Traveling the World with Podcasts: From Dollywood to Ghana to Selma and Beyond


Are you fresh out of ideas about what to teach next to your virtual students? Are you struggling to find engaging content that is free, easily accessible, understandable to students, and in the public domain? Tired of dredging your brain and the internet for content every week to teach?

Never fear, the blog post on podcasts as literature is here!

If you have yet to dive into the wonderful world of podcasts, now is a great time to start. For those who don’t know, podcasts are recorded audio segments, usually focused on particular topics or themes. It is a great way to share interviews, stories, and information in a format that is easily accessible and free for listeners.

I personally have become a podcast junkie over the last few years. So, in September when my school told me that I had to teach English all year to a group of all virtual students, but that the county was not going to pay for access to online versions of novel sets for classes, so we had to basically rebuild our curriculum ourselves with no resources and no guidance, so, have fun and go figure it out real fast, I panicked for a bit. Then, I started thinking about literature from an access perspective—what had the power to convey what is essential about great stories but in a platform that allowed free access for anyone? One of the venues I came up with was that of the almighty podcast.

Usually, I do a unit on social justice literature with my students, and this year before I realized that we had to teach English all year basically without books, I had been planning on steering my students towards non-fiction social justice books. When I started thinking about this content from the perspective of podcasts, I realized that many of the same overall goals I had envisioned accomplishing through a non-fiction social justice literature unit could also be accomplished through a social justice podcast as literature unit.

And because we as teachers in West Virginia and all across the world are #allinthistogether, I am going to share all of my resources with you so that you can use this podcast unit with your classes in any way, shape, form, or fashion (to borrow a Jim Justice-ism) that fits the needs of your students. This is a super adaptable unit, and you could totally use it as is, or you could substitute the podcasts I chose for other podcasts but keep the structure—whatever suits your style and students.


I chose to structure this unit like a literature circle unit in that I gave students a choice of several podcasts and let them rank them in order of preference according to which ones they would be interested in listening to (I used a Google form for this), and then I put them in groups based upon their feedback.

The reason why I chose to give students choice in which podcast to listen to is because a) choice is great and improves student engagement, and b) because some of these podcasts are about touchy (albeit, important!) subjects, and I wanted students to be able to self-select a podcast that fit their emotional and psychological needs the best.

If you are choosing podcasts for options to give your students, I would center them around a theme. This helps because all of the questions you ask them weekly about the podcast can be the same questions across podcasts, and some of the ancillary assignments that you give during the unit can work no matter which podcast students are listening to. Also, you know that students are accomplishing similar goals although they are listening to different content.

Here are the podcasts, along with general descriptions, that I gave as options for my students, all of which are either centered around or end up getting to social justice issues.

Podcast Option 1: Dolly Parton’s America

The Dolly Parton’s America podcast is about, well, the one and only Dolly Parton. The podcast starts out with a few episodes about Dolly’s growing up years and her rise to fame, but as the podcast goes on, it discusses Dolly’s perspective on female empowerment, political division, confederate emblems, and the many-faceted feelings about life in Appalachia, to name a few. Some episodes I felt were a bit racy for 14-year-olds, so I tried to choose ones that I felt were reasonably within the realm of school appropriateness.

Podcast Option 2: White Lies

White Lies

White Lies is about the murder of Reverend James Reeb in Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights movement. His murderers were acquitted, and the collaborators of the podcast were pretty sure that one of his murderers was never caught. For fans of true crime podcasts, students can hear this mystery unfold through evidence and lots of interviews.

Podcast Option 3: This American Life

This American Life is a classic podcast with hundreds of episodes on intriguing topics. However, I chose to focus on issues of race, housing discrimination, and education in the podcasts I selected for this project. Students were introduced to the concept of redlining and how it impacts the quality of education which students receive, which in turn impacts the trajectory of their lives.

