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Class during COVID: West Middleton Elementary teacher reflects on what she’s thankful for this Thanksgiving

A thoughtful approach to the successes and concerns of virtual learning for kindergartners
Published: Nov. 26, 2020 at 9:05 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - It’s a Thanksgiving tradition for many of us to reflect on the things we’re thankful for.

I asked my son’s kindergarten teacher to do the same, as we headed into the holiday week and a 5-day break from school.

Leigh Mills: As we head into the Thanksgiving break, is there anything that is on your mind about school right now?

Amy Aschenbeck: I feel like I’m just in awe with a lot of things, like it’s so much is going so great, and wonderful, it’s better than I expected but it’s also, you know, just such a bummer that we’re in this situation in the first place, let alone still in this situation.

We are doing our absolute best. Everyone is, teachers, and parents and families and kids. Everybody is working so hard and trying to make the most of this and do the absolute best they can, but at the same time it is just such a bummer that we are in this virtual setting because everybody wants to be in school, together and able to hug each other and have those closer in person connections.

And it’s just not the reality so I kind of feel like I, at this point, I’m happy with a lot of things and how they’re going and grateful especially considering Thanksgiving is coming up, that things are going so well, but also really bummed that this is our reality at this point.

LM: Is there anything in particular that you’re worried about as kids come back from break for the next few weeks?

AA: I’m just really curious in general to see what’s going to happen in the coming months.

You know, there’s a lot of talk about obviously Thanksgiving looking differently this year, which I feel like, you know, on one hand as a kindergarten teacher I think that I am lucky and that my kids are lucky in that they’re kind of sheltered in some ways, that they maybe don’t fully understand how different this year is going to look.

But on the other hand, I feel like they can pick up on their parents’ energies and feelings and if their parents are feeling bummed, obviously that it looks different this year, that can I feel affect the kids.

I’m just very curious overall to see what the next couple of months are going to look like, in terms of COVID-19 numbers, because that obviously affects how quickly we’ll be coming back to school, so I think that’s the big kind of, I don’t know if concern is the right word but just... curiosity to see where we’re going to be after Thanksgiving break in December and January and moving forward.

LM: Is there any aspect of school or teaching that is going better than you anticipated?

AA: Yes, I honestly, I search hard for those bright spots because I just need that positivity in my life and overall I truly am so pleasantly surprised and happy with how in general this year is going.

I had the opportunity last week to meet with my families in conferences and we kind of shared, I feel like most families shared that same message. We were all hesitant at the beginning of the school year about how it was going to go. I myself have never started a year of kindergarten virtually and there were some things on my mind.

I was a little worried. Was I going to have these connections virtually never having met them in person? Were we going to be successful teaching them, helping them learn across the board academically?

It was a concern I could say for me just because it is so different than anything we have all done in the past. And my families communicated with me and I am seeing overall that it is working. I feel so connected to my kids, even in this virtual setting. They feel so connected to me. Their parents were sharing that with me as well.

We are making connections in a way that I am so pleasantly surprised at. I’m seeing at this point amazing growth academically. It is truly a beautiful thing seeing that they’re learning and they’re learning in this crazy different setting.

That I’m just so happy and grateful and thankful that overall it is working, overall it is going well.

Is it ideal? No. Is it what we expected? No. Is is what we would have chosen? No, but it’s working and I have peace I guess with that.

LM: If you had to narrow it down to one thing, say you’re around your family Thanksgiving table, and you had to give one thing you’re most thankful for related to your students and your class, what would it be?

AA: I am just so thankful that everyone is just going with the flow and being as positive as we can in this crazy situation.

Kids are showing up to the Zooms, they’re excited to learn and happy to see me. They’re engaged. I feel I am doing my absolute best to do the same thing.

My parents and families have been amazing, they have extended me grace as I’m in this new situation as a teacher and I am doing the same for them.

So overall, I am just so thankful that it really feels like we’re in it together and helping to support each other as much as possible.

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