Over the past several years, I've worn a lot of hats. I've gone from a teacher in a brick-and-mortar school, to a learning coach for my kids when they first enrolled in Wisconsin Virtual Academy (WIVA), to actually becoming a teacher at WIVA. Sometimes it feels like a total whirlwind, but there are so many rich moments that come from watching my students grow and flourish that no moment ever feels burdensome—even in all the craziness.
As I watch my students work together to become better students, I get to see the moments where they coach each other to grow as individuals, challenge each other to be curious, and push each other to explore the bounds of learning.
However, helping a first grader learn—especially when it comes to learning how to read—is not always easy, and helping a parent assist their first grader in learning how to read can be even harder.
As a former Learning Coach, I understand how daunting it can be to be working with your child as they learn to read. You see your child drawing scribbles instead of writing carefully printed letters, and you are concerned.
"How do I get them to explain what they're writing?"
"What do the scribbles mean?"
I've been there as a concerned mom, and I try to take every chance to work with a student and their Learning Coach in a one-to-two classroom session. In the past, when I had larger classrooms of pupils, I didn't get that personal time with students, let alone the time to work directly with whoever was helping them with their academic work outside of school—now I do, and it's an entirely different experience.
In my first grade class, we work a lot on self-monitoring as part of the development process. I ask my students to self-reflect and ask themselves if they need more help, feel like they're meeting expectations, or even feel confident enough to teach each other. Students come together in a communal classroom to learn certain words, understand a story, and process large concepts, but then get to work together in breakout rooms to support and coach each other as they read in a small group. It's those moments when I get to see one of my students take over the microphone to guide the class through a lesson, with their peers cheering them on, that reinforces the incredible class dynamic we have in our online learning environment that contributes to academic and personal growth.
For a lot of people, going to school means settling into a classroom to learn, but in my classroom it's about so much more. I've seen first graders come together in Class Connect to support each other through funny moments and major successes, but I've also watched the love and care students send to each other through hard times and through loss.
When I tell stories about my kiddos, I'm not being dramatic when I say that I am sometimes brought to tears by their compassion and personal courage, but that's also what my classroom is about. Learning about life as student, child, friend, and community citizen—all lessons I hope they can, one day, teach someone else.