Podcast Option 4: The New Activist

The New Activist is a podcast hosted by the faith-based organization IJM (International Justice Mission). IJM is an organization which fights against human trafficking through both legal processes and rescues. The portion of the podcast which students listened to was about a girl who goes by Esther (not her real name for safety reasons) who was formerly enslaved in the dangerous job of fishing on Lake Volta in Ghana. IJM discovered and rescued Esther along with many other children.

Podcast Option 5: Displaced

The podcast Displaced is hosted by the IRC (International Rescue Committee) which is an organization that promotes the welfare of refugees and displaced people. Displaced interviews people who work to helped displaced people around the globe about their perspective on the best ways to help people displaced by conflict as well as how to de-escalate that conflict before people are displaced. The episodes I chose focus largely on how displacement affects children, their education, their development, and their future.

Below is a link to the fillable Word document that I gave to students to help them choose a podcast. It has links to short previews for each podcast in addition to the description so that the students could hear a bit of the podcast before choosing one.


I chose to have students listen to podcasts weekly and discuss with each other on the online platform FlipGrid. FlipGrid allows students to make videos and respond to each other’s videos in video form all on a secure platform. Because they are making videos back and forth to each other, they are essentially engaging in a slow discussion. Below is a screenshot of what the Week 3 Topic and directions looked like for my Dolly Parton’s America Podcast FlipGrid.

The document below gives an outline of which podcast episode(s) I assigned per podcast per week and also the questions I had students answer on their FlipGrid discussion videos and response videos each week. This was a document used for my planning purposes, and I DID NOT share this directly with students.


I made a go-to document which I shared with the class containing all info that they needed each week of their podcast unit. It had the FlipGrid code for each podcast, the names of the students in each group, the episode(s) which they were assigned that week along with links to those episode(s), and all due dates clearly listed for the week.

I removed my join codes and the names of my students and included that document here. This was the document that I DID share with students and is designed for their use. The only podcast not listed on here is the Displaced podcast because not enough of my students signed up for that as their first choice, so I ended up not doing that one. If you use this document, you will want to change the dates and some instructions, but it may be helpful to use this structure and the links in the document.


Of course, the best part of teaching is watching students grow and learn and discover. A unit like this does take a bit of work to set up on the front end, but throughout the unit, you get to watch your students connect with life-changing stories that will stick with them for years to come and will challenge their perspectives.

It may even inspire them to become the change that they want to see in the world, which is always a goal of mine as a teacher.

Liz Jorgensen (formerly Keiper) is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. When she’s not dressing up in togas or running around her classroom with foam swords reenacting Shakespeare, she can be found enjoying the great outdoors, playing guitar, or adding to her rather out-of-control rubber duck collection. You can follow her on Twitter @LizJorgenTeach.

WVCTE is wondering…

  1. What are other venues for engaging, accessible content that you have used in the virtual education world this school year?
  2. What are some other podcasts which could work well with a unit like this?

Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!

Light a Candle in the Window

Teacher-friend, here is my New Year’s offering to you. I’ve got no long lists of self-care or resolutions or easy technology tricks. I just have one thing.
It’s a candle for your window.

By Adrin Fisher

Let me be honest: I’m getting a little tired of living through history. Pandemic teaching. Insurrection. Racism. COVID variants. A magical quick-change school map. The supreme elevation of opinion over truth. Fear and violence and doubling down on hate. 2021 is shaping up to be a lot.

To add insult to injury, just as back in the before-time, there are the losses that come with living on this circling planet. Just before Christmas, my high school art teacher, Russ Neptune, passed away. Mr. Neptune taught for close to forty years in a huge room with fifteen-foot windows, radiators on the brick walls, and big zinc sinks stained with years of paint splatter. My favorite memory of his class is how he would build an incredible hodgepodge structure out of found objects: old bicycles, rocking chairs, chandeliers, terra cotta pots and bricks, American flags and antique mirrors. He put it up on tables in the middle of the room, and we would sit all around it, scouting out sections for our still-life projects—line drawing, colored pencils, water colors.

