We began with Lucy Calkin’s, “We come from . . .” but it wasn’t the countries and states typically heard in Riverside Church. It was about the difficulties and the joys from the past year. It’s easy to focus on March to the end as we prepare for the 2020-21 school year, but let us not forget that August to March was ours. Ours to teach. Ours to plan. Ours to build community. Ours for face to face instruction. And ours to celebrate.
We ended with a celebration. Music greeted us as we entered. These brave authors read their work. They read from their boxes . . . not from the stage in Cowin Auditorium.
And then Hareem Atif Khan had the closing. So many tears as she shared stories from several stages in her life.
To bookend the you come from beginning, Hareem said, “You go to your communities, schools, classrooms, children, children whose voices need amplifying. Let’s leave vowing to be the teachers that this world needs.”
I wrote about this summer’s reading virtual institute here. I still missed some of the same things this week during the writing week. I wanted to sit and chat with my small groups F2F. I wanted the fun of exploring new restaurants and the closing book sales at Bank Street Book. I wanted at least one Broadway show. Not in 2020.
My Writing about Reading from notebook to literary essay daily sessions with Katy Wischow who was the Institute guide for the week, announcing all the keynotes, was beyond my expectations. And our sessions with Alicia Luick . . . ended with singing. More about both of those later.
My Tips for a 30+ hour long Virtual Institute
- Study the Trail Guide and organize your days.
- Figure out a format to organize your links. Quick access is the key. This simple table works for my links page.
- Consider how you like to organize your notes. Organization matters. How will you access the information? Do you like every session on a single page? Do you like all sessions together by the day? Or together by the session so all five days of Writing about Reading are together? WHY? Set up at least your Monday, Day 1. The 10 minutes between sessions goes so quickly!
- Plan your backup for device failure. What is your plan if your device goes wonky during Zoom streaming?
- Plan your backup for WiFi failure. What is your plan if WiFi decides to take a break?
- Headphones and mic are not really optional if there are other beings in your house. Seriously, conversations are fun and funny with other 2 legged and 4 legged critters interrupting and dark screens and mics off work, but sometimes your patience gives out first!
- Break out rooms – If you have used them, awesome. What did you like? What did not work so smoothly? If there was a slide with directions, I took a quick pic on my phone so I would have it. (Borrowing from my friend Lynn, “I am old and my brain leaks.”) Jot a note. Think about how you focus on remembering and doing the task in small groups. (Ignore if you are not obsessive about remembering the task; someone in your group will capture it for everyone else!)
- Plan to participate as fully as possible. I personally felt the learning was MORE intense than in an “in-person” institute, and I have always felt those were like drinking from a fire hydrant. I didn’t have a plan for evening “think” and “work” sessions. That work space instead of canning 14 pints of salsa might have helped me to feel less stressed.
- Make plans to connect with folks beyond the institute. Your small group? A partner?
- Plan to learn AND have FUN! It’s a transformative week! You will be amazed at the tech tips and tools that you use and learn as well!
What tips would you add?