This blog post by NCTE member Leigh Ann Eck is reprinted with permission from Three Teachers Talk (March 26, 2020).
I have been struggling to write this month’s post. I intended on writing about synthesizing multiple texts and color coding as a strategy for middle schoolers. But right now, that no longer seems important or for that matter, relevant.
We are in unprecedented times of online learning and trying to connect and continue to build relationships with our students when we cannot physically be with them. We worry about their health and safety and overall well-being. In struggling to do all of this, we also worry about keeping our own families safe and healthy and for many, providing homeschooling for our own children.
This stress can take its toll on our own mental, physical, and emotional state. One of the things I have found that has helped me the most is keeping and building online communities with other teachers. Some days they are my lifeline when I need to talk to other people who are going through the same thing. Other days it is just a time out of my day to laugh, to encourage and be encouraged, and to share our stories.
Teacher communities come in many different forms, and can be beneficial to our growth not only as teachers but also as humans, especially right now.
Here are a few communities that I am a part of, which you may want to check out.
- Teach Write—”The goal of Teach Write is to help give teachers the confidence and support they need to develop their own writing habit so that they can become stronger teachers of writers.” The founder of Teach Write has been hosting pop-up writing sessions where teachers spend 90 minutes writing together virtually. Teach Write not only helps to develop a writing habit, but they are just a lot of fun to be around.
- #100DaysofNotebooking—Michelle Haseltine started the #100DaysofNotebooking at the beginning of the year as a way to encourage people to begin a meaningful habit of writing and to discover the power of writing and the joy it can bring. When we started this challenge, none of us knew that by March, we would be in the current situation. As a result, the group has now become #100DaysofNotebooking and BEYOND! We will continue to write and share notebook pages throughout and hopefully, even after this crisis is over.
- Slice of Life—The “slicing community” is part of Two Writing Teachers. Each March they sponsor the Slice of Life Story Challenge where writers write a blog post that is a story, or a slice of life. Throughout this month we have shared our stories about life, families, teaching, taking care of ourselves, and struggles with this virus. After March, Two Writing Teachers continues with weekly posts on Tuesdays.
- Poetry Friday—The Poetry Friday community is a group of “children’s book aficionados and bloggers” who use their blogs and websites to contribute favorite poems or chat about all things poetry. Writing and sharing poetry has a way of bringing people together, especially in times like these.
Many educators and leaders in the field of literacy have been contributing by creating and sharing videos. Penny Kittle and Kelly Gallagher are sharing their notebooks, the books they are reading, and their thoughts each day, Monday through Friday. Here is a link to Penny’s Padlet, which houses all of the videos plus many resources. I call it my ELA teacher self-care Padlet.
These are troubling times, but we will get through them by taking care of ourselves, by lifting each other up and by working together. If you are part of a community that is lifting and encouraging you, please share it with us. We would love to hear about it!
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay strong.
Leigh Anne Eck teaches sixth grade English language arts at George Rogers Clark Middle School in Southwestern Indiana. She is a co-moderator of the #TeachWrite chat and monthly contributor at Three Teachers Talk. She can be found on Twitter@teachr4 or at her blog A Day in the Life.
NCTE members can also experience the benefits of community through online Member Gatherings taking place every Tuesday!