I’ve attempted this blog post a thousand times and even now, I’m struggling to know where to start. It’s been 87 days since my last post and my life and work no longer resemble what they did back in December. But like most things, it’s best to just begin, so here it goes.
January 11th- Blissfully Ignorant
We got married in Hong Kong. Truth be told, it was a necessity for insurance, tax and visa purposes, but it was still pretty big news for us nonetheless. Little did we know, it would soon take a back seat to something with a far greater impact on our lives, Coronavirus.
January 25th- Wait, What?
We received our first notice of school closure one week into our Chinese New Year holiday break. At that time, I was living my best life with a cold beer in hand, endless sunshine on the beach and not a care in the world. Talk about a buzzkill. In the days that followed, I worked with different teams at work to put together an online learning resource page for teachers, contribute to an emergency rollout plan for staff, students and parents, and attend several meetings to assess and build up the school’s preparedness for a full-on apocalypse online learning experience. Looking back now, it seems like a lifetime ago. Also, there are SO MANY things I wish we’d known or done back then. More on this later. Anyway, that last week of vacation was spent in a flurry of rescheduling travel, reassuring loved ones of our safety, making arrangements for our cats in Guangzhou, and asking ourselves if this was a real thing.
February 3rd- Preparing to Launch
It was the day that we were originally scheduled to come back to school after the CNY break and one week into our emergency response plan as a school. Much of the foreign staff were in transit to longer-term accommodation until school was set to resume. A survey had been sent out to staff and parents about their location, access to devices and connectivity. And, this one day had been allocated to preparing for the launch online learning the following day. I was feeling optimistic about the school being ready and our teachers’ abilities to carry out virtual learning for the next two to four weeks. But that was before several things came to light:
I had my laptop, iPad and phone with me on vacation. Unfortunately, I was one of very few in that situation.
Everyone was upskilled on using Seesaw as a teaching and learning tool, but we didn’t have the paid version needed to connect all classes together in one account.
Most everything I had posted to the Online Learning page for teachers was blocked or limited in China.
Things that worked for one person didn’t seem to work for others.
Coordinating with teams and teachers in transit or spread out across continents was extremely stressful.
A constantly changing situation with all of the expected (and some not-so-expected) highs and lows.
The future is NOW A real-time meeting from all over the globe to orchestrate a plan for online learning with students from Preschool to High School… and I'm tweeting from an ✈️ #edtech #AISGZ #FutureReady@jessicarose325 @cajeziorski @travelingamy80 @rbauerkenya pic.twitter.com/MzHqmONMJe — Ms. Reyna (@MsReyna2) February 3, 2020
But it wasn’t ALL a failure. We celebrated a few wins with the help of technology and a shared vision.
March 4th- Looking Back, Looking Ahead
At this point, we are well into Week 5 of Online Learning, and things have somewhat settled into a routine if you can say that about being displaced during a pandemic. This week I made some time for reflection, self-care and recalibration before new units begin and the next phase of the school online learning plan unfolds. The upcoming week is all about taking our schools’ assessment, data collection and online teacher training practices to the next level. A couple of things that were particularly timely this week include the following:
Leaning into a Powerful PLN
Engaging with my #PLN and modeling digital citizenship for colleagues and students.
Over the last 5 weeks most of my time and energy have been put into work; supporting different teams and school initiatives, attending virtual meetings, manually upgrading Seesaw and troubleshooting problems as they arise. While I dabbled in connecting with my PLN on Twitter in the first few weeks, I was mostly disengaged and drowning in work. March was an opportunity to get back into my online community and lean in for the support I’d been missing. Obvs, Twitter is my preferred platform for connection with educators, so I jumped in and started this year’s #MediaMentorMonth, a daily digital challenge for parents and educators. This was just the kick I needed to get thinking about my current COETAIL and ISTE certification courses.
Coach Better Podcast bonus episode with educators around Asia
Today I made time to listen to a recent episode of the Coach Better podcast from Eduro Learning, and it did not disappoint. The episode hosted a range of educators I already follow and am inspired by online, and all are facing the challenges of school closure and online learning in varying degrees. Besides helping me feel less alone in the struggle, it was nice to hear what is working for others, and even better than that that we are doing a lot of the same things at AISG. This whole experience sometimes feels like this crazy social experiment, but it’s equally cool to think that we have become part of large-scale research and data collection where innovation and technology are so fundamental. Anyway, if you have a chance, trust me, it’s worth your time. And sure, there are LOTS of things I wish we’d known 5 weeks ago and would change, but right now I’m feeling good about the days ahead.