Things Are The Same, But DifferentApril 16, 2021
Jane Fung teaches transitional kindergarten at Belvedere Elementary in East Los Angeles.
There were two boxes of books waiting for me when I checked into school this morning. It was a nice surprise to begin the last trimester of this “interesting” school year. Last month a guest reader introduced me to the book “Same, Same but Different” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw. The book focuses on two friends from different countries and how their worlds might look different, but are actually very similar.
It is such a wonderful book, with an important message, that I wanted each of my students to have a copy. So I did what I usually do: I wrote a DonorsChoose crowdfunding project. As I reflected on the past year of my life as a teacher in a pandemic, I realized that although things look different, they are basically still the same.
I used to write DonorsChoose projects for materials to use in the classroom. Now I ask for supplies, arts materials, books, and learning toys that I can pack up individually for each child for learning at home. Same, same, but different.
Students used to sing and dance in class each day. They still sing and dance, but now it’s done virtually. We might hear a dog barking or a baby brother crying in the background, but the fun and joy of moving and grooving is still there. Same, same, but different.
I used to sign in on a time card, but that’s so 2020. Now I sign in with a daily pass, on an app, with my smartphone. Same, same, but different.
The occupational therapist teacher used to come and take students out to provide services. Now she comes into our Zoom class and teaches not only students and families, but me. I have a better understanding of how to develop fine motor skills and innovative ways to incorporate them into instruction. Same, same, but different.
Students used to play outside and build relationships with one another. They still play, but now they go into breakout rooms to share stories, play with slime, and brag about the new toy they got over the weekend. Same, same, but different.
I used to get a yearly flu shot. It was supposed to protect me from viruses that students might bring to school. I still get my flu shot, but now I have added a COVID-19 vaccine or two. Same, same, but different.
I used to hold conferences twice a year where I highlighted students’ strengths and provided parents with strategies. We still meet formally twice a year, but now I get to highlight students’ strengths every day in class while parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandmas, and caregivers are watching. They know the strategies I use in class, because they are my teaching partners this year. Same, same, but different.
I used to send postcards to my students during vacation breaks. I still send postcards, but now I can also post videos, photos, and challenges on ClassDojo in real time. Same, same, but different.
I used to think that incorporating technology in my classroom meant YouTube videos and educational websites. I still use YouTube videos and educational websites for instruction, but now I know how to create, record, upload, and post links to my YouTube teaching videos. I know what Google Slides are and use them daily to teach and engage students. I can connect monitors to laptops, and laptops to document cameras, and split my screen. Same, same, but different.
I used to collaborate and learn from colleagues at my school. I still collaborate and learn, but now I can network with educators all over the country, anytime and virtually any place, through Zoom, Teams, or FaceTime. Same, same, but different.
I used to jot down my lesson plans and ideas in a notebook. Now my daily lesson plans, slides, and teaching videos are posted on Schoology for students and parents to access 24/7. Same, same, but different.
I used to be an educational resource for parents. I still serve as a resource for parents, but now I also serve as the technology support, Wi-Fi troubleshooter, community resource locator, and instructional material delivery person too. Same, same, but different.
I used to take my students on a dozen field trips each year to learn about the world around them. I still take my students on field trips to science centers, art museums, and aquariums, only now the trips are virtual and can expand outside of our city boundaries. Same, same, but different.
I used to look forward to greeting students at the gate each morning. I still look forward to greeting my students, only now it’s in front of a laptop screen each morning. Sometimes I sign on to see who’s there and we get to chat, and sometimes I stay late when they are not ready to say goodbye. Same, same, but different.
Establishing relationships with my students and their families has always been one of my priorities as a teacher. When this school year began, I wondered if I would be able to connect with students and families the same way while teaching remotely. My answer came during a Zoom parent conference, when Julian’s mom shared with me that he had a crush on me. And my answer came again last month, when Elizabeth saw me walking in the parking lot at school. She didn’t say anything, just came rushing towards me for a hug. I gave her one—I needed it too. Same, same, just different.
In a few days, I will welcome students into my classroom for the first time in over 13 months. There will be no butterfly garden outside. We will not have a carpet for morning community meetings. The library corner now has a limit of one student. Blocks are out of reach. The dress-up clothes and puppets are stored away. But I will be ready to teach and learn, with six young learners in person and 16 virtually. Because that’s what I do. I teach. Same, same, but a little different.
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