Director, Shaarei Chinuch Day School
Remote teaching has been extremely challenging. Engaging the students for a full day of learning is a challenge under the best of circumstances, so over the internet when we are 2 dimensional is even more complex. As a Montessori teacher, I have been taught that it is important for the children to learn in a hands on exploratory way. During the first part of the pandemic (the end of last school year) we were scrounging for how to handle teaching over zoom. We had been caught off guard and unprepared! After the summer, and some training both in the Montessori and Jewish Montessori associations, I was more in tune with what a virtual Montessori classroom would be. With the help of online Montessori tools, a document camera and interactive ideas, we created an environment that helped the children keep the excitement they have for learning, virtually. We did things like look for nouns around the house, measure doorways and countertops, and interview family members.
Other activities such as looking for geometric shapes outside, comparing shapes of leaves and their functions, etc. help bring more fun and wonder into the process. Looking at benchmarks to make sure that we are reaching goals and finding interesting ways in which to attain them, keeps us all on our toes and allows for a more broad learning experience, where children learn even more without realizing they are working hard. Instead of using worksheets, we learn a lesson, discuss what follow up is needed/desired in order to practice and then they get off the computer for a decided length of time. During the time away from the computer the children are able to focus on their work without the distraction of the screen. Once the time is up, everyone returns to zoom and connects with one another by sharing what was accomplished. We davened as usual, like we do at school, and were able to follow along in the siddur using a document camera. We played community building games, like we would during normal line time (community time). We discussed rules and how to treat one another with respect and kindness over zoom. We enjoyed lunch together and read a chapter from the book we read at lunch (we are reading the Boxcar children series, set in the 1920’s…the children love it and look forward to hearing it every day). After lunch we would have recess where we encouraged the children to do something active, and then returned to learning after approximately half an hour. We resumed learning as we had done in the morning. At the end of the day we do another community time, where we say what our thorn (something we did not like) is and then what our rose (something we did like) was, in order to finish the day on a positive note. We needed to think “out of the box” to come up with ways for the children to have comparable experiences. All in all, although challenging, it was still nice to see my students every day and to interact with them. The weight of my responsibility as their teacher is what keeps me grounded and determined, and their pure joy when they discover and understand what they are learning is what makes my heart feel full and keeps me coming back.