Posts Tagged ‘pandemic’

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Silver Linings

March 12, 2021

Teacher Leader voices of Maine on the bright lights that the pandemic afforded

A year ago my school, like all schools in Maine, shut down because of the Covid outbreak. On Friday, March 13th staff left for the weekend without knowing what the next week was going to bring. Staff and parents and students quickly kicked into a complete ‘flex mode’ each day learning and building on our knowledge. In the beginning it was an amazing and unsettling feeling to watch, listen, and learn through a completely different lens. Everyone stepped up and each person, young and old, were terrific. The summer came and went with educators throughout the world considering the next steps. With open minds and a cooperative spirit the sharing of ideas flowed through the air waves (in most cases at no cost) and connected educators in a completely different way. I can only think of a couple of other times in my career when my pathways to learning were so rapid. As the 2020-21 school year progressed FLEXIBILITY continued to be necessary. And, as we pause for the one year anniversary of education changing drastically we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My greatest hope is that our pathways of learning, sharing ideas, and collaborating will continue. And, I do hope that we simply don’t ‘go back’ to where we were before unless the pieces are in the best interest of every learner!

The following Maine Visual or Performing Arts Educators kindly provided their “silver linings” of the pandemic. We all have them, what is yours? Please email your silver linings at meartsed@gmail.com so we can continue to learn from each other.

  • I teach the littlest students. My silver lining is that, since class sizes are very small, there is time to hear all students’ stories, opinions, ideas, etc. There is also time for every student to have a turn at every activity. They get more individual attention than ever before. ~ Patti Gordan, Music Teacher, Raymond Elementary School
  • From Sue Barre, Grades 5-12 Band Director, Waterville Public Schools Like many school programs traveling with students to perform in other locations has been temporarily eliminated. Instead each high school ensemble commissioned a piece – reflective in some way to the last year we have all experienced. Ensemble members have had the opportunity for input and for interaction with the composers. “This experience has been so much more than I anticipated, really cool to watch students learn in a whole new way”!
    • In band I asked the students what dates were of importance to them and these are some that came forward: 3/31/20 – last day of school, 5/25/20 – death of George Floyd and 1/6/21 were some of the dates that came forward. 
    • I asked for sounds that they connected to last year and ideas such as email arriving into the box, sirens and silence came up…   
    • The most fascinating sessions were with the composer sharing ideas. The chorus and orchestra have had different experiences than the band. 
    • In May we hope to have a socially distanced event to share the debuts and senior recognition night all wrapped into one. 
  • From Kate Smith, Music Teacher Central Elementary School, So. Berwick
    • The pandemic has increased awareness of the value of reliable daycare and how it effects the wellbeing of an economy. I hope this will lead to additional and consistent financial support from the government.
    • Smaller class sizes have enabled more personalized, individualized and differentiated instruction. Students can ask more questions and have more turns. I am more likely to have enough instruments or resources for everyone. 
    • Free professional development opportunities abound like never before. I’ve seen increased collaboration between educators within districts, states and even internationally. Everyone has had to learn how to use technology like video conferencing which means everyone now has the skills to connect online. I hope this continues. 
  • My silver lining is the freedom this chaotic moment in time has presented to try something completely different. I am sharing photos from one of my third grade classes this week. We went outside to make art as a whole-class reward for the great choices they’ve made during the last 6 weeks that we’ve all been back together at Madison Elementary. (Other classes will earn their “Outside Art”, too. It just may take a little longer : ) I gave these students snow block makers and spray bottles filled with watercolor paint and pointed them to the snow. It was a blast and it made my art teacher heart happy to see the creativity and teamwork this class demonstrated.  ~ Lisa Ingraham, K-4 Art Teacher, Madison Elementary School, K-12 Gifted & Talented, MSAD 59
  • I have several silver fillings, I mean linings. But one came out the other day that I totally didn’t realize was there.In the pre-covidian era, it was a weekly inevitability  that a first grader would raise their hand and say” Mrs. R., I lost a tooth!” Of course every other hand in the room would shoot up and a chorus ensued with the end result that we would lose 5 minutes of Art time. This has been missing for almost a year now and despite having the 5 minutes back, I really miss those gap-tooth smiles. So I guess it is more like a silver filling after all.  ~Allie Rimkunas, Great Falls Elementary School Art Teacher
  • Thanks to Coronavirus – both the time I have gotten back with my family and the strides I have made in differentiated learning for my classroom. Technology resources have made it so learning can happen anywhere and for any student with the click of a button. ~Iva Damon, Leavitt Area High School Art Teacher, Humanities Network Leader
  • From Hope Lord, Maranacook Middle School Art Teacher
    • Zoom Parent Teacher Conferences are very efficient and I am able to attend multiple meetings to speak to parents of advisees and students in my classes. In traditional conferences I would have to decide which meetings to attend. Now I can join a meeting and share and then leave and join another student’s meeting within a few seconds. It’s been a great tool.
    • Another wonderful benefit from having to adapt to teaching during a pandemic is that most of my teaching resources, videos, assignments, and assessments are now available online through Google Classroom. If a student is absent, they will have access to the lesson online and can complete the work at home when they feel better and not fall behind. 
    • Lastly, no more snow days that extend the school year way into June. Since we have had remote learning days, we have not had a snow day. We won’t have to be in school until the end of June! 
  • My silver lining…….hmmm. No more photos turned in or left on the dryer in the darkroom : ” STUDENT ARTIST  UNKNOWN”!  Now that work is digital and submitted in Google CLassroom I ALWAYS know whose image it is!  ~Jennie Driscoll, Brunswick High School Art Teacher
  • We all have the students that are quiet in school, do not talk, that seem to want to be invisible and they never participate in class discussions, nor would I make them. I always wondered and worried about these students. When we went to remote some of these students slowly began to come out of their armor they had built up. We began to have rich conversations about their art work and the deep meanings they put into them and they share the art they do on their own. They are comfortable in their own environment and slowly have come to life and I have the privilege of really getting to know them. I look forward to my zoom sessions with these students where they smile and laugh and share their ideas with me. Connecting with these students is my positive out of the negative, my “silver lining”.      ~Holly (Leighton) Boyce, Mattanawcook Academy Art Teacher
  • I have been having – hands down – one of the most rewarding school years of my career. I’ve been creating my curriculum several weeks ahead of teaching it all year so far. And what it has done is:
    • reinforce that singing and playing is not content: it’s DELIVERY
    • when the delivery method changes that there are many other ways of delivering content
    • my program is not built on my students’ emotional dependence on it, so the transition away from singing was pretty easy
    • being a good teacher is not dependent on circumstances ~Rob Westerberg, Music Educator, York High School
  • From Eva Wagner, Bangor High School Art Teacher Class size for sure, so much better in the art room to have smaller class sizes. Eva wrote these amazing Silver Linings – Haiku Style:

