Back to School: Virtual Experience

By September 1, 2020 News

My name is Chris Sidner, I have been teaching Spanish for seventeen years and have been using the Organic World Language method fulltime for the past five years. As the only Spanish teacher in small progressive district in rural conservative Ohio, I teach a Spanish introductory class through Spanish IV to about one hundred students total.       

The teachers, administration and community were all part of the discussion on how to return to school this year. The vast majority chose to have the teachers deliver their own curriculum and instruction to our students remotely. Although relieved, believing that we have chosen the wellbeing of all of our stakeholders over everything else. We knew this would be a heavy lift, but we were ready for the challenge.      

There was no time for lengthy PD sessions on remote teaching and learning, so YouTube has been a lifesaver regarding optimizing the remote learning experience. We are teaching every other class live every other day. Every process, protocol and system we are implementing will be new, revised or modified. I am taking this process day-by-day as it was impossible to reinvent every aspect of my classroom experience in the eight teacher work days prior to the start of school.    

 Fortunately, there is one thing that will always easily remain constant, the sense of community, empathy and joy instilled by the Organic World Language philosophy. My students and I are starting this year even more slowly than ever and that’s OK. So far, it literally takes me every bit of thirty minutes to plug in to everything I need to run class.     

I conduct my class on Zoom via an Ipad, I join the meeting as a guest via my laptop, and I have my laptop connected to a forty-inch television so that I can get a better view of my students.  Airpods help my students no matter how far I am from the camera, bend over to tie my shoes or do a handstand! I can’t actually do a handstand, by the way.     

I really only have a couple of goals for me and my students the first few weeks of school–be present and be gracious. There are some things we are going to continue to do that we used to do in live classes, but in a different way. Some things will go on the back burner for now, while new opportunities will reveal themselves on this journey.       

So I spend my day in my classroom by myself. We don’t know when we will be teaching live. “Click on the link”, “You are still muted”, “There’s no rush, we will wait for you” are now common daily phrases. I have a new pet axolotl to keep me company and can’t wait for the students to meet him or her,  and my room is ready for the day they return.