On March 13, 2020 my life as a teacher changed. It was only supposed to be 2 weeks, they said. It was only going to be till the end of April, they said. It was only supposed to be a few months of the next school year, they said. Well, it is now over a year later and I have still not taught in person.
When my school closed last year due to the pandemic they had no expectations of teaching new material. We were not required to do any live meetings or post any assignments. It was a strange time. We were never put in that position before and did not want to make it any harder on families.
I then decided on my own to, at the very least, bring joy to the students I missed so very much. I posted a read-aloud video every week and we had one class meeting to do fun activities together. As a big advocate of social-emotional learning, I use the read alouds to help students with their emotions. Picture books offer so much value to help kids see themselves in the characters and start discussions. I also believed class meetings were important for the social-emotional well-being of my students because they still got to see their friends and talk to each other.
The videos I took for my read alouds had to be done on my phone. My work computer was very old with a broken webcam. Instead, I had to use one I purchased myself back in 2008 with very poor video quality. I knew that I was going to need something better so that students could read along with me and see the pages clearer. That’s where the HUE HD Pro document camera stepped in. I spent a lot of my summer purchasing SEL and diverse books for my classroom library. The video is so crystal clear that students can see themselves in the characters for our SEL lessons. With the HUE doc camera I have been able to easily read to my class. No fumbling whilst trying to hold the book into the web camera or making sure the book is not backwards to the students.
Another thing I have continued this school year is the fun class meetings. Since I teach 1st grade, there are so many engaging learning experiences they are missing out on by not being in the classroom. I have tried my best with the limitations of being virtual to do things that they would enjoy. Each week we undertake different STEAM activities. The document camera has allowed me to create science demonstrations or build objects with the students. Their favorite activity has been silly live drawing demos. None of these activities would have been possible to do with my students without a reliable document camera to make them a part of the action.
I have been trying to make this year as engaging, fun and ‘normal’ as possible for my students. Thanks to my new document camera, even though they are not in the same room as me, they still get an up-close look at everything I am doing. They are not disconnected from the learning. Without my document camera, I would have had to rely on pre-recorded videos or still images.
I wanted the students to feel more like they were actually in school this year. Not to feel like they are just sitting in front of a computer for 7 hours a day. And for us to all be a part of the same learning community. The HUE HD Pro camera has allowed me to be the same teacher I always have been.
Written by Thomas Norton from First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School.