My Heart Is Full Today

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How a Google Hangout/Stuffie Party with our kindergarten learners has filled my cup…

Going into week 3 of kindergarten home learning (or as A.J. Juliani calls it in this blog “emergency remote learning”) has had its ups and downs.

Today? It was all up.

I got to plan and take part in a Google Hangout with our kindergarten team, 16 kindergarteners, their families and their stuffies. And it was amazing.

Let me explain…

A huge part of me wanted to plan a Hangout with them in the first few days of being apart. But my needs, are not their needs. I went into this new normal knowing that I wanted to intentionally focus on going low, slow (not usually my jam can I just say?) and not overwhelming our kids our their caregivers. I figured that I would give them time to adjust their pace and their new routine before planning a Hangout and boy, am I ever grateful that I did. Their smiles today might not have been their in the panic and comfortableness of those first few days of home learning. Today, they looked happy.

I got the first request from a family to plan a whole class Hangout last Thursday. My heart pitter pattered. And I set the planning into motion.

Let me be very clear… when people question me with “SERIOUSLY? A whole class KINDERGARTEN Google Hangout?!? Why? How? For real?” I am very quick to point out that:

  1. We have been using technology like Flipgrid and Skype since literally Day 5 of our kindergarten time together. They are used to seeing their faces and hearing their voices and microphones cutting out when people talk over one another… so although we have not been on a whole class Google Hangout? A lot of this is familiar to them.
  2. Remember, this is not about my why. It is about theirs. They asked. I meet their needs. Period.

I knew that sitting around for 20 minutes saying “How are you? What have you been up to?” might not work the best, especially for reluctant 5 year old speakers. So, I went back to what I knew and immediately thought of Pyjama Day in our classroom. The buzz and the excitement of that day made me smile. They were excited to be in pyjamas but more so, they were excited to bring their stuffies to school. I wanted to infuse that joy and provide an easy opportunity to talk about something they love… so, they are got an invite to our Google Hangout aka Stuffie Party.

Families got an invite to attend on Class Dojo (I am blessed that all of our families can access Dojo) and a link. (No, I did not consider Zoom. Yes, you can hold a Google Hangout without a gmail address and no you don’t have to enter every email address). I encouraged them to try the link to make sure it worked, that their cameras and microphones were on and to be in touch with me if they needed help so I could walk them through it.

I created an agenda for the call to keep myself on track and focused without being too emotional (PS… the agenda did not work for the whole emotional thing but did keep me on track…)

It went a little something like this:

  • Welcome! All mics on so everyone can say hi!
  • Pray our morning prayer together and ask if there are any intentions (I am blessed to work in a Catholic School)
  • Ask the kids if they remember Skype and what some of our rules were. (Listen when someone is talking, no funny faces to distract, we are here to learn….)
  • Do our 10 second of funny faces/dances to get them out of our system (We always did this before Skype calls too… I always find this works well with this age! )
  • Teach how to turn mics off (everyone did great at this!)
  • Reminders for caregivers… everything is being recorded, if something comes up on the screen that is inappropriate, please close your screen or leave the meeting (this has not been an issue with Google Hangout but I thought it was still important to mention), I will always be the last one to sign out and will delete the link when the meeting is done…
  • Let’s meet our stuffies! Model this for them first. Everyone who wants a chance to share gets to turn on their mics and introduce their animal.
  • Thumbs up for who would like to try another Hangout in the future
  • Goodbyes (with all mics on!)

Can I just say? OH MY HEART!!! I am so grateful to have had this time with them and to have had my teacher cup filled today. Our time together was short but so impactful for me and for many of our kids (based on messages I received throughout the day from staff and families who were able to attend). I will do this again. No doubt about it.

Today’s “Stuffie Party” was a success. It doesn’t matter how many of our our families attended. It doesn’t matter if there were times when people talked over one another. What does matter is that we finally got to meet see each other’s smiles and hear each other’s voices and we got to meet Fry Bread (a student’s favourite cat) in person and we got the beautiful reminder that we are still a community who care for one another. I got a chance to feel like a teacher again and for that I am grateful.

My teacher heart is full today. Who knew that a kindergarten Google Hangout could do so much for the soul?

UPDATES! Looking for some ideas? Here are the different activities we have tried during our Kindergarten Google Hangouts!

April 8: Each student brought 2 items that rhymed for RHYME TIME! When it was their turn, they showed 1 item and we had to guess their 2nd item.

April 21: We read one of Mo Willems pigeon books and did a directed draw of the pigeon.

April 24: Students all had to bring items that started with T. They needed to prepare 3 clues and answer our “WH” questions until we guessed their item.

April May 1: We read the book “Silly Sally”. Each student was asked to bring a pot to the meeting. I sent them around the house looking for specific S words (spoon, socks, soap, shirt, straw, sunshine…) to make silly soup! (Thank you to Brenda, an amazing Kinder teacher in our district, for this idea!)