But that’s not all we did. He taught us things I’d never heard of, like batik, linoleum printing, and etching zinc plates with acid. I paid tribute to artist Andrew Wyeth. I water-colored the doors of our local mansion, built by a coal baron when the Titanic was new. I mashed up my parents’ 1960s album covers. I drew my Converse sneakers. I took Mr. Neptune’s class for three years, and many years later, when I returned home, I became his colleague.

When he passed in the plague time, his family asked that former students post pictures of their artwork with the tag #UncleRuss. It took me almost fifteen minutes to find my work. Fifteen minutes to locate a garbage bag full of art I made almost 30 years ago—after four moves across two states. Fifteen minutes.

Why have I carried my bag of art all these years? It’s because, like any great teacher, Mr. Neptune taught his art students more than techniques or terms. He taught us to trust our eye, to think outside the box, to experiment. He gave us freedom and autonomy and a chance at self-expression.

He made me feel like an ARTIST.

In past times, people would put a candle in their windows. Maybe it was a sign of good news. Maybe it was a beacon to a family member journeying home. Maybe it was a sign of a friendly welcome for a traveler. In all cases, it was a sign of hope. It reminds me of a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival (from one of my parents’ old albums): “But I won’t, won’t / Be losing my way, no, no / Long as I can see the light.”

So, teacher-friend, here is my New Year’s offering to you. I’ve got no lists of self-care ideas or teacher resolutions or easy technology tricks. I just have one thing.

It’s a candle for your window. Make it your goal to make your students feel like a—

Well, whatever it is you’re teaching this year.

I want my students to feel like WRITERS.

I want them to feel like READERS.

Maybe you want your students to feel like ATHELETES or MATHLETES or LINGUISTS or SINGERS.

I want them to feel welcomed and competent and confident. I want to point the direction and then set them free. I want them to find their voices and their motivation. I want to remind them to hope.

This is a hard time for an educator. It’s tough for students and parents, too.

Basically, it’s a challenging time to be a human.

But, in the words of Mikey in the 1985 film The Goonies, “This is our time.”

So, instead of giving up or hunkering down or shutting off, I challenge you to light the candles in your windows. Cultivate the good and open your heart to hope. Remember that your passion and your effort (especially in the plague year) are not lost. Remember that some day, even if it’s thirty years down the road, some former student will remember you fondly—for how you made them feel—for what you taught them they could be.

Take it seriously, because it’s a serious charge.

As my parting gift this month, I invite you to share in the hope offered by British indie-rocker Frank Turner in “The Next Storm.”

“So open the shutters, raise up the mast.
Rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed!
Cast off the crutches, cut off the cast,
Rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed,
Rejoice, rebuild, the storm has passed…

“I’m gonna step out, and face the next storm.”

Now, go light some candles in your windows. Courage, dear-heart!

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She wishes you light and hope on your journey. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher, an Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award Winner, and a finalist for WV State Teacher of the Year. She teaches College English, AP Lit & Comp, and English 12 at Fairmont Senior High School. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

The Epic Nevertheless, Starring You

Teaching in a pandemic: It’s not pretty, but it’s pretty epic. Reframe the school year and fight. Be the hero of your own epic, nevertheless.

by Adrin Fisher

Epics are my thing lately. Maybe it’s because I picked up a beautiful new paperback of The Odyssey translated by Fagles. Maybe it’s because my family has been loving Disney’s show The Mandalorian, the one with “Baby Yoda.” Maybe it’s because in many unexpected ways, fiction has become fact in 2020.

Epics are long, narrative poems that tell the story of a courageous, larger-than-life hero. The action takes us on a journey, the villains often have supernatural power, and the hero triumphs (mostly). There’s also a lot of talking involved.

My teacher-friends and I have talked and talked. Since the beginning of the pandemic, our emotions have been like cheap plastic kites jerked about in gale-force winds: disbelief, anger, sadness, cautious optimism, fear, exhaustion, hope, grief. Lots of us have settled somewhere in the area of resignation, our little kite selves bent and busted, but still fluttering. We’re not thinking of ourselves as particularly heroic.

