Roxanne Klauka Diary Entry 10/30/20

Covid & the Classroom
x
x(Jennifer Watkins)
Published: Aug. 26, 2020 at 11:48 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 9, 2020 at 3:16 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) -

October 30, 2020

Today would have been a huge day at Elliott Elementary and in my classroom. Tomorrow is Halloween! We always have a parade in the morning. We journey through the hallways and outside cheered on by parents and family members. It is always amazing. We then come inside for cider, milk, muffins, fruit, pancakes or whatever you decide to have for breakfast in your classroom. It is such an exciting day. Costumes, parades, breakfast, etc.

That is not happening today.

BUT we did something so wonderful that I feel like we made the best of a pandemic situation. We had a PARADE OF CARS Wednesday evening between 3:00 and 6:00. Families wore costumes, entered pumpkins in a contest, hung treat bags out the car windows, wore masks and decorated their cars for the parade. The line never stopped. As I worked my table, passing out donated trinkets, I was in full costume and in awe. I saw a couple of little faces in those car windows for the first time. We could look in each other’s eyes without seeing each other on a Google Meet square. The Elliott PTO outdid themselves. Nearly every staff member attended. It was that important. It was a night for relationships and gratitude. I hold this memory dear and in my heart.

A pandemic did not stop this tradition. We outsmarted it! We found a way to be safe and it was an evening to remember for all.

Diary Entry 10/23/20

We are preparing for Week 9 of school. Week 8 flew by. It is hard to believe that Halloween is next week. We used to track the school year by Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas break and so one. These were all markers as we marched through our days. I guess they still are.

I had several highlights this week. Neither one had anything to do with teaching and learning, but they were simply amazing. The first happened as I walked after school Tuesday night. As I was sharing conversation with a friend on the path, I heard, “Mrs. Klauka?” I stopped in my tracks trying to figure out where it was coming from. There, ahead of me, was a small girl. She and I just stared. And then it came to me. She was one of mine. It was the first time we had physically seen each other. Seeing each other 4 or 5 times a day on Google Classroom is just not the same. She yelled back to her mom, “See, I told you it was Mrs. Klauka.” I later learned she had her mom turn the car around because she KNEW it was me. I held back those tears then, but that night they were just unstoppable.

My second highlight of the week was a knock at the window yesterday as I worked at the school computer. I quickly turned to see another of my students with her mother. There she was, in person with a mask and Starbucks hot chocolate. We looked at each other for along time. I grabbed my mask and opened the window. What a surprise. I wish I could have lifted her right through that window into her desk in this empty classroom. The emotion was raw and real. I have never had room service through my classroom window before!

The days are moving quickly. Children are laughing and learning. I am reading a chapter book to them daily and it is such an exciting time. We visualize just like we would if we were here in person. We make predictions and it is good. This pandemic will not stop those precious times. I will not let it.

10/15/20 Diary Entry

Our elementary school always shares a quote of the week. This past week, it was about trying a different plan if the first plan you made doesn’t seem to work. As a third grade teaching group, my colleagues and I decided we would have the children journal about the new weekly quote every Monday. It’s been wonderful seeing the written reaction to the prompts. This response has stuck with me. “Out of the mouth of babes,” we say. She spoke from her heart and couldn’t have written with more honesty. I will hold on to this one with hope.

x
x(Jennifer Watkins)

October 6th, 2020

We just finished Parent/Teacher conferences. They were all Zoom conferences. I faced this with fear and trepidation. We always sit at my horseshoe table. I always present a letter from each child to their parents on how the year is going. I love sitting with each family and sharing the good news of each child and letting them know how much each means to me and our classroom family. How would this work?

Let me tell you that I could not believe how great it turned out. Attendance was amazing. The atmosphere was wonderful. I had several takeaways from the two days. Let me elaborate…

1. Whether in person or online, you can talk about the positives with that student and the conversation is rich.

2. Attendance online matches attendance in person. Everyone popped in at their proper time and it felt just as magical.

3. We still smiled and laughed. This was always so important. It might not be the exact same as if we were in my classroom together, but it certainly felt much the same. It was rewarding and felt so good.

