual classrooms.

So, we wanted to address these issues before we made our own virtual classrooms.

Our virtual classroom resource has the following:

  • Nine different classrooms to use already made for the teacher.
  • The classrooms are simple, clean, and not overly stimulating. It has an industrial farmhouse vibe complete with cozy elements.
  • Each classroom is different. There is a math one, history, science, computer lab, reading cafe, and a home office. The last classroom is the same but it appears in three different ways. One has a print alphabet for lower elementary, a cursive alphabet for upper elementary, and no alphabet for middle and high school classes.
  • Each classroom appears as a JPEG and therefore is pinned down. Students cannot log on and move all of the clip-art around.
  • Each classroom has clip-art uniquely made by us, so no copyright laws have been violated.
  • Classrooms have hyperlinks embedded already in them. Just click and edit your link.

Not only does this amazing resource save teachers hours of time, but it also saves headaches. Migraines. Big massive ones. Wouldn’t that teacher rather be spending his or her time on content and lessons? Teachers are strapped for time as it is.

This resource also contains nine different classy banners to utilize on a distance learning homepage. There is a chalkboard option, white brick, or stone in keeping with the farmhouse theme.

Last but not least, this resource comes with a virtual farmhouse/school building. The virtual farmhouse has either four or six “rooms” in it. The teacher can drag the classrooms over to each individual “room.” This can be used in a variety of ways. 

Perhaps the teacher would like to use the six-room virtual farmhouse and drag over six different classrooms, each classroom being a different subject. Each individual classroom would contain that day’s lessons for that particular subject. For example, the math classroom will contain the math lesson for that day hyperlinked in. The history classroom will contain the social studies work for the day. 

A teacher could also use the four-room virtual farmhouse/school building to have a whole lesson displayed. One room can contain a bellringer. The next room can be hyperlinked to a short story. The third room can hyperlink to a google doc with questions, and the last room can have the exit slip.

I have placed an example here of a typical seventh grade lesson in a virtual classroom within the farmhouse overlay. I have used this very lesson in my seventh grade English class virtually this past spring. It is similar to what I described above. I am keeping the lesson pretty simple, just as distance learning pedagogy suggests. 

My class starts off with a bell-ringer or focus question that brings the attention to what the lesson will be about. In this case our focus question is, “What makes seventh grade different from sixth grade?” This question relates to the short story they will read by Gary Soto titled, “Seventh Grade.” 

Students click on the hyperlink on the office virtual classroom chalkboard which takes them to a google doc that they would fill out to answer this question.

Next, right beside the office virtual classroom is the reading cafe. There is a hyperlink that takes them to a website to read “Seventh Grade” by Gary Soto. 

The third virtual classroom is the computer lab and it contains a link to the set of questions students will click on to answer.

Lastly, the fourth virtual classroom contains a link to the discussion board to answer the exit question of, “What was one thing you can relate to in the story today? Answer in three sentences and respond to one other student’s answer.” 

This whole set-up, organized in the overlay, is a quick way for students to have all of their work in one area for the class. Instead of them clicking on individual separate areas. All of the work is easily identifiable in one place and it is visually appealing. 

There are so many purposeful uses for these classrooms and the farmhouse/school building that can house them. At a time when education has been tumbled upside down, the virtual classroom is a way to provide a visually fun avenue for students to engage in distance learning. It’s just like a teacher to find an amazing and creative way to approach a completely new mode of school. After all, us teachers are resilient. We bounce back and make the most of every situation in creative ways.

We hope this resource can save you time and stress. That is our mission at Obsessed with Learning: to help teachers get their lives back. 

To recap, this distance learning product contains nine different virtual classrooms with an industrial farmhouse, yet cozy vibe. They are ready made for any teacher to use with NO PREP involved. The JPEG format means no students can change any clip-art around. The hyperlink, already in place in each classroom, is super helpful to lead students to videos or other documents needed for a lesson. The additional nine farmhouse banners that are included make your distance learning homepage super cute and classy. The farmhouse/school building overlay is a perfect organizer to place four or six classrooms onto one slide for various, purposeful reasons. This resource will definitely help any distance learning or hybrid learning teacher this year, while adding an element of creativity, classiness, and cuteness.