In some ways, to a person born and bred in Appalachia, this feeling of resignation is home. When I introduce Beowulf to my seniors, I talk about the Anglo-Saxon worldview. Fatalism, I say. This conglomeration of conquering tribes believed that Fate ruled all. This, I say, is familiar. You know this. You’ve heard people say, “It is what it is.” You know the phrase, “What will be will be.”

Then we go to the epic. We hear Beowulf himself say, “Fate will unwind as it must,” and we remember the Fates fighting over their eyeball in that old Disney movie, Hercules. We remember reading Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson books. This we know.

We could talk about why fatalism is a cornerstone of the Appalachian ethos. We could point to it as a reason why education is not of primary value in many of our families. We could think about the vices our students start experiencing in middle school—the drinking, the vaping, the smoking. We could think about generational poverty and cycles of abuse and drugs and promiscuity and injustice and broken promises. We could mention it all. We could rake ourselves over the coals.

But we don’t. Others do that for us.

Instead, we talk about Abraham Lincoln, a fatalist through and through. We talk about underdogs. We talk about justice and paybacks. We talk about the strength it takes to live under the weight of fate.

We ask, why should we bother?

We ask, what drove Beowulf? That one’s easy: he wanted to be remembered for his actions. Beowulf voyaged across the sea. He fought a demon, weaponless. He swam to the bottom of a bottomless hot spring and killed a Water-Witch. He trekked to the mountains and slew a dragon.

We talk about strength, courage, generosity, right motives. We talk about resilience. Hope.

We, teacher-friend, are teaching through a pandemic. We are making history. It’s not pretty, but nevertheless, it’s pretty epic.

We’re navigating a patchwork of rules and regulations with unclear requirements and expectations about devices, broadband, virtual meetings, and student involvement. We’re choosing the essential. We’re protecting our people. We’re extinguishing fires. We’re dismembering demons and slaying dragons every day.

So, today, I’m asking you to fan that little flame of fatalism that may yet burn in your Appalachian heart-of-hearts. Use it as a reminder of your own strength, teacher-friend. Let’s accept the hand that’s been dealt. But let’s reframe our journey.

Let’s fight.

We’re not just fighting for ourselves. We’re fighting for our communities, our students—whether they know it or not—and we’re fighting for their futures. We’re fighting for our profession, our families, our colleagues, our work-life balance, and our sanity. We here in Appalachia have been fighting for a long, long time.

We have all lost in the past nine months, to be sure, but we are not losing. And neither are the kids. There will be pieces to pick up. There will be wounds that need healed. There will be grace given.

But—as we’ve learned from epics—heroes are never perfect, but they are always moving.  

You are the epic hero in your own story. Courage, dear heart.

Poem Credit: “Ulysses”

Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She wishes you courage. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher, an Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award Winner, and a finalist for WV State Teacher of the Year. She teaches College English, AP Lit & Comp, and English 12 at Fairmont Senior High School. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

Eyes on the Prize: Growing Student Writers

Correcting student writing got you down? Try some fresh assessment methods for focusing on growth in the high school English classroom.

By Adrin Fisher

Last spring, deep in the futile throes of correcting essays I had collected on March 13 (the day that must not be named), I promised myself that this year would be THE year: the time when I finally figure out a way to do this essay grading thing better. 2020 has been a lot. 2020 is being a lot.

However, in the interest of keeping promises to myself (despite the deep temptation to keep doing the things I can control in the same way I’ve done them for years), I am forging ahead.

Please forgive my naval-gazing. COVID has caused a convulsion in the school system—and for someone with twenty-three years in the classroom, a spouse in his twelfth year as a reading specialist, and two teenagers in school, a convulsion in the school system affects every aspect of life. So I will start by centering my beliefs about myself as a teacher:

  • A growth mindset is my greatest weapon.
  • Proactivity within my circle of influence is my work.
  • What I focus on grows.
  • My profession was and remains my choice.