From Leah Olson, Ellsworth High School Art Teacher

  •  The silver linings that I’ve discovered in the age of covid are many! Since March 13th, life has been a bumpy journey to say the least! The hybrid of learning for students has forced me to rethink projects differently in regards to curriculum, material use and social interactions in and out of the art room. In regards to curriculum, I had to change my units as immediately as school started in the fall. I realized that my units were not going to work as well for students who were completely remote. So, I met them where they were at. Units were and are chunked down with reinforcing the basic concepts of ceramics and jewelry. It has worked out so well that I may rethink the sequential curriculum for next year! 
    • In regards to using technology, I’ve been using Google Folders for years as portfolios to grade student work, so that was easy to keep track of student progress. I started using Google Classroom last year after March 13th to post Zoom Meeting links and reminders. The newest learning tool to navigate around was creating a Google website that students could access rubrics, videos and links most relevant to the lesson. It’s been so helpful for students to access this if they miss a class or need a review of the techniques. The silver lining is that I finally created a website that can be used in the years to come! : )
    • Another silver lining is that through the covid grant, I was able to purchase materials so that Ellsworth High School students could work from home and from school. Because of this, students would create two projects using the same technique – the easier project would be done at home and the more difficult one would be done at school. This reinforced fluency and confidence using the tools and materials.   
    • Having no more than ten students in class allows me to demonstrate techniques for students remotely and physically. I’ve been able to work alongside with students in a way I never could before. While they are working with their works, I am too. We talk with each other, laugh, and at the same time, the bar is raised. The social connections with students could not be experienced in the same way as a class of twenty. You all know what I mean! There is time to talk with one another.
    • Finally, I’m also learning more about teaching ceramics through trial and error. Like, don’t travel with bone dry projects. Telling students to not leave clay in the freezing cold car overnight, and cheese graters at the Dollar Tree work great for downsizing thick places in pots and evening out the surfaces. I learned that cutting pinch pots in half to see the thickness of the walls make for better pinch pot luminaries, raku clay is an excellent starter clay for slab containers because you don’t have to wait to join the walls, watercolor underglazes are a game changer for creativity and traveling back and forth from home to school. This is just to name a few! I often wonder what students will think of learning about jewelry and ceramics through the pandemic years from now. Hopefully, they will look at something they made and see the year 2020 or 2021 scratched into their work and feel a sense of relief, pride, and nostalgia! I am reminded daily by the phrase, “The Darkest Nights Produce The Brightest Stars”.
Sierra Andrews) who absolutely loves her “Mainely Mug”
Think you can “Handle It” assignment
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Positive Outcomes

June 5, 2020

What are your thoughts and experiences?

