Tuesday morning marked my second “first morning” at GCVS, the virtual school I began to teach at last year. Last year at this time, we were not preparing to have school start the next day. On the contrary, the commissioner of education had granted all the schools 10 additional days to get prepared for what had suddenly become a remote start to the school year. Of course, at this virtual school, we’re always remote, but, even so, those 10 days definitely changed the start of the school landscape a year ago.
This year, we have once again started the school year with a whole list of “new.” We have a new learning management system (LMS), switching from Canvas to Schoology. We have a new online system, switching from Blackboard to Zoom. Even our chats have changed, as we said goodbye to Google Hangouts!
I think every school year begins with a mixture of anticipation, which carries within itself the combination of anxiety and excitement, and both worry and an opportunity to start fresh. For me, as a general education teacher, I started every year with a list of new things that I wanted to bring to my practice. Sometimes that meant a new organizational system or something new on my boards or something new in Google classroom or just a new way I thought might make the organization and navigation better for my students. We’re being asked this year to use a common start page as we transition to Schoology, and I think that’s a great idea. It still gives teachers opportunities to personalize their pages, but also allows students to lean on some familiarity as they go from class to class. We are also being asked to organize learning materials in the same way, so that all teachers put the most current material on top and slide things down from there. I think both of these will be good choices that will support students in navigating more successfully through the online environment of our virtual school.
There has also been a ton of work done by a group of teachers putting together orientation videos for students to watch to ground them in the online platform. I have high hopes for this change. Although last year was my first year here with the school, so I don’t have something to compare to, it did feel like we spent a lot of class time reviewing orientation basics every time we had a new student student come in. And that may not sound like much, but this is a school with a high level of churn, so it did impact the teaching of other students. I look forward to seeing the impact of these changes as we open school this week.