Going or “Going” to School: One Student’s Decision to Remain Remote

By an anonymous sophomore

The age-old high school social dilemma of where to sit at lunch has finally been solved—it only took a global pandemic.

I am a sophomore who attends a private school in Manhattan. My school has recently announced that they will be switching to an optional hybrid model after previously stating that they would remain remote until mid-January. I was extremely happy and proud of my school when they initially announced they would be remote for at least five months, and I was shocked and upset when they declared their decision to switch. Upon receiving the news, my parents informed me that the decision to attend school in-person or remain in my pajamas was mine.

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The Importance of Taking Breaks While Teaching from Home

By Catherine Conley

I don’t know about you, but I find I’m working longer hours at home than I did at school. I didn’t gain the commuting time for myself; rather, it was poured right into the work day—and then some. Now I no longer seem to have the time to read for pleasure, something I used to do every day on the train. I no longer walk around my classroom all day, logging in some 7,000 steps before I even head out for my evening constitutional. Instead I sit down at my computer early in the morning and work till well after the time I would normally arrive home. My back is tired; my eyes are tired; my brain is tired. And there are still dishes in the sink, dinner to make, laundry to fold, and let’s not forget all the sanitizing we feel it necessary to complete. Those clearly defined hours are long and have become less productive as our work from home time has gone on.

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Schools have survived crises before, and even come out stronger

By David Nurenberg

As we face the possibility that COVID-19 could force schools to remain remote-operating well into the fall, many are wondering if the shape of schooling is going to permanently change. Will some degree of distance learning remain the new normal? Will some cash-strapped school districts operate entirely online to save on the costs of maintaining physical school infrastructure, including custodial, cafeteria, and transportation workers? Will in-person schooling become a luxury good? Will homeschooling become an expected function of all parents’ and guardians’ lives? Will schools leverage Internet-based relationships across city, state and national borders to become a global learning community?

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In the Age of COVID-19, Don’t Overlook the Gifted Student

By Todd Stanley

Even before this massive school shutdown, some schools and teachers were finding difficulties in coming up with ways to challenge their gifted students. We cannot overlook these students in the virtual classroom either. Here are five things teachers can do to meet the needs of gifted children in a virtual classroom:

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A Wakeup Call for Differentiation

By David Nurenberg

Even if a course is designated “honors” or “remedial,” anyone who has taught real children knows that there is no such thing as a homogenous class—unless it has just one student. Forty years of research tells us that just because two dozen students share a classroom, it doesn’t mean a one-size-fits-all approach will serve them.

Thanks to the pandemic, those students don’t even share a physical classroom anymore. Students are in so many different situations vis a vis their ability to engage with class, and the amount of support they have available at home, that we can no longer harbor any illusions that “teaching to the middle” will suffice.

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A Tactical Plan for Learning Gaps: What to Expect Post COVID-19

By Suzy Pepper Rollins

School hallways have been still for weeks. Normally bustling cafeterias, sports fields, and playgrounds prolongingly silent.  But most importantly, classrooms have been empty.  No science labs, no sharing of writing, no dissecting of poetry with an elbow partner, and no exploratory math stations.  No nods of approval by teachers or laughter at humorous sections of a novel.  No leaning over to a classmate’s desk for assurance on a tough math problem.   

What will the learning toll be on millions of students whose educational experiences were abruptly switched to remote, often online, learning?  Some learners may have barely skipped an academic beat and will return to school ready to move on. Others may have experienced daily frustrations.  And many will fall somewhere in between. 

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Sharing the Task of Learning: Using Think-Pair-Shares in a Digital World

By David Nurenberg

Even more so than in a physical classroom, teachers in an online environment can’t expect to only lecture—whether in real time or in a downloadable video—and have their students learn. Fortunately, some go-to strategies of more student-centered learning translate well to an online environment.

The “Think Pair Share” (TPS) is a useful tool for engaging every single student in doing something, and for holding them accountable for their learning. Students begin by thinking through a problem or question and writing down their thoughts. This writing can make for good formative assessment, but only if it’s graded on a “did it/didn’t do it” basis, or else students may be too scared to experiment with their ideas. Next, they compare thoughts with a partner, and both students refine their understanding. They share out further with a small group of four or five before the teacher brings the entire class back together to engage with the lesson.

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An Inquiry Approach to Learning Content with Newcomer Students

By Laura Alvarez and Lucinda Pease-Alvarez

 When trying to support their newcomer students who are also new to English, teachers often wonder if they can even address content area learning in English.  Based on our experience, an inquiry-based approach to content learning in English can be very effective. This approach involves students in actively constructing knowledge and doing work in the disciplines.  We have found the following instructional practices are helpful when structuring inquiry-based content units.  Many of these practices can be adapted when planning for remote instruction.

  • Articulate clear and strategic learning objectives
  • Engage students’ curiosity and wonder
  • Facilitate and make meaning of hands-on learning experiences
  • Involve students in accessible and relevant ways of applying and communicating what they’ve learned.
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Journaling: Creating the Feel of School Virtually

By Christa Forster

I miss the physicality of school. By “physicality,” I do not mean physical education, nor do I mean movement exactly. I mean all the ephemera we leave in our wakes as we sail—smoothly or tempest-tossed—through our daily schedules, together yet apart. Heads tilted toward one another, whispering or chatting, sighing or groaning; nods and waves and smiles during passing period; laughter in the halls during quiet moments in class; the pods of bodies in the cafeteria or library; the forlorn study guides, spiral notebooks, binders, water bottles, hoodies on the floors; lockers slamming shut; empty candy and cough drop wrappers littering the spaces. All of this “stuff” contributes to the feel of school and therefore to the feel of learning.

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3 Ways to “Get Grounded” at the Beginning of Hosting Your Online Session

By Caitlin Krause

Students feel our sense of presence, connection and care as teachers, and this greatly impacts their learning, whether it’s in an online space or in a physical classroom. When moving classes online, we might naturally get so caught up in the technology (Is the platform stable? Is there latency? Can everyone hear and see each other?) that we’re a bit frazzled and frantic in our energy instead of present, calm and receptive.

What should be a joyful coming together feels stressful, and our impulse might be to jump straight to the expected topic at hand or content. We might forget that connection trumps content—and, in fact, connection is what will give that content context and meaning. So, it’s a necessary base. As online community hosts, our role now involves inviting everyone to our virtual home. What is our greeting at the threshold? How are we sending messages, implicit and explicit, that “All Are Welcome”?

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