I Invited past Maine Arts Leadership Initiative (MALI) Teacher Leaders and Leadership Team members to answer 4 questions – both personal and professional. Each day this week another set of answers is being posted. Today’s blog post includes answers to number 3. Please don’t hesitate to share your answers to the 4 questions. To the teachers who responded (so far. THANK YOU for your honesty and sharing your new reality. One word that came up for me as I read your responses was BRAVERY! I am grateful that you’re being brave for the learners across the state!

  1. Name one thing that has been an ‘ah-ha’ moment for you during ‘teaching away from school’? One success.
  2. What have you learned that you didn’t know before the school shut down?
  3. What are you doing to bring yourself joy/to take care of yourself?
  4. When this is all over – what do you imagine might be a positive that comes from the pandemic?

Kris Bisson says it best – YOU ALL ROCK!

The last three days blog posts have been filled with inspiration from the voices of Maine visual and performing arts educators. Today’s post is filled with HOPE. And, as we continue to deal with the biggest challenges of our lives I hope that you won’t forget the struggles that have the possibility of morphing into positives for our communities and the world. It will take all of us to continue working together and supporting one another. Thank you all for the amazing work you’re doing and for being such an inspiration to me and those who you touch in your worlds! Know that I’d love to hear your stories – please don’t hesitate to contact me at meartsed@gmail.com.

