If there's one thing Marcus Potts knows his third-graders love, it's story time. Every day, before school closed down because of COVID-19, Potts would read them a passage from a fantasy book called Fablehaven.
"The kids were loving it. We were plowing through the book, making good progress, and I thought, 'Gosh, we're going to finish this book,'" says Potts, a teacher at Logan Elementary in Spokane. "I didn't want to lose that."
So last week, despite not being able to physically see his students, Potts started recording a passage from the book every day from the comfort of his home. He then uploads the audio file for his students to access. It's like a virtual story time.
"It's sort of a connection point for us," Potts says.
The school closure hasn't been easy, Potts says. Potts says his third-graders aren't always as responsive as he'd like. Not all of them have computers at home, and he hasn't heard from one of his students at all since Gov. Jay Inslee ordered the shutdown.
The virtual story time, he says, is one way to retain a sense of normalcy for those kids. He also held a Zoom video-chat meeting with several students.
"I hadn't done that before, and neither had they," he says. "And I was like, 'I'm gonna try and do it.' Once everybody who was trying to get in got in, I was able to see these kids' faces, and they saw other kids' faces, and it was everything. It was the whole reason you go to a school building every day."
Potts says everyone's still feeling out the technology. If he wants to start teaching lessons, there will need to be some kind of structure and accountability virtually. Potts says this experience has made him more empathic for parents. He's now home with three kids of his own, as his wife still works during the day. Any time his kids are doing learning activities, he says, it's been a blessing.
"That's given us, in a way, a lifeline to managing their behavior and being excited about the day," he says.
That's what he's trying to offer his students, too, however he can.
"It's super challenging to create a new normal in this time," Potts says.