BELTON, TX – Three Sparta Elementary teachers have found a creative way to stay connected with their students during the COVID-19 school closure - they’ve turned themselves into Bitmojis.
“This has been a difficult time in our world and in education,” said Stacy Bostick, who teaches second grade at Sparta. “School is so much more than academics. It is about the relationships and connectivity. I think we all miss that right now.”
That missed connection spurred Bostick and co-teacher Emily Dossman, along with first grade teacher Annie Good, to assign the “Flat Teacher” project.
Their inspiration came from Pinterest and the children’s book “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown.
The story, about a child who is flattened like a pancake when his bulletin board falls on him, describes the adventures Flat Stanley takes while traveling in an envelope by mail.
“Teachers have participated in ‘Flat Stanley’ projects for years,” Good said. “Normally, a teacher would send Flat Stanley to different people in different parts of the U.S. or world, they would take a picture with Flat Stanley and send him back.”
The idea, Good said, is that Stanley would share his experiences with the class - experiences like going to work with a doctor, visiting the State Capitol to see a representative or stopping at the Grand Canyon.
“This is a new take on it,” she added.
The trio sent Bitmojis - or personal emojis - of themselves to their students and asked them to take the “Flat Teacher” with them during their daily activities.
“We left it open-ended so that students could be creative, and they have blown me away with all that they have come up with,” Dossman said. “Students have written me letters, made me a rollercoaster, made me a zipline and used me as a motivational coach. One of my students attached a speech bubble that has me cheering them on that they use during reading time. That is my favorite.”
Good received a picture of her “Flat Mrs. Good” alongside a student in a fort she had made in the back of her mom’s truck.
“I decided to go out to my HRV and make a fort in the back and had my picture made to send back to her to show her how much I enjoyed hanging with her,” Good said, adding she also “attended” a co-worker’s kindergarten art class via Zoom.
Originally, Bostick said, she wanted to do the project to encourage her students. She’s found herself equally inspired - if not more so.
“When they send me a picture or a video that includes me, I feel so honored,” she said. “That has truly been an outcome I didn't anticipate. I love that they want to share a part of their life with me that I otherwise wouldn't experience. I love that they are proud of the work they are doing and want to share it with me.”
“I hope that students and families know that I still love them even though we don’t get to see each other in the classroom,” she said. “I feel more connected to my students because I receive emails with ‘me’ participating in an activity with my students.”
Dossman said she had not done anything like this project pre-coronavirus, but thinks she may in the future.
“I am thinking it might involve a notebook that is passed around between students so that they can write what they did with me, glue in pictures, and write captions,” she said. “They could also write a fiction story involving me. This is all still in the works.”
For now, the teachers are enjoying the relationship-building benefits of the project.
“I want them to see my Bitmoji and know that I am still one of their biggest fans and supporters,” Bostick said. “And long after this school year and project end, I just want these children to remember how much we loved them, believed in them, and wanted to share this time with them.”