Next, I will review my teaching-of-writing process. It goes something like this: think of an interesting essay assignment. I usually create my own because I naively believe it discourages cheating. I talk about how to pre-write and organize. I model. We write in class and I do “walking conferences.” Then we peer edit. Then I collect the final copies with all the work attached.  

And then I mark the essays. This takes time. The stack is thick. I procrastinate a bit first, because I know it will take me hours and hours. In fact, my usual rate is 20 minutes per essay. Multiply that out over 110 students, give or take. 

No wonder I hesitate.  

Two or three weeks later, I return essays. Next comes the possibility of bonus points for revising. To get a good revision grade, students have to address my comments and then make changes. Not hard, really. I give points based on the changes—did they develop? did they fix all the awkwardness?  

But, of course, 90% of my students don’t revise.  

Which means that the 20 minutes I spent pointing out issues in logic or grammar, correcting sentence structure, and asking pointed questions are wasted—waste multiplied by 90%.


And in a plague year, nearly enough to push me under.

I have specific ideas about myself as a teacher. I confess that the truths I listed above have not been always the truths of my teacher-self.  But now, this year, maybe I can change.  

Maybe I can take back my weekends (once this hybrid-distance double teaching job with no extra remuneration situation I’m in finally ends). Maybe I can adjust my thought patterns to accept that I am not the sole arbiter of teaching writing. Maybe I am not exclusively responsible for the students’ success. 

So, here are some strategies I’ve collected:

Intentional Marking:  Grade only for one thing. Pick something to correct: introduction, thesis, transitional phrases, organization, etc. Force your pink pen to only touch those things. Only.

Code It:  A few years ago, a younger teacher told me about a system of marking that involves coding rather than correcting. The student (and you) has the key to see what the errors are. This reminds me that one of my high school teachers put a checkmark at the end of a line but didn’t reveal the mistake.

Bank Comments: Create a comment bank for your online assignments. This is a feature in Google Classroom that lets you save comments and then choose the appropriate one from your own list. Likewise, you can use a Google add-on called Keep—it’s a post-it note tab—to hold comments you keep using. You can copy and paste from your notes

Whole Class Feedback: After reading (but not marking) essays, create a list of the big issues and write the class a “letter” that shows common mistakes and fixes, and then encourages students to dive into their own writing.

Just Don’t Grade It: Let students practice, and let yourself cheer them on. This approach is beloved by teachers such as Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, and Sarah Zerwin.

These strategies are fine and good, and maybe one or more of them will work for you. I still have a problem, though. It’s my weird obligation, a dire sense of “I’m not doing my job unless I…”

Fortunately, in my diligent search, I have come across something I think I can do. At the start of school, I joined a Facebook group: Teaching Teachers How to Teach Writing created by Kristian Kuhn. Despite my desire to sit on the couch and worry that evening, I joined a live PD session given by a Minnesota teacher named Mara J. Corey. (The hour-long session is still available in the archive of the group.) In the session, she explained how her goal is to make students do the heavy lifting of writing.


Instead of commenting on each paper (because, let’s be real, similar issues come up over and over again in a set of essays), she provides “Big Picture” pre-teaching. Corey anticipates the problem areas and addresses them during the writing period. For example, she might attack passive verbs or weak sentence construction. Or perhaps she’ll review the ICE heuristic (Introduce, Cite, Explain) for building in text evidence.  

Then—and here’s the really new-to-me-thing—she provides students with a Growth Focus. Either she or the student will choose ONE thing to work on, which is graded on a separate rubric. For Corey, this addresses the 90% wasted time issue by demanding that students improve: It’s not good enough to write an essay that scores 4s across the board; you must ALSO demonstrate that you’re getting better. In fact, she makes the Growth Focus rubric worth 50% of the total score. It’s a simple rubric, A through D, based on how the student sought instruction and applied it.