4. We could still set goals and talk about how work is going. I was able to set an academic goal and talk about how the online learning process is working out in their household. I am so grateful for each conversation.

I am amazed each day at how I grow. This is just one more example of how things are different, yet the same. We are walking through something that changes daily, but we carry on and find the best way to be our best selves. Whether teacher, parent, or student, we have that goal.

***

Diary Entry 9/25/20

Friday was Pajama Day. Pajama Day has always been a favorite at our school and in my classroom. It has always been a time to wear new pajamas and bring a stuffed animal. It is a celebration of a goal or just for school spirit. I, personally, LOVE it. It is a time for new flannel pajamas for ME and a time to be a part of something special.

I decided to try it to build classroom community as we are meeting online. When I announced it, hands shot up in the air in approval and smiles filled those Google Meet squares. I knew it was a hit.

Friday morning came and the students popped so quickly into that Google Meet. I saw so many cozy pajamas, blankets, stuffed animals and some great bed head! Some were eating breakfast of pop tarts and donut holes. Others had cereal and butter toast. One child had hot chocolate, as it was a special day. We talked awhile and I began to call attendance. I always have them answer a prompt as they unmute to let me know they are there. The question was, “Tell me one thing you want to do this weekend.” I went from child to child and finally called one boy’s name. There was no response. I called again. No response. Several children unmuted to let me know what was wrong. The student was asleep. There he was, lying on his bed, computer in front of him and sound asleep. We all laughed, and I then decided that the next Pajama Day would take place sitting up. It was a wonderful memory, and we will all remember it as we walk through these days.

Normalcy. That is what we all want. We want to find it any which way we can through this time of uncertainty. And even though it’s the first time I’ve had someone fall asleep on pajama day, Room 134 found a bit of humor, a bit of community, and a bit of normalcy through this special day.

9/11/20 Diary Entry

Technology is probably the hardest part of this online teaching. Not having children in the classroom is heartbreaking. Worrying about Covid and staying healthy is always on my mind. Technology, though, is my demon.

As a SEASONED teacher, technology was not part of my college experience. I used a typewriter as I started college. I made early student assignments on a blue-ink mimeograph machine and put transparencies on an overhead. I began to use advanced technology when I worked on my Master’s degree, but I know very little compared to my younger colleagues. It doesn’t take much to throw me off. This week, I had a projector bulb burn out and a smartboard that had to be reset—and a multitude of questions. I would be lost without a third-grade team who teaches me so much as we walk through this virtual journey.

I have such empathy for parents and caregivers right now. I cannot imagine having children at home during this time of online learning. It’s challenging for everyone. Parents and caregivers need to oversee homework assignments and check-ins along with their own work schedules. We communicate back and forth throughout the day, as adults—who are much like me—struggle with Class codes, Websites, Google Meets and a Google Classroom schedule. A grandmother and I had a conversation this week about how complicated some of the technology is. I told her that I also feel like I am drowning. I am often only one step ahead my students and their parents. We are going through this together.

Along with my students, I am learning and I am growing. Each step forward makes me more confident as an online educator. I am grateful for district training videos, tech-smart colleagues, patient parents, and a classroom of smiling third graders.

Diary Entry 9/7/20

It’s Labor Day weekend and I can’t sleep. Thursday ended our first week. It’s been difficult thinking of what to write. I put this off. My classroom desks are set up and labeled. No. We aren’t face-to-face. I just have them ready. After the earlier altercation of a student at the window looking for his desk, I had to follow through. Each of my students has a desk. No one actually realizes the pain of this year. It’s taken it’s toll already and I long for normal. Online teaching is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It keeps me up at night. I’m really working at establishing relationships and finding joy. That’s the way my classroom always worked. I want them to want to come back. I want them to love learning. I want each of them to think they are my favorite. That’s the ticket to true growth and true worth. I’ve done this a long time. I miss my rocking chair and I miss that closeness. I’m finding ME. I’m finding MY laughter and my tricks to bringing a classroom of children into a classroom family. This virus sent us all into a place of what is not the norm. I’m fighting back and locating that space I love the most. Room 134 and the learning and laughter that happens there is my goal. I will continue to push towards this. It’s what I do.

