Schools that have reopened are fastidiously following local health and safety guidelines, including physical distancing of student desks. This can hamper some common instructional practices that help students understand new concepts such as sharing math manipulatives or working as teams on science activities. Teachers need to adapt to different ways of facilitating lessons and document cameras have proven to be an easy-to-use tool for doing so.
Those stepping into the adventure of teaching should expect that professional development requirements come with the journey. The purpose of professional development is to keep certified educators current on new instructional tools, strategies, and research. Teacher PD can cover a variety of topics such as educational technology, classroom management, subject-specific research and strategies, and curriculum tools and applications. PD requirements differ from state-to-state, so it is best to regularly check state teacher credentialing websites for up-to-date information.
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams
When I was in the 4th grade, our teacher came back from a trip to Europe with an awesome idea — our class was going to have pen pals in England! She had met a teacher from there and they talked about having their classes learn to write letters while making new friends from one another’s country. I was so excited when I got the first letter from my pen pal, Tanya. She actually sent a picture of herself — she had long red hair, freckles, and blue eyes; so different from what I and most of my friends looked like. For the life of me, I can’t remember what was written in the letter just the thrill of receiving one from another young person who lived in a different country! Our class wrote back but unfortunately after the one exchange of letters from each side, we didn’t receive more letters. It was a great idea with the potential for so much more but just seemed to fizzle out. Clearly, something went amiss in my experience. This isn’t the case for many educators who have endeavored to introduce their students to different cultures, experiences, and values while integrating valuable learning skills through letter writing.
You’ve probably scrolled through countless social media posts of teachers and students engaging in remote learning. There are posts with teachers dressed up in costumes, really working to get their students engaged. There are posts of students in pajamas, bodies contorted in different ways as they try to make it through a virtual lesson. There seems to be a nice mix of the positive and negative in this new normal of teaching and learning. Although it seems that more schools and educators have prepared for distance teaching, it brings up another concern — distance teaching burnout. With remote learning a reality for many, it is important to recognize the warning signs of burnout and move towards its prevention. But first, what is burnout?
I love feedback. I appreciate how feedback has helped me to improve in different aspects of my life. I believe in giving feedback that makes someone feel good about a job well done. For me, feedback is essential to growth! Yet, I can remember countless afternoons struggling to write feedback on all my students’ essays before the next class session. I wanted to be thorough and write about all of the points I’d reference in the lessons but my hands would cramp, my brain was mush, and by the last student’s paper I was barely writing a sentence or two that I hoped would help them improve. It wasn’t until a colleague showed me what she did — quick notes on each student’s work as she walked around and observed them during independent work time — that I began to feel like my time was being used more effectively and my students were able to implement recommendations as they worked. I also found that because I was saving time, I could talk with each student and really understand their comprehension and academic needs. Those quick convos with each student were some of my favorite times as a teacher.
Talking about math is more than merely describing the steps in solving a problem (“First, add the ones, then the tens. If you need to regroup, do that.”). Math discussions are focused on the process of working towards a solution, understanding how others’ think about that process, and developing a plan for similar problems. Students should be pushed to think beyond an explanation of steps to an explanation of process, including making errors and how those were resolved. They should also be encouraged to use different methods and tools when solving a problem, then sharing these ideas with others to build a bank of strategies. In a physical classroom, this can be challenging so how can it be done while distance teaching? More than that, how can it be done successfully?
“I think I have learned that the best way to lift one’s self up is to help someone else.” – Booker T. Washington
Whatever our opinions are on in-class vs remote learning, the unpredictability of coronavirus has necessitated that many districts opt for the latter to ensure the safety of teachers, school staff, and students. That being the case, the following are helpful tips for teachers, parents, and students.
As more and more school districts are making decisions about schools reopening and how learning will take place, an approach that is being considered is blended learning. It is doubtful that many have not already heard of blended learning so let’s refer to its simplest form – bricks and clicks learning (‘bricks’ is face-to-face learning in a physical classroom; ‘clicks’ is online learning in a virtual classroom). Most teachers and students have experience using desktops, laptops, and/or tablets to do things such as research information or take state tests. So, bricks and clicks is familiar and in some cases a whole school initiative.