The One Where a 7 Layer Cake Turned into a Trifle #SOL20

When I went back to the classroom at the end of January my plan was to write an education article every week. I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be as an end product in these beginning stages. I find with some writing projects they morph into what they truly are as I move along.

Maybe it would be blog posts.

Maybe it would be a series of Medium articles.

Maybe it would be a book.

As a coach, I found it harder and harder to write the type of articles I wanted to put into the world because I teach with a lot of nuance. It was one of the reasons I wanted to go back to the classroom. There are day to day decisions I make with kids especially in the area of writing that I cannot remember later. I have to write it as a journal type piece, at least at first. My coaching position had me split between two buildings and too many classrooms to count. I found it increasingly frustrating to find my way into what I wanted to say.

In January, I changed states and jobs and went back to teaching Kindergarten. It was a rough adjustment and the students had been through several weeks of trauma. We were finding our new rhythms quickly.

Then COVID 19 took hold of the world. I went home on a Friday thinking I was returning to school on Monday. I got the email later that evening that we were not returning. “More info to come,” the email read.

No one was allowed in the building. Our fobs had been shut off. 

Now I’m trying to teach kindergarten through distance learning – with no prior system in my district. These students are also ones I have had for weeks – not months. There were things that they would have know if they had been with me since August, but that wasn’t the situation we were in.

On Zoom, I cannot teach protocols for my students to talk with each other and learn. They learn how to mute and unmute themselves instead.

I don’t have all my students with me on Zoom meetings because this time is hard for a lot of my parents. The kids are being moved around to relatives and friends and my parents are still trying to work.

There are no hugs and no pats of encouragement on Zoom. I cannot walk around and help my students tap out their words. On Zoom I have the added audience of parents. Not bad, just different.

On Zoom there are no centers where all the extra paper goes and all my kids flock to it at all times of the day to make their books. This is something I miss every day.

Right before we left school one of my students latched onto the idea of a carrot – the upside down V to insert something that you have no space for when handwriting. (Somehow I think that can be an essay in itself!) He turned it into an angry carrot illustration. It was a gateway into him co-authoring a book of him and I going to to the park together. He had not said more than a couple of words to me at a time up to that point. It was a moment of entry.

Teaching in the classroom was a beautiful 7 layer cake – bakery quality. It had the perfect ratio of frosting to cake. It was decorated and you looked forward to eating it because you made it from scratch and knew it will be delicious. Every bite delicious!

Distance learning is that same cake, but it is all mashed up and crumbled and layered in a trifle dish . It isn’t quite the elegant dessert of the 7 layer cake. It still tastes good, but it is not refined and is a mess. There are other things added like strawberries and whipped cream and they are spilling out of the sides of the glass dish.

I am looking forward to eating my cake in the fall.

One thought on “The One Where a 7 Layer Cake Turned into a Trifle #SOL20

  1. You say something here that I thought about yesterday, the reality of in-class teaching is going to be changed, too, whenever we return. How will project-based learning look with five-year-olds? They are nothing if not present in each other’s spaces. And they aren’t the only ones. What does social distancing do to the gains we’ve made in making learning collaborative? Man, this trifle that we’ve got may not be as sweet as it looks!


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