Diary Entry 9/1/20

I got a new dress. Yesterday was the first day of school. Tradition requires that I have a new dress for that first day. I have not shopped for clothes, unless it was online, for months. I ventured out and bought a dress. One must follow tradition and despite the fact that I am teaching online for the start of this school year, I needed THAT new dress.

As I sat in front of my computer near the end of the day with my student’s faces in front of me, I heard a sound behind me at the open window. I turned to see a boy peeking around the pane of glass. My students are supposed to be in session, online, but I recognize the face at the window - it is a boy in OUR class who should have been in that final online meeting. I asked what he was doing. He simply stated that he wanted to see which desk was his. “Which desk is yours?” I asked him. “Why would you walk to school, look in the window and ask about YOUR desk?”

It then hit me. I needed that new dress. It was tradition. No one saw it, but I had a new dress to start school. This child wanted to see his desk. That is tradition. You always see your new desk on the first day. No children are in the room currently, but you ALWAYS have a new desk. We are all struggling to find our normal and what feels familiar in this pandemic. From a dress to a desk, we all need what feels right.

Diary Entry 8/27/20

It was a rather tough day.

Handing out those student supply bags Tuesday night was harder than I imagined The cars were lined up blocks away. Signs in car windows announced the child’s name and fall teacher. We were given the labeled sacks and carried them to the open windows. My mask covered my smile, along with my worry. This should have been an open house night. We should have been in my classroom with the giraffe collection and newly decorated walls and hallways. Desks would have name tags in cursive and print. Cursive writing has always been a favorite subject in my third grade classroom. None of this happened. I met 20 out of 25 students and their faces are etched in my mind. It is always so amazing to see those little faces for the first time. Their shy smiles and sweet hugs have always been a part of that first encounter. It is like magic. I am theirs and they are mine. Those faces kept me up Tuesday night and I dreamed of trying to swim to a buoy in troubled waters. No matter how hard I swam, I couldn’t get there. I always dream crazy dreams for days before school begins. I know the meaning of THIS one.

I didn’t sign up for this. None of us did. I’m a ’”brick and mortar” teacher. I LIVE in a classroom with third grade students. This is the battle raging inside of me at this moment. How do I do it? How do I fill a Google Classroom with the things that make for a fun learning day in Room 134? I am working on that. I am learning how to incorporate my personality into Google Meets and assignments. I CAN do this. Through anger, tears, and with the help of friends and colleagues, I finished another day.

***

Roxanne Klauka Diary Entry 8/24/20

Online teaching....

Virtual....

Screencastify....

Google Meet...

One year ago from this very day, I was not familiar with what any of those meant, really. I was in my third-grade classroom with NO idea of what a virus could do to shake my world and the world of so many I know.

I teach. Crowded around the rocking chair, I give hugs, high-fives and fist bumps. I’m relationship based and I’ve done this a long time. I’m a master teacher with experience in training new teachers. Teaching is my passion and has been year after year as I turn the lights on in Room 134 each day. This year, I’m struggling to find my way through something that is pushing my brain to the limit. Who ever thought this could happen?

As I share entries, I will speak from the heart. My heart aches. This isn’t the way we do things, but life is precious. We make decisions out of safety for us all. As my third graders come pick up their bags tonight in a car parade, I will be wearing a mask. I will wave with a silent promise. We can do this. I will cry as I see those faces and long to reach out. As I filled those bags yesterday, I was in a daze. I wish I had been filling their desks with those sharp new crayons, math packets, and classroom information. It will be alright. We will walk through this together. It must. I teach.

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