And we're continuing our Teacher Voices series through the end of May, and today we're
talking to Shelley Rigdon, who is a teacher at Oscar Smith Middle School.
Shelley, what do you teach?
Well, that's a strange story. I've taught...yes. I started out Special Ed. Then. I've taught Civics, 6th grade,
for 21 years. And then, this year halfway through the year, I got switched and I was
teaching English, 7th grade.
Wow! Wow! So tell me, I mean, it's a lot going on. We were talking about it briefly.
How are you managing around your house?
Well, considering my children are grown. They're out of the house. I'm doing okay.
I do worry because two of my children are in hot zones. One's in New York. He's a respiratory
therapist in a big hospital in New York. And the other one is in New Jersey, another hot spot.
So, I'm always keeping tabs on them. And, again, the virtual thing going on to
make sure that they're okay. And then, one's down in South Carolina.
Okay, wow! Yeah, so, you know in some ways, that's almost, you know, at least you feel like if you have
your kids at home, you can keep an eye on them. But, keeping an eye virtually and, you know, the
environment they're in, that's gotta be a little tough.
It is, and the one in New York is expecting a baby next month, so.
Wow! Man, well, we wish you the best on all of that.
So, tell me now, so you're teaching English. How's that going virtually?
That's going good. I have a great PLC team. We collaborate very, very well together. And,
we do a lot of PBLs. I came, like I said, from Civics, and so I was already in the mode for doing PBLs.
I've done quite a few of them because I teach gifted, also, so it's very easy to incorporate that same
idea, that same system into English. So, it's, we've been working very well together, and creating a lot of lessons
that are interactive. That they can find and do around their home, whether or not it's on a device
or whether or not they do it just by reading or interacting with people in their home.
Yeah. So, a couple of things. For those who may not know, tell us what a PBL is, and secondly, give us some
examples of what some of the activities you have had your kids doing.
Okay, a PBL is a Project-Based Lesson. So, all of our lessons are based in projects. So, you take
several SOLs, and you make them in a culminating lesson.
So, that's what we're doing, and an example would be, like we just did, we did thank you notes.
So, we just had Teacher Appreciation, so we told them you could do a thank you letter,
and you can do it in any other way, in any way you want it. We could do it thanking the first responders,
but if you wanted to pull back away from the pandemic, and you weren't...you didn't want to stay in that mode,
it was Teacher Appreciation, so think about a teacher that you wanted to thank,
and then write a letter. We give them formats. We use a lot of bitmojis, and we make it very exciting,
make it geared to them. And we tell them, give them examples and tell them...
videos, and tell them exactly how they go about writing that letter in the right format.
We hit their grammar, so we were doing pronoun antecedents. We did it, we also,
there was two different lessons, and we did one of the interviews that we said think loud
and do an interview with someone, and talk to them about what was going on, and do it in dialogue and
use your pronouns and your antecedents. So, it's project-based.
Wow! Yeah, yeah. So, tell me, one of the things that I hear, especially from middle school and
elementary especially, but also middle school, is that one of the problems, one of the real challenges is
what technology is available to students in their homes. Are you finding that?
Yes. In our area, we're finding it a lot. We have families that have multiple children and one device.
Or, they don't have a device that can get Internet service or they get spotty service.
So, we provide them an opportunity to be able to use their book or go to the school
and get a hard copy. But if they can't do that and their parents are essential, then we're checking in on them
because it's gotta be more about building those relationships. Keeping those relationships going.
Making sure that we're connecting with them, and we're making sure they're okay.
Because, when it's all said and done, a lot of our kids are still that one person in the family that's
trying to keep things going.
So, we're more worried about them and their well-being than...that's gotta be the main priority.
So, that's something that we've gotta take into account.
It's not equitable across all of Chesapeake, so we've gotta take that into account.
Yeah, no doubt. No doubt, and that is so true. You know, it's true in the classroom that building the relationships
is so important. But, even more important in this environment.
Yeah, so I make a lot of phone calls. I'm one of those old-fashioned teachers.
So, at the beginning of the school year, in 6th grade when I was teaching 6th grade at the beginning of
the school year, I'd call my parents all the time. And, I'm one of those old-fashioned teachers that I actually
leave my phone number. And I tell them, call me if you have any questions, any concerns.
Don't hesitate to call me back. That gives them that feeling of security that it's okay. My kids in
good hands. If I need anything, just a phone call away. Now, when I got my 7th graders,
I had about a quarter of them last year as 6th graders. So, again, I made all those phone calls at Christmas,
and they still felt that safety net. And so when this started, this whole thing with the pandemic,
as soon as I started phone calling, they were like, "Ah. Mrs. Rigdon. How are you doing?"
And I'm, like, "Yeah, it's me again. Just checking in." A lot of them feel more comfortable with texting,
so I'll text them. But the phone calls and the texts are our biggest communication line.
Yeah. And how many students are you teaching in this way?
[laughs] Okay. [laughs] So, I know how you're spending all your time because not only that
but you're also, I've talked to a librarian the other day, and she said it's like collaboration on steroids.
So, you're collaborating and you're making all of these student contacts. I mean, how are you finding time?
Well, it's not like I have a while bunch of people here to take care of that time for me.
So, I sit right here a lot, and I'm on my computer an awful lot, and I'm calling and texting.
My kids, my students are always dropping me a text, checking in on me, asking me about my kids
because I have pictures of my entire family in my classroom. And, I use my kids and my family as
examples all the time. So, they're always asking me, "Well, how's Timmy doing?" "How's Tanner doing?"
So, it's an interaction. It's a two-way street, and then I ask them about them, and how they're doing.
So, it makes us feel like we're a family, so that's a good feeling.
And that connection is so crucial right now. Any advice that you have or you find yourself giving to parents
and students to try to manage learning and life and everything else at this time?
Be patient with each other. Go outside. Stay off your device as much as possible because you definitely
need to take the time to go outside and explore. This is your time to go outside. And then,
family time. This is an opportunity to get to know your family again. Take the time, eat dinner together.
Talk to one another. So, that's a big thing. Trying to incorporate that family time and getting off the devices.
Not always be...pick up a book! Actually pick the book up and read it. Those kinds of things. Go back to the basics.
So, yeah, those are the things that I have been talking to them about.
Wow! Well, I know you're probably 5 or 10 minutes away from another PLC meeting or calling a student, so
I'm gonna let you get back to that. But I do appreciate your time, and I'm telling you, 96 kids
and making all this contact with parents, everybody is very appreciative of all the work that you're
putting in, and we appreciate it.
Alright, thank you Shelley. Take care, and all the best to you and your kids.
Alright, thank you.