California Educator

June/July 2021

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Ding dong, it's Granny Grammar! e doorbell rings on Google Meet, and Granny makes her grand entrance. e first graders listen to Granny's every word. eir teacher, Maria Parkin, aka "Granny," says that her new persona is just one of many new tricks to engage students online. " When the pandemic first hit, I forced myself to learn new things and think outside the box. It was so challenging. I told myself I had to do it for the kids. And I did." To grab their attention online, she created Granny Grammar. She changed her shirt and her voice — and dressed up with a wig, glasses and string of pearls. She didn't know how it would go over at first, but students loved it. anks to Granny, their phonemic awareness and reading comprehension have soared. "I had to up the ante during distance learning," says Parkin, a 16-year teacher and member of the Teachers Association of Paramount. "It was much more engaging for them than worksheets." Learning new ways of teaching The pandemic has been difficult, stressful and exhausting. But Parkin, like many school employ- ees, found some positives. She has embraced new styles of teaching that she will continue when in-class instruction resumes this fall. She has become stronger and more confident. "I will definitely continue asynchronous learning," she says. "I didn't do that before. But technology is the way to go. Of course, students still need their teacher. But there is so much that stu- dents can do online independently." Parkin also plans to keep herself connected online with students when they return to in-person learning via Google Jam- board, a collaborative, digital whiteboard where students and teachers can share ideas in real time. She loves that she can see their work in progress and guide them as they work alone and in groups — and that students can see the work of classmates projected onto a screen at the push of a button. "Before, it was pretty much paper and pencil," she says. "Now I have a whole new perspective." Jamal Wright, history professor at Bakersfield College, says the pandemic has pushed him to become more technologically savvy, creative and vibrant. "For me, the silver lining was learning how to create infor- mation resources for students, so they knew something about a topic before even coming to class," says Wright, a member of the Kern Community College District chapter of the Community College Association (Kern CCD/CCA). "I learned how to embed videos in lectures using Canvas. I post lectures with videos that students can watch any time. I engage in 'flipped learning,' so students can watch clips of Gladiator before I lecture on the Roman Empire. It develops a deeper understanding of the material. I also cre- ate quizzes in Canvas to test for understanding and help them retain information." Wright uses his new skills to create and upload videos and posts on how to navigate the campus virtually, submit assignments, communicate with instructors, and access resources like the school's food pantry. He never imagined himself doing how-to videos and posting links to essential school services, but he now enjoys it. Isabel Garcia, a science and math teacher at San Benito High School in Hollister, shares that the pandemic provided an opportunity to update outmoded curriculum with colleagues, incorporating technology in a way that's more accessible for students and teachers. She credits her district and union with providing enough resources for staff to make that leap. "When our schools closed down physically, we digitized our Maria Parkin as Granny Grammar, complete with wig, glasses and pearls. 22 Feature "I forced myself to learn new things and think outside the box. I told myself I had to do it for the kids. And I did." —Maria Parkin, Teachers Association of Paramount Jamal Wright

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