Not Proficient
Approaching Proficiency

Proficiency with Help
Independent Proficiency  
No improvement in the growth focus area 

Not yet proficient in the growth focus area
Improvement in the growth focus area

Not yet proficient in the growth focus area
Improvement in the growth focus area

Proficient in the growth focus area with one-on-one teacher help (relearning)
Improvement in the growth focus area on my own  

Mastery in the growth focus area on my own
Corey’s Growth Focus Rubric

I’m anticipating your question: If you have to now track each kid’s Growth Focus over time, and coach the students along the way with mini-lessons, small group sessions, or online materials until they master one GF and choose another, how is this going to save time?

Well, the answer, I think, is in the comments. She gears ALL feedback to the Growth Focus. She relies on her essay rubric to take care of the general feedback, without additional comment, so everything she notes or writes on the student paper is only and ever about the Growth Focus. Sounds sensible, right?

So, today, in the autumn of a plague year, I have decided to adopt Corey’s strategy. To that end, I have created tables listing each student along with a GF they’ve chosen and that GF grade.  

Now, have I really cut my correcting time?

No. I’m still figuring out how to be all things to all learners—some on paper, some in Google Docs, some on Kami with my weird little plug-in tablet and stylus. I’m still so tempted to type comments. I think it maybe is taking longer than ever, but I’m afraid to time myself. So, no, not yet.  

But, there is hope. I think this is something I can get behind. I think I can wean myself off marking each RO and asking for clarification each time. I think I can focus on one thing, one individualized thing. I think I can let myself slide into something that’s just as personal, yet less demanding on my time…once it’s set up. I think so. It’s worth a shot.

Eyes on the prize, teacher-friend. The prize is student growth WHILE you live your life. Let’s have our cake and eat it too.

Go forth, be well, and take courage, dear heart.

 Adrin Fisher is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She wishes you light. She’s a National Board Certified Teacher, an Arch Coal Teacher Achievement Award Winner, and a finalist for WV State Teacher of the Year. She teaches College English, AP Lit & Comp, and English 12 at Fairmont Senior High School. You can follow her on Twitter @fisheradrin

Keep Watering and See What Takes Hold

By Jessica Salfia

My classroom is a strange place to me these days. 

Desks are spaced far apart. My reading rug, easy chair, and bean bags in my book nook are gone. My snack table is empty. Craft supplies are packed away.  Chrome books are out daily.

Every lesson is highly structured, virtually accessible, and planned days in advance so that students at home can learn with us synchronously. 

Like a jazz musician, good teachers improvise and riff to get a lesson just right. I love to improvise. I don’t as much anymore. 

My face is covered. My voice is muffled. 

My students’ faces are covered. I can’t tell if they’re smiling. If their mouths are tightening in frustration or confusion. If the corners of their lips are turned down in sadness or anger. I still don’t know what all of them look like below the eyes. 

I am grateful for the emphasis on safety. My school is prioritizing our health and the health of our communities. But this new normal has made not just the desks, but my teaching feel scrubbed, sanitized, and sterile.

In the first weeks of school, this feeling had me laid low. I hated being in a place I didn’t recognize, and I hated being unrecognizable. I curled my lip at the blue plastic gloves crinkling against my hands when I wiped down the desks. I despaired at how empty my classroom space felt—how disconnected I felt from my students. All my “teacher tricks” had be adjusted for safety. No icebreakers, no gathering around butcher paper to annotate a text, no popping out into the stairwell or hall space for a discussion activity. Even something as easy as grinning has been taken away.  No matter how big I smile, none of them can see it. 

I like to get my hands dirty—to take my students on adventures. I love field trips and projects.

I love the unpredictability, the wildness. More than once, I have compared being a teacher to my time as a whitewater rafting guide on the Cheat River in West Virginia, and this has always been one of my favorite analogies—the excitement, the visceral nature of it, the necessary teamwork for survival, the “we’re all in this boat together” feeling. 

