Friday, March 20, 2020

Practice Going to Distance Learning

Though I have not sliced regularly this year, I know I can be vulnerable in this
community and find support. Time to dust off the blog and get back to writing. Many thanks to the writing team at Two Writing Teachers for hosting the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!

What a day here at Singapore American School. Our leadership decided early in the week to alter this week's schedule, so that we could prepare and practice in case our school needs to move to distance learning after spring break. We had a preparation day in the high school on Wednesday with no learners on campus and today was distance learning in all courses day one. 

Our #1 priority?  Learn together. 

Yes, I may be on team blue (our code for those who can offer tech help with specific tools or practices), but things aren't as smooth in practice when it's a first run at doing it together. 

My personal learning came during our virtual advisory sessions.

Here, we have thirty minute advisory meetings with kids twice a week. We practiced virtual advisory last night and we began our distance learning day with a "regular" advisory session this morning. 

Lots of takeaways from the practice! 

Mind the details.

I didn't get our invite correct for our second meeting. In trying to pay attention to the phone chat, to the Zoom chat, and to the Zoom live while calendaring the next day, I posted our second invite on the wrong day at first. 

I realized it last evening and created a new invite for the correct day.

Do one thing at a time. 

Doh! Moment number 27 for me, for sure. The multiple emails that the Google calendar invitation sends confused a few folks. As it would, right? 

Slow down.

I popped into the advisory meeting early. I looked around, played with the buttons. I  got set up with a slide deck. I loaded a Kahoot and popped out. Then, I took another meeting call before heading back into the advisory Zoom.  I ended that call and popped back into advisory using the meeting link that I had posted to Thursday. 

A lot of folks were missing. 

Hmmm.... why is that? I wondered. Uh oh... 

My co-advisor texted. Then a  student shared a screen shot in our WhatsApp chat group: 

Ah, I could see the problem .  A couple of us were using the Zoom meeting invite that I'd corrected and posted to Thursday. Others were using the incorrect invite that I had not deleted Wednesday.  

In the moment, it was hard to communicate the solution--sending a photo of the Thursday invite certainly did not work, I learned.  Chat was happening in several places at the same time. It took us a minute. Eventually a student sharing the Thursday link to the WhatsApp chat got everyone pointed to the correct link.  

We got through it, but it wasn't pretty.

All said, there have been so many silver linings to be thankful for here in Singapore.

What a gift we got of time and space to learn together. Quite a gift when I think about the time that teaching friends around the world have been given (or not given) to prepare. Practice is important. Kids are gracious and kind. They hung in there until we connected and all were accounted for. Well, all plus one… 

“Who’s Jack?” an advisory student said.  “Is there some Jack stranger in here? Who is that?" I was in the middle of switching to the grid view so I wasn't the first to spot Jack who appeared as a name, not a live video, in a black box. "Hmm... Jack...? We had a Jack in our advisory two years ago," I said as I clicked to participant options.

And that was the just the Jack it was. Not a stranger, a pleasant surprise from a former member of our advisory. Jack moved after ninth grade and remains in our chat group. It was our Jack, not some stranger Jack.  I wish we had paused to really connect.

The practice we did today better prepared us for an uncertain future.  Anxiety and stress levels are challenging--even during these practice sessions.

Our leadership teams and the high school technology team has done incredible work preparing us for distance learning. The THC team started preparing us more than 42 days ago. As a faculty, we've been talking about continuity of instruction and learning (#COIL). We've talked and practiced with tools for video conferencing. We've been thinking about this for more than 42 days. 

We've had learning sessions. We have guidelines. We have a support portal--created in the last week!

We have technology coaches and instructional coaches on hand for troubleshooting and support visible in the halls.  The grace and kindness colleagues are showing one another and their students: incredible to witness.

Practice does not make perfect. It makes permanent. I got some great distance learning practice in  this week. And, I was lucky to catch colleagues doing amazing things as I walk the halls offering support. 

We dwell in possibility here.  It is part of our culture. The possibility of distance learning has been leadership's radar. So has the health and well-being of kids and faculty.  

What a gift of time and learning it has been. 


  1. Grace and kindness. What a wonderful thing to take away from this experience. Also the need to slow down. Tomorrow is my fifth day of distance learning and I have found mistakes come from trying to do too much. I think I can make it all happen with a click and click but if I don't double check there could be a mistake. Fortunately, my kiddos are kind in pointing out my mistakes. I return the favor. I think there will be so many takeaways from this experience. And, as you say, as long as we are safe, we have done our job.

  2. As always, impressive how you’re able to articulate the details of what must have been a little nerve-wracking to de as l with in the moment. Kids are gracious and kind. They’re the helpers teachers sometimes need. I’ve been thinking about you often and wondering how things are going in Singapore. It certainly seems your leadership has heeded all the warning signs. I hope we get to make that trip to visit you in the not too distant future. Peace and love, my friend,

  3. Love the line "we dwell in possibility here." Along with the positive outlook and the collaborative problem-solving approach ... this is how the work carries on. Another reminder of how much we need each other.

  4. Patience and practice, and thinking on your feet! Plus one extra Jack. You cover it all ... thanks for sharing

  5. My favorite line....practice does not make perfect. It makes it permanent. So very true, we are all going to struggle through this unknown time. There will be kinks to work out and issues to be resolved. But handling it with the grace that you showed during all the little missteps will make it better. Eventually, it will be just a walk in the park!

  6. It's good to prepare in advance. We did. We thought we had a bit more time and then things started to change not in days but hours and the close down was still a bit sudden. One thing that we found was useful was that in our state of emergency plan we had already indicated that the first two days of the closure are teacher preparation days. This made the transition easier for everyone.

  7. Wow, so much technology info and also so many things that can go wrong! Thanks for your informative input, so non-tech teachers can feel okay when making mistakes along the way. I would expect Singapore to be very on top of things for such a time as this and it helps being a small island with less population. Our country where I am right now, the mind boggles...