Many years ago, I was a marketing executive for a private organization. The slogan that attracted me to the business was, “Working from home and loving it“. I resigned from that position and returned to the profession that I trained for and am very proud to practice: Occupational Therapy! I share that to introduce our next topic… Since the middle of March, my state (Florida) closed the school buildings to observe social distancing, observing CDC guidelines for safety, and I have been working from home! This has been a huge change into a NEW setting! With support from my school district leadership, I have entered the world of remote learning, virtual therapy, distance learning, …. call it what you will, but it is all new to me!
I have learned how to create a Canvas page for the students in my four schools that receive my OT services. (When I was in grad school, I was a Canvas student- now as the educator/school-based therapist, creating my own page, I have acquired an increased amount of respect for all my UF professors!!!) I have learned how to use Canvas Conference to have virtual, face-to-face therapy sessions and sharing my screen with my students. I have also used another virtual communication tool that was recommended by my district leadership. Very interesting (and fun!) to work with some of my students while their parents are usually present in the background.
I’ve had to write emails to some businesses and individuals and ask permission to use their copyrighted materials in sharing with my students and their families. If we were in the brick and mortar setting, I would print up the worksheets and we would complete them together. But since they are at home, I have to give them access to view and/or print on their own. I have to share with them to remember to honor the copyright of the work and not share with others. That is new.
In the classroom setting, my job often requires me to be in proximity with my students, helping them hold writing utensils/crayons, scissors, rulers functionally and correctly, address their balance if we are doing activities in standing, manipulating puzzle pieces and blocks, etc. It is NOT often that I am across the table looking at them. We usually sit next to each other, closely. OT is a very hands-on profession, most of the time. So determining how to facilitate these things or providing parents with instructions to fill my role is very new, too.
I have been attending conference calls discussing with other professionals how to continue to prepare some of our young adults that are leaving the K12 system, entering the community, applying to continue education/training, looking for work, reviewing job skills, life skills, and so on. This is very complex, even more so now, while we work until social distancing is relaxed. How do we prepare our young adults that need extra support- as we are leaning these new settings, also? Our team continues to address this and we are supporting our students.
SO many things that this topic brings to mind!
Here are some really nice things: I have exchanged emails with some of my high schoolers, asking me how I am and what I’m up to. We’ve had a few fun, nice conversations. One of my elementary students sent me a short video that she & her mother made, to tell me she couldn’t wait to see me on Monday. I’ve had email conversations with a few of my parents that I don’t typically get to converse with during the regular school year. (I plan to maintain such relationships when we return to the school-building-setting!) I’ve seen a few of my schools create videos to share on daily announcements via social media or email delivery that are informative, happy and fun!
I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate more effectively with my colleagues. During the school year, we are all so busy and communicate quickly, in passing in the school building- this has provided us opportunity with TEAM conference sessions to talk and share with one another about topics that are really important.
In my time online, I have seen greatness in my school district – showing the support and love that the educators and other professionals have for our students! I am so impressed and my respect for our teams has increased exponentially! Our district just jumped to it and immediately provided tools, meals, services and support, without hesitation!
Notably: As the school year winds down, many of our high schoolers are graduating. Such a time to be out of school- missing the prom, end of year traditions, the graduation ceremony! This district I work in has gone above and beyond to celebrate with safe, social distancing practices- making congratulatory signs and presenting to them to put in their yards, cheering with horns and posters in all the neighborhoods, having a drive through prom (all dressed up!), having a district-wide drive through pep rally at the local mall with the whole town celebrating our students! I could go on- the events and celebrations are too extensive to list them all. But it has been wonderful and I hope our students will treasure the memories!
The immediate future is unclear regarding what we our next step will be. When will we return to the brick and mortar setting? Will our classes remain remote learning? Will therapy sessions continue to be provided virtually? I don’t know. But I look forward to growing with my students and their families, with my colleagues, with my school district. I am learning to put into practice new methods, new tools, new ideas. I hope to meet the needs of my students, their families, and their classroom educators.
I hope to continue to grow and to be a great OT! I truly, truly do!