Teaching During a Pandemic: Renewed Hope (Part 2)

Candace MillerBlog, Reflect Better, Teach Happier


  • Teaching during a pandemic began with feeling lost.
  • Getting more information and clarity on teacher expectations led to higher confidence for teachers.
  • Experiencing this year has led to a renewed hope for the future.

My Purpose

My purpose in blogging is to work through and process thoughts, happenings, and feelings throughout my teaching career. I’m hoping that through my blogs, I can help someone who may be experiencing the same thoughts and feelings as I have.

The anxiety of not really knowing.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. We were sitting around the campfire in July when I opened my work email. In the email, it described how we were going to return to school for the 2020-2021 school year. FULLY VIRTUAL!

Tears started streaming down my face. I kept reading the email, but I wasn’t able to fully process what it was saying.

Many different thoughts and feelings. “How?” was the biggest question of all. How am I going to teach virtually and connect to my students? My curriculum material is not digital. So, how do I make the switch? How am I going to lead my new student teacher through our year together?  So many more, but also all the feelings. Feelings of inadequacy to help guide my student teacher. Feelings of frustration because not all my questions were being answered. Anxiety of not really knowing what the start of the year was going to look like.

Reflecting back, I have THE BEST group of students to go through this experience with. I have THE BEST PLN to collaborate with. AND, I have a sense of RENEWED HOPE. Click To Tweet

I started to feel confident!

So I did what I knew I could do.

I knew there were changes within my subject’s standards this year. So I “mapped out” my year. I started with my standards and also my district’s pacing guide. (As most of us teachers do.) From my standards, I built an outline for my GRIDs for the year.  (More information on The GRID Method can be  found HERE.) Being a testing subject, I looked at my state’s “Performance Level Descriptors” (PLDs) and made sure these were also incorporated into my GRIDs. (If you teach in the state of Ohio, click HERE to find your subject’s PLDs.)

I converted all the learning opportunities I wanted to keep into digital format. I tried to use all sorts of different techniques to get my curriculum to my students, from “Nearpods” to interactive Google forms. I used Google drawings and Google slides. I created a virtual classroom and a Google site.

My district soon after announced what each week’s schedule would look like. We would have four synchronous days and one asynchronous day a week. My principal also put out a schedule for each synchronous day.

I started to feel confident!

My students were not familiar with learning in the virtual world.

I’ll never forget the first day. All the nerves.

One thing that was very evident from the start, my zooming skills needed refining. I think the most quoted statement of this part of the year was, “You’re on mute.” I can remember on one occasion, I was about 30 seconds into my directions for the day before one student typed, “You’re on mute” in the chatbox.  I’ve shared the wrong screen, and I accidentally made a student the co-host instead of my student teacher. Just to list a few of my finer moments on Zoom.

I was terrified to try breakout rooms. So, I started with something simple. Making a class playlist. I thought this would be a great way to also get to know one another. But, when I went into the breakout rooms, no one was talking. They even had their cameras turned off.

I felt so frustrated. I love inquiry-based learning, and scientific argument is a major piece to this type of learning. How could I get my students to communicate with one another? I had to take a step back and realize, like me, my students were not familiar with learning in the virtual world.

Renewed Hope: Student voices were heard!

Over the course of virtual learning, my students and I learned from each other. They learned the content. I learned a lot about technology. We both learned to be more patient and to give grace.

I often put out class starter questions that would ask, in varying ways, how things are going or how I could do things differently. I think one of my biggest takeaways from my students is that simplicity is always the best way to go. Having to click through several different screens for one assignment was hard. Especially on a small Chromebook. So streamlining my learning opportunities to put all resources on one platform was best for them.

Student voices were heard and I redesigned my learning opportunities.

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Renewed Hope: Cameras clicked on and they started chatting with me.

As trying as this time was, I have so many great memories!

My funniest memory has to be the first time I used the “Time to Climb” feature on Nearpod. Yes, I tried something “live” that I’ve never used before. If you’ve never tried this feature, you must! I’m not going to say much, because if you haven’t tried it, the raw reaction of the first time using it will be spoiled. Let’s just say, my high school students had a blast. Not because of the game. BUT, because of my student teacher’s and my own reaction to the game.

My most talked-about moment stems from begging my students to communicate with me. I’m a talker. I love interacting and sitting down to just talk with my students. Those little black boxes on the screen with names kind of got to my teacher’s psyche one day. So I played “Teacher DJ.” It was kind of a sad moment that turned into a hilarious moment. I think it took them a few minutes to realize what was happening. But, once they did, the cameras clicked on and they started chatting with me.

Renewed Hope: Reflecting Back…

Virtual learning isn’t what I envisioned myself doing as a teacher. But, reflecting back, I have THE BEST group of students to go through this experience with. I have THE BEST PLN to collaborate with. AND, I have a sense of RENEWED HOPE.

Part 3 coming soon!

About Candace Miller

Candace Miller is an educator who believes that each student is capable of learning. She understands that connecting with students is key. Her passion is helping students with basic needs. Candace orchestrated the set up of a care corner in her school where students can go and shop for free items that they need. Her other passions include her family, camping, being in nature, reading and crafting (mainly using her cricut machine).

Candace started her education career in Lansing, Michigan. She took ten years away from education to be a stay at home mom for her son. Candace is currently teaching high school science in the Columbus area of Ohio where she is part of her school’s teacher leadership program. She previously taught ESL science in a sheltered science class. Candace is honored to be a founding ambassador for the Teach Better Family and is excited to collaborate with others in the Teach Better Family to be a better teacher.