Around the country, teachers are working hard to educate our students in some form or another. Whether you’re managing a virtual academy or juggling between in-person and remote learners, one thing is clear: teaching in 2020 is tough. But with a few shifts in mindset, remote learning doesn’t have to be the bane of every teacher’s existence. Here are a few ideas that may help.
Choose grace over justice whenever you can.
Robert Pondiscio says it better than anyone “To an accountability hammer, everything is a nail.” Accountability matters, even in remote learning, but not every decision you make as an educator should be some weird authoritative flex.
As families battle connectivity issues, childcare conundrums, and a whole host of other uncertainties from this crisis, have open dialogue with your administrators about things like late work. In a time of national crisis, it’s worth examining our values and making sure that whatever our classroom procedures are, we made them for the right reasons.
Educators may be the proverbial adults in the room, but we know that we’ll need our fair share of grace throughout this year. What more, then, would this say about our kids?
Find creative ways to gauge students’ attention.
If you’re doing live classes through a platform like Zoom or Google Meets, don’t fight the video battle. Some students will love turning their video on and showing off their cool new backgrounds, but others would rather take a failing grade than show their face on screen. Teachers often have no idea what a kid has going on at home, so please, don’t require them to do so. (And don’t even give them extra credit for doing so, either.)
Instead, find some new ways to gauge how well your students are paying attention in virtual classes. Use discussion and questioning strategies to get them talking, both with you and with each other. You can also use apps like Google Forms to create self-grading quizzes and assessments to check your students’ understanding at the end of a lesson.
Recognize that participation doesn’t equal engagement.
Believe it or not, some students are actually thriving in virtual learning environments. But for many, Google Classroom and Zoom classes just aren’t the same. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that students who can produce work are engaged.
Now is not the time to sell out on engagement, even though remote learning certainly makes it harder. In every class you teach this year, whether in-person or virtual, try to incorporate at least one activity or task that strengthens relationships between you and your students. We are all experiencing this surreal, unique situation together, and it’s vital that we spend a few minutes each day making those connections. Here are a few ideas for how to do just that.
Silence the voice that says you aren’t doing enough.
Many of us are juggling different groups of students right now, some in-person and some virtual. As any teacher knows, the struggle is real. It’s like working multiple jobs at once.
It’s in our nature as teachers to beat ourselves up when we feel like we could have done a better job or reached more students. But this year, it’s more important than ever to silence that internal voice that tells us we aren’t doing enough. Remember, the surest way to fail is to try to be all things to all people.
We’re all practically first year teachers again. No matter how perfectly curated a colleague’s remote lesson plan or Instagram-worthy class project may look, the truth is that we’re all still figuring it out as we go. Today’s successes may be tomorrow’s messes. (And vice versa!) Don’t waste precious time thinking about how other teachers are managing this situation, or how you could be doing more. Just focus on being the best version of yourself.
Remote learning is tough, but teachers are tougher. Now is the time to give encouragement, extend grace, and learn from each other.