Hey, it’s been a while! I’m happy to be back online after a 2-year hiatus from the blogging world. Last time I wrote a post I was sharing the news that I was expecting twins. Since then, I became a member of a very beloved club which is the Preemie Parents Community after having our girls at only 29 weeks +2 days (we mention the 2 days because at that point every day is critical). They lived in the NICU at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto for 58 days, and with a lot of hard work and positive thoughts came home happy and healthy. I am so proud of their resilience to overcome the obstacles and hurdles that are connected with pre-term birth, and everyday I’m amazed at how far they’ve come.
Returning to Teaching During COVID-19
I decided to take 18 months off to stay home with my kids, because, twins. The first year flew by in the blink of an eye as I kept a hawk’s eye on every single milestone they were supposed to achieve. I can count on one hand the number of times I thought about work. There was no time, and it was blissful. Fast forward to 16-months. My girls were walking and talking and I was starting to see the benefit of having a built-in playmate during a period of important social growth, even though we were in a full lockdown where seeing members outside your household was discouraged. I started to relax and my mind wandered to my class which was now thrust into a fully online learning model due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was feeling a sense of urgency to return to work as I’m sure a lot of mothers do (and, understandably, don’t).
I missed my co-workers, my students and most importantly I missed doing the work. By this time, I was even missing my commute (hello, alone time!).
In September, schools were back to face-to-face learning, and I came back to a different classroom than I had left. Over the almost two years I was gone, my students had slowly graduated to a Junior/Intermediate level and were relatively high functioning compared to students in my previous years. In setting up my classroom I packed away primary coloured poster boards and took home my many Melissa & Doug learning toys and puzzles that were now a bit too “immature” for my new students. Classrooms were set up for the least amount of contact as possible to reduce transmission of COVID-19, so my student’s desks were placed in opposing corners of the room and communal desks and activity tables were locked up in storage. Shared materials such as my TEACCH bin systems would require sanitizing between each use so I decided not to provide them and decided to focus on what I thought was the most important life skill my students could possibly learn this year: Google Classroom.
In the event of another foreseeable lockdown, I wanted students to have the basic skills and knowledge to access learning materials at home, and I wanted to take any load I could off of their caregivers during that time.
I started with a very simple digital Morning Meeting activity that consisted of 6 slides, and grew it over the next 4 months into an hour’s worth of literacy programming that the students had a chance of accessing with some independence. Alas, here we are again returning in January 2021 to an online learning environment, but I have to say I feel confident.
For now, I have more exciting news to share. Seven years ago I met Andrea Haefele who I joined forces with to begin a campaign advocating for quality Physical Education programming for students with special education needs. When I first met Andrea she taught me the difference between “gym” and “physical education” which I didn’t quite understand until I saw her teach. The way she captivates her students and breaks down movements into finite, meaningful skills and strategies goes beyond athleticism; calling for critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills that she draws upon in just a 40-minute period.
Together, we started as disABLE the Label and presented workshops that taught teachers how to properly integrate students into Physical Education environments in our school board. Over time, we grew our following to support educators in Ontario with building inclusive environments where all students can learn and experience the joy of movement: Play Beyond The Label.
On Saturday, January 9th, we are going to be announcing an endeavor that we have been working on to further our movement towards inclusion practices becoming the NORM in the education world.
Want to know more? Join the conversation by tagging the socials below and stay tuned for our launch, tomorrow!
I can’t wait to PLAY with all of you soon!