After the first week of remote learning, a middle schooler in my life exclaimed, “It’s like they took all the fun parts of learning away and left us with all the boring stuff.” Spoken like a true middle schooler, whose developmentally appropriate priority is socialization. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that there is a lot I—and the larger community of educational professionals—should pay attention to in that statement.
Let me start by acknowledging all the work done by educators, students, and parents over the past two weeks to transition schools to remote learning. Even if we were only able to accomplish the “boring stuff,” it’s important to recognize all the challenging and urgent work that we executed. Teachers and school leaders moved mountains overnight to set up Learning Management Systems (LMSs) and quickly created work packets, assignment playlists, and video lessons for students to watch.
On top of that, teachers and school leaders dealt—and are dealing—with complex issues around equity and remote learning. In some communities, it is not easy to move to virtual learning as many students lack access to technology at home. I was amazed to see innovative solutions to problems of access and tireless dedication to supporting each and every student. I know there is no accurate way to express our gratitude to educational professionals and their hard work over the past few weeks.
Moving to a remote learning setting is nerve-wracking for many teachers. They know that they cannot offer the same benefits to students in a remote setting as they could in a face-to-face learning environment. Important aspects of school life like socialization and collaboration become much harder to foster in a remote setting. Additionally, the professional standards that educators are committed to upholding and their desire to meet the needs of every student make the transition to remote learning incredibly difficult and stress-inducing. This transition leaves many educators asking, how am I meant to maintain the same standards in a remote learning environment? How do I meet the needs of my students who don’t have access to technology at home? Can I even juggle teaching classes, homeschooling my own children, and caring for my own physical and emotional needs?
Considering these overlapping and overwhelming questions, it is imperative that we create a pathway that not only allows teachers to survive the transition to remote learning, but to THRIVE in it. As part of our ongoing “How-To” series, here are a few tips from XQ partners at the Learning Innovation Catalyst to help educators succeed during remote learning.
A Teacher’s Guide from Survive to Thrive
Collaborate! Just because school has moved into our homes, does not mean that learning has to be a solitary experience. We recommend using shared documents to help students collaborate with each other or creating project-based learning units.
Socialize! As we discussed, the transition to remote learning takes away some essential aspects of school like socializing between students, in the classroom, and during lunch. To recreate some social aspects of school remotely, educators should use the discussion features of their Learning Management System for class chats and Zoom for small group chats.
Engage! Engaging meaningfully and individually with students doesn’t have to end as you move to remote learning. Try setting up office hours for one-on-one meetings or provide feedback to students in the comments section of shared documents.
A School’s Guide from Survive to Thrive
It is essential to support teachers in this transition. Now more than ever, we need to rally around teacher professional development and meet educators’ ongoing support needs. We also must ensure that we are adjusting our teaching responsibilities to a realistic understanding of what we can do from home. Here is how we are thinking about what schools need to do to ensure this level of support during this transition to remote learning:
Be flexible! Remote learning may be easier for some teachers than others (not all teachers can do live sessions with children at home), so rethink teacher roles for remote learning. Think about who can host live sessions within a department? Who can plan?
Create a Community! It is important for teachers to maintain communication and collaboration during remote learning. We recommend using messaging services for teachers to get coaching support and peer-to-peer support from one another.
Keep evolving! Most importantly, know that just because traditional learning experiences are at a halt, it is important to remain dynamic during this interruption. We recommend ensuring that professional development continues for teachers by continuing professional learning opportunities virtually.
Try and try again! This transition to remote learning isn’t an easy one. No school or teacher is going to get everything right the first time, so be willing to make changes when things don’t work. More importantly, get regular teacher and parent feedback and make changes to help better the learning systems.
This transition to remote learning is not a one-step process. If you are not sure where you are in this transition, take this quick Remote Learning Readiness Assessment that our team put together to help schools during this time. On a final note, remember this moment is one that will bring educators, school leaders, students and parents together in a new and powerful way. Let’s be co-creative and supportive, giving grace to ourselves and others as we band together to usher in a new era of connectivity in learning amidst this global demand.
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