By AMANDA WALDSCHMIDT
5th Grade Teacher
Los Alamos Online Learning Academy
Things don’t always end up how you anticipate. I went into teaching kindergarten online with Los Alamos Online Learning Academy last year with anticipation, anxiety, and dread. My household is full of immune compromised people, so going back to teaching in a brick and mortar classroom was not an option for me. In case you haven’t ever seen a 5 year old, they’re not always the most hygienic people. I wasn’t, however, ready to give up teaching Kindergarten. So, I took on what felt like the monumental task of teaching kindergarten online.
Between mourning the loss of my physical classroom, my Aspen Elementary School colleagues, and my tried and true kindergarten routines; I had to build a new way of connecting with my students. I had to figure out a way to make these children feel cared for from a distance. I also had to take into account the amount of stress these children and their families were under that had absolutely nothing to do with school. The year was born of stress and the unknown.
However, everything exceeded my expectations, not that they were very high. Every year a classroom becomes a family. It just happens organically, you laugh, learn, and cry together. You experience things together that no one else will. There are inside jokes, triumphs, and sometimes small tragedies such as when a class pet dies. This year, my class was even closer! We took “field trips” in each other’s homes whenever a laptop was moved from one room to another. We went on family vacations and camping trips. We even saw a baby brother begin to walk months after being born during the first week of school. We celebrated not only our own growth, but siblings’ and parents’ accomplishments. The relationships we developed were incredible.
I was able to develop close relationships with my colleagues even though I didn’t get to see them in person until months later. When we were finally able to meet, tears welled in my eyes because these were the people that helped me through some of the darkest times during Covid-19. These people, who hadn’t even physically touched or hugged me yet, had helped me cope with six deaths in less than three months. Almost all of them Covid related. We were in isolation, together.
Online schooling is not for everyone. A few of my students switched back to brick and mortar for the end of the school year and that is perfectly fine. However, for the ones that stayed, I am confident in saying that they thrived. They thrived in their education and in their peer relationships. When they were able to meet their peers for the first time during a summer field trip it was like it always should be. Instantly they laughed, played, and squealed with delight together. If you are on the fence because you are worried about peer relationships, don’t. Kids, even kindergarteners online, find a way to make lasting friendships no matter what!