LONG BEACH PENINSULA — As the Ocean Beach School District enters the second week of a minimum six-week closure, some staff members have turned to websites like YouTube and Facebook to stay connected with their students.
Long Beach Elementary School kindergarten teacher Michele Marshman and first grade teacher Tiffany Morgenweck have both turned to the video-sharing platform to post daily ‘read aloud’ videos that are shared with their students and families. For Marshman, it’s one of the ways she’s trying to make the best of a tough situation.
“It’s one way that we can reach them and make their day a little brighter,” said Marshman, who’s in her 12th year of teaching kindergarten.
Marshman got the idea from an ex-OBSD nurse now living on the East Coast, when her daughter’s teacher started posting daily read aloud videos. Another teacher also brought up the idea of doing read aloud videos when LBE staff met following the closure announcement, and now several teachers have joined in on the fun. Videos are posted daily on the Long Beach Elementary School Facebook page.
On March 18, Morgenweck’s daily read aloud book was “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse,” by Kevin Henkes. As of March 24, the unlisted YouTube video had 124 views. She was joined in the read aloud by Blueberry, her Great Dane, and a stuffed animal of Lilly with her purple plastic purse.
“Read alouds are a big part of our day, and the kids love listening to them,” said Morgenweck. “They’re always a good go-to if things are getting out of control or the kids are getting cranky, and I thought, ‘Well, that would be nice for parents to have the option.’”
After finishing the read alouds, Morgenweck asks her students to talk with a family member, a pet or even a stuffed animal about the things they always talk about in class, such as the book’s setting, who the characters are, what the problem is and what’s the solution. It’s one way she’s trying to keep her students engaged while school is closed.
Marshman and Morgenweck said they’ve had parents send videos back of their students thanking them for the read alouds and saying that they miss them. Morgenweck also misses her students and said the read alouds are one thing she can do in these challenging times to stay engaged with her class.
“My mom watches the videos and she said ‘I can tell you’re actually visualizing your kids being there.’ So for just that little bit of time, I feel like I am with them,” said Morgenweck, who added that it does feel different reading to an empty room rather than to her students. “I’m used to hearing the kids’ giggles and hearing their response to something … It is really odd, it feels so different.”
Teachers are also fielding requests from parents about what books their students want them to read. Marshman said she tries to choose books that are unusual and funny that do a good job in keeping the students engaged. She’s even had adults tell her that they find the read alouds to be enjoyable.
While the closure has been viewed by some as just a second summer break, both Marshman and Morgenweck said the abruptness of the news that schools were being closed for at least six weeks was jarring. The announcement that school would be closing immediately through at least April 24 came on a late Friday afternoon.
“In summer, we leave them for the year, but you have the build-up to it and the time to say goodbye. This just all happened in a sudden and odd way,” said Morgenweck. “It is really hard [for the students], and it’s hard for us too, because we love our students like they’re our own kiddos.”
Marshman echoed those statements, and said teachers were totally not to see their students again and that she misses her ‘kinder kids.’
“It was a shocker,” she said.