Amanda Rack, First-Grade Teacher
Knob Hill Elementary in San Marcos, California
Amanda Rack is teaching remotely until her district deems it safe to return to in-person learning. All of her students have Chromebooks.
What is going well? I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to connect with my new first-grade class over a computer. I’m surprised it hasn’t been a problem. They record themselves reading using Seesaw, so I can hear how they sound out words and I can use that information to guide instruction. But it’s also been a great way to feel connected to them. I love hearing their little voices when they read!
Some kids have already begun making inside jokes with me. I told them I don’t like oranges. In a letter to me, a student wrote “Do you want an orange?” In a picture holding up the letter, he has a smirk on his face, which was funny. Another kid read the picture book I Need a New Butt. He posted a photo of the book cover, and the next day, he said: "So, Ms. Rack, did you see the book I read yesterday?" He giggled. I said, “Yes, I saw it buddy!” I’m seeing bits of their personality coming through the computer screen. It’s important to make a connection with them as people, not just as students.
What is your biggest challenge? Everything! Every day, I’m learning something new, trying to make things work better for me, my students, and their parents. Zoom has a lot of technical issues—the screen freezes, kids get locked out—that force me to stop instruction. I don’t get through as many lessons as I’d like, but I also don’t have it in me to just let a kid sit there and struggle and cry. By now, they’ve gotten used to these problems, and they know to log out and back in. They’re also the first to let me know when I’m talking on mute.
I try to go with the flow. I tell them, “It’s okay to be frustrated that something is not working, but we can follow the steps. Who do we ask for help and in what order?” When I’m frustrated, I let them know that I’m going to take a deep breath and try to figure it out. They’re going to feed off how I feel, so I have to be aware of my reactions. Luckily, I can turn to my first-grade team for help. We meet every week to talk about what works, what doesn’t, and how we can make adjustments.
What advice do you have for teachers? None of this easy. This is not the job I signed up for. There are definitely days that I don’t want to get out of bed because I don’t want to do this for one more day. But then I see my students' faces on the computer, and it’s all worth it. So give yourself grace. This is a learning experience for everyone. On days when everything seems to go wrong, know that there was probably a lot that went right, too. Do your best to highlight the things that went well each day. Find the small victories and focus on that.