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12 Days of Christmas

Joining City Year in the middle of a global pandemic has felt like jumping into the deep end. As educators continue to navigate through unchartered waters, we must push our creativity to new heights in order to find effective solutions to novel problems. Being in a hybrid classroom, where some students are in-person learners and others are fully virtual/remote learners, comes with new challenges every single day. Most of which can be encompassed by two grim words: technical difficulties. Nevertheless, my partner teacher and I constantly work together to model resilience and persistence for our students, showing them that regardless of the curveballs life may throw our way, we can always work creatively to find solutions and overcome any type of adversity.

One of the biggest challenges we’ve been working through in the hybrid space is ensuring equal participation from our virtual and in-person learners. In an effort to increase the community feeling in a hybrid classroom, my partner teacher introduced the term “zoomies and roomies” to refer to students in the virtual space vs. students in the physical classroom. This was something that everyone instantly loved and has helped us create a stronger sense of unity in our classroom, even when we are not all physically together. So far it has helped us stay mindful and respectful of others and their want to participate and be engaged, even from afar, and has most definitely helped us increase engagement during our lessons.  We also regularly incorporate new engaging and interactive activities for our zoomies and roomies to partake in that will help ensure academic success, as well as promote connectedness between the class in a time where it’s so easy to feel disconnected.

After coming back from a restful and well-deserved Thanksgiving break, it quickly became clear to my partner teacher and I that the time in between holiday breaks would be extra challenging in terms of student engagement. To help keep our students motivated and ensure we finish the year strong, my partner teacher and I introduced the 12 Days of Christmas. This initiative consists of highlighting students who are going above and beyond in their participation and performance, for the 12 school days before winter break. Students of the Day earn small prizes such as fun pencils, erasers, stickers, etc.  for their hard work. Additionally, whoever gets chosen to be Student of the Day, helps the teachers in recommending their peers for the following day.

So far, this initiative has proved to be very successful! We have had students who are typically reluctant to participate in discussion, or even turn their cameras on, participating more than ever before and being our Student of the Day! The incentive of winning a prize, and getting to be a recognized leader among peers has definitely been working wonders in our hybrid classroom. Although each day still poses different challenges, it is extremely rewarding to see the growth in our students and their performance. Hearing students start to believe in themselves more each day, and say things like, “Wow, I can be Student of the Day, too!” makes every challenge worth it!

As we move toward closing out the first half of this school year on a high note, my partner teacher and I are continuing to brainstorm ideas for how to keep this momentum going in 2021. It’s exciting to see how we can overcome challenges as a team and continue to push our students toward personal and academic success.

 

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