Last week brought about something I’ve never experienced before in my years of schooling and teaching. School shut down, and we all went to online learning. Last week was a crazy time. Students and teachers alike had to adjust and readjust plans and ideas to move from face-to-face interaction to online instruction. It was a week of learning and trial-and-error. I’ve put together a few tips that I gained after this past week to help you through this online learning process.
Above everything, it’s important to be flexible with students throughout this process. Our students are not fully grown adults, and many of them have not had to deal with a major crisis like what we’re seeing. Students are stressed. They’re having to take care of younger siblings during the day. Some of them are having to work. Some of them are having to share computers among multiple siblings with spotty internet connections. I’ve talked to a lot of students and parents this past week who are simply having a tough time keeping up and adjust.
We need to be understanding and flexible. This includes time and grades. If most of your plans revolve around students being online at the same time, you’re going to have a difficult time getting all of your students involved. If you do something that is time sensitive, it should probably be optional or supplemental. For example, I did a Google Hangout on Friday afternoon at 1 just to see my students and say hey. They could drop in and say hey and chat. Nothing more, just checking in.
Be flexible with grades, too. For the same reason. Students are not always going to be able to get things done at the same time while we’re out. I know most of mine do their work at night, either because their siblings are in bed or because they’re teenagers and that’s what they do. I took off any late penalties for work. I’ll put grades in, but I change them, penalty-free, as soon as they turn something in. We need to be understanding of our students’ situations and work to help them, not hinder them.
Get a Routine
I’m sure you have a routine in place when you go into work. Not just a class schedule, but a daily schedule. Wake up, get some coffee, get your room set up. All of that kind of stuff. Do the same for working online. What are your working hours? Make sure you transition into a similar kind of routine. It will get your mind into a working frame of mind. Schedule out when you’re going to grade, plan, etc. Otherwise, you run the risk of not getting much done and feeling like you’re spending your entire day working. At home, you’re going likely have to battle the tendency to get distracted by everything in your house. Do your best to separate work from home. Encourage your students to do the same.
Your students are used to seeing you every day. That doesn’t have to change. Be visible as much as you can online. Share videos and pictures. Have them do the same, within good reason of course. Give them some Flipgrid prompts to record things that they’re doing at home, not school related necessarily. They shared their pets with us all last week. Participate in it as well. I record a daily video to say hey and let them know what they need to work on, even though it’s written out as well. It gives them a little more normalcy. Plus, I can be a little goofy.
Less is More
Let’s be real here. I understand that we all have curriculums to get through and want to do the best for our students, but we have to keep them in mind. We just lost two hours a day from school. The workload needs to follow suit. Cut what you can. I know all of it is important, but try to focus on quality over quantity. Can they do 4 questions instead of 10? Can a two-page paper be cut down to one? Can students explain something on video in a couple of minutes?
Hopefully, if you’re still a little apprehensive about online education, these tips will help alleviate some of your anxiety. If you still need some help, reach out. Talk to your colleagues. Reach out online. Most importantly, give yourself, and your students, grace. We’re all in this together.
If you’re looking for some resources to help with remote learning, check out my Wakelet collection for remote learning.