IMAGINE THE IMPACT 

  • That we will have made changes to focus on what really matters in our lives. This action will lead us to create teaching and learning environments that focus on relevance, action and compassion. ~ LINDSAY PINCHBECK
  • What scares me is that many educators, parents and administrators are saying “can’t wait to get back to normal”. All I can think about is the amazing things that we have learned to do in the past few months, how easy it is to collaborate, why push all that back into the “box” and “go back to normal”. CHARLIE JOHNSON
  • Normal wasn’t doing it for everyone. I like to think that we will be a much more compassionate group of educators, who, “Take time to smell the roses” with our students and not always operate at such a frenetic pace. I also think that snow days will never be the same again. We now know we can teach remotely on those wintry days! ~JENNI NULL
  • I hope with all my heart this will start a positive shift in education. I think teachers, empowered by the networking, shared experiences and tremendous PD opportunities, will demand change and in fact, be willing change agents. ~KATE SMITH
  • I hope families will continue to spend time together and walk together, slow down from the rush of life many of us were living in. I hope that all who are able will continue to work from home at least one day a week – this would cut the emissions by 20%.  ~SUE BARRE
  • My hope is that as a system we will have a better grasp of what students really need. I think many have seen first hand the joy that the arts bring while staying home with their families. I would love it if that carried over into schools and we begin to see more of a focus on social-emotional health and less on mandated testing. ~JEN ETTER
  • I hope there will be a greater appreciation for all the hard working first responders, grocery clerks, truck drivers and delivery workers. I hope that there will be greater respect and appreciation for teachers. Overall, I hope that the world views the arts as a cultural necessity to inspire, express, and support each other through stressful times. ~HOPE LORD
  • I really hope for a large scale “shaking of the etch -a-sketch” as I always say. We need to teach students how to learn, harness their natural curiosities and allow them to lead the way. Throw away our expectations of how and when things should be learned. I would also like to see a more cross curricular and holistic project based approach to learning. ~SHANNON WESTPHAL
  • I feel the obvious positive will be the appreciation for what teachers do on a daily basis. The bigger positive I am hopeful for is a change in society on people being kinder to each other and the planet, seeing the positive effects of humans being out and about less. ~JEFFREY ORTH
  • Families will eat dinner together, take walks together, sing together (I’ve seen some fabulous family sing a longs!) My wish is that they remember it all when this is over and don’t stop those things that are so important! ~LINDA MCVETY
  • Hopefully families will remember what it’s like to be a family and rely less on the screen and more on each other. Times spent outside together will be recognized as sacred and hopefully families will keep going outside together after this is all over. That’s my fervent wish.
    Personally, the positive for me is all the exercise and a little bit of weight loss. I’ve also enjoyed making the teaching videos for my kids. Whenever I run into parents or kids on the trails, they always mention how much they enjoy the videos. ~ALLIE RIMKUNAS
  • Our 7th grade students do not currently have art. Due to COVID 19, our 6th grade Gifted and Talented ART students will be missing a new field trip to the high school for ‘firing’ day. Our district has approved our elementary trip to be moved to the fall and to include the students leaving us for the middle school next year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it inspired the school to create art field experiences for all 7th grade students? …recreate the 7th grade art classes as once existed? ~LYNDA LEONAS
  • When this is over I hope the clean, clear, fresh air so many, especially in cities, are experiencing right now will open their eyes to the beauty of it and have a positive impact on our environment and world for now on.  ~HOLLY LEIGHTON
  • I think one of the positives may be that we have a renewed appreciation for the community-building aspect of the arts. Right now it’s such a void that cannot be filled by technology. Yes, there are virtual ensembles that are beautiful, but they aren’t live. I’ve watched some phenomenal performances online, but for me, nothing matches the aesthetic power of being in the moment and sharing that moment with those around you.
    I think a positive outcome could be that we continue to make use of technological  resources we’ve discovered during this time of exclusively remote learning to change our thinking to how we can customize students’ experiences more. ~BILL BUZZA
  • There are many positives to this situation, but for me the biggest impact has been the ability to slow down without judgement.  I know this will be something I consider upon ‘reentry’ to my dance program. ~EMMA CAMPBELL
  • I hope we never have to use another snow day!  I hope there will be a better appreciation for teachers. ~JANE KIRTON
  • The increased connectivity and support between home and school, and between educators, has been the most apparent to me. It’s human nature to come together as communities during times of need. Even during these times where physical distancing is required, I have felt an increased sense of support and togetherness. This is a positive that’s come from COVID-19, and I hope it sticks around when we get “back to normal”. ~DORIE TRIPP
  • First of all, we have been “taught”, by being thrown into this situation, how to use a variety of resources that will help support our student’s learning. Whether through the use of online platforms, or simply the research of new ideas and possibilities, we have seen that many things are possible. I know I have learned a lot about different programs that I am excited about using in (and out of) the classroom. I think that this will also pave the way for utilizing “remote” learning in other situations as well such as snow days, or other interruptions to our daily schedules helping to support consistent development. It may also be an excellent resource for keeping students connected over extended breaks and bridge the gap of relapse we often see.While we have been separated, we have been able to connect with each other. In difficult times, people rise to the challenges. It brings communities together to fight and survive. It helps us to set aside differences to focus on what is most important. So, while I know this has been difficult, I think like many difficult situations in history, it will strengthen our communities.  ~ANTHONY LUFKIN
  • The one positive I can imagine is renewed appreciation for my real teaching experience, the one in the classroom, face to face, having those moments of greatness and inspiration and activity and noise and sass- from the students as well as me! ~DANETTE KERRIGAN
  • Many people will have adapted skills for distance learning and connecting with others anytime/anywhere. Distance learning is not only about using technology. It is about the human experience and reminding us of our desire for connectivity and the security that we are all in this together. ~LEAH OLSON
  • I have a saying that I have used with my students for a very long time…..”Yes you can, yes you will”.  After this is over I am hopeful they will know the truth in this and it will become. their mantra. ~DIANNE FENLASON
  • My fellow educators will be far more digitally savvy and will continue to utilize a blended learning approach since they now are beginning to understand the value of asynchronous learning. The Arts educators in my District have historically been excluded from targeted professional learning. Now we are actively developing courses and resources for them to continue their learning. The students will understand more about creation versus consumption. Their ability to explore resources and use their creativity with found objects in the Arts has already been exhibited. ~BARB VINAL
  • Professionally speaking I feel much better at technology. Personally I look at this time as a gift with my children. As a mom of teenagers I know they will be “leaving the nest” fairly soon and I truly cherish this time with them. ~ANDREA WOLLSTADT
  • A huge positive to carry over once this is done is the community that we have all done well to foster. Regardless of where we are geographically, people are willing to use any means of technology to help. That drive and ability to foster and support community is my hope of what carries into the after. It has been incredibly meaningful and heartfelt how we as a people honestly are striving to find the good in those around us.  ~IVA DAMON
  • I think we ALL – communities, parents, students, teachers – will all have a greater and deeper appreciation for school and all it entails. It’s been amazing to hear from everyone I talk to that EVERYONE misses it. We tend to spend a lot of time looking at the negative of our schools and jobs and not enough time just enjoying all that is wonderful about it all. I hope there is a lot we stop taking for granted. ~ROB WESTERBERG
  • My hope is that we do not lose the lessons we are learning about the interconnectedness of schools, teachers, and communities. I have reached out to the parents of my students in ways that weren’t really expected before we switched to remote learning. This will hopefully continue to be a priority once we figure out our ‘new normal’. ~LISA INGRAHAM
  • I think that teachers, families and students will be a little more appreciative of one another, and how much we need and rely on one another as we move forward. ~ CARMEL COLLINS
  • I’ve tried to provide very detailed lesson plans for students and families. Initially,  I still received LOTS of questions, “I don’t get its”, etc. That has lessened a bit. I think that sometimes we “overteach” and spoon-feed a lot of information. They are now forced to figure that out for themselves, and probably approach the assignments more creatively.  In any event,  those who are still engaged in their learning seem more resilient and creative. ~SUE BEAULIER
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