But at first, even in the same classroom…it felt like we were alone together—each of us staring at our own screens, not grouping, not sharing supplies, not high fiving.  The masks seem to make students more reluctant to share responses and discuss aloud in class. The spaced out desks keep them far enough away that private comments, jokes, or bits of gossip are near impossible. 

I didn’t want it to feel hard to come to a place that for so long had been joyful and comfortable to me.  I began exploring ways to connect us in our new unconnected world–I started trying to figure out how to make my classroom a space I recognized again.

The first week of school I started filling empty space with plants, mostly because I wanted the strangely quiet, sanitized classroom to feel alive. 

I put a giant pothos on top of my filing cabinet, a small jade plant on my desk, some Christmas cactus cuttings in pots around the room, and small bonsai ficus tree that had been on my back porch in the windowsill behind my desk. I filled the widely spaced space with as much green as I could. I bought a fish—a tiny betta named J.J. that swims contentedly in a tank on the corner of my desk. I liked seeing J.J.’s whole unmasked fish-face in the room. 

And I kept going. I kept trying new things. Kept showing up.

Two weeks into the school year, I noticed a tiny seedling unfurling in the same pot as the bonsai tree. 

I started to pluck it but stopped. Something wild had blown into the pot while it was on my porch and it had germinated and taken root while resting in my classroom windowsill. 

That same day a student in one of my AP classes cracked a joke while analyzing an advertisement. The whole class threw back our heads and laughed together loudly and for a second it felt like…normal. 

I stared at the seedling and thought about those kids laughing, and then watered it along with the bonsai. 

Every day since, I have watched my strange little seedling grow as I’ve tried to figure out at least one or two more ways to successfully navigate my strange new classroom. Some of them have worked. Some of them haven’t. This isn’t a best practices blog post. I’m not sure there is a “best” for anyone right now. 

But what I have tried to do is to stop concentrating on the ways this wasn’t the class I recognized, and I’ve focused on what might blow in, germinate, and grow here. 

A peer review activity failed. But a collaborative Google Slide Vocabulary activity didn’t.  Not being about to circle up tight for discussion is hard, but discussion board posts are eliciting thoughtful discussion. Every task is an adjustment to see what will take root. 

This year has forced me to be more comfortable with Schoology than I ever have been. I keep asking my students for feedback on what is working and what isn’t. I toss out anything that doesn’t seem to work. I celebrate anything that does. 

After a week the tiny seedling had sprouted big enough leaves that I could tell what it was: clover. A clover seed had blown into the pot. 

I kept watering it. 

My classes were starting to open up too. Nothing would be like it was, but the kids in front of me were and are getting comfortable and like me, they were and are determined to make the best of their class experience. I adore them. They are joyful learners and I am grateful for them. 

This week my tiny patch of wild clover looks like this. 

I can’t explain why, but this little bit of wild makes me believe that maybe something can grow this year. And don’t get me wrong, this post is not to tell you that I think everything is going to be ok or that my little classroom weed is a symbol of resilience or hope. 

I’m not sure everything is going to be ok. And there have been many days that I haven’t felt hopeful. 

The same day I am writing this post, our county has shifted to remote instruction because our cases have steadily increased in my district. I don’t know if my students will be returning to my classroom next week or the week after. 

I walked into my empty classroom yesterday and spent the first two hours of the day just answering student emails. I spent another two uploading and creating digital content. I recorded two videos, and I had two more to record after I got home before I called it night. 

Before I left yesterday, I looked around at the empty space, even stranger and emptier without my students. I hoped that everything I had uploaded and created for them made sense. I hoped they saw value in it. 

I tilted a plastic water bottle over my bonsai and my tiny patch of wild clover and hopefully soaked the soil with its first water of the week. 

I don’t know if the clover is going to keep growing or if it should even be in the pot with the bonsai tree. But I am going to keep watering and see what takes hold.