Building Classroom Community from a Distance

By Louise Goldberg

Since early spring of 2020, the classroom experience has changed dramatically for students across the country and worldwide. School closings, remote learning, and social distancing have created extraordinary disruptions to the classroom environment and left many feeling isolated and distraught.

Even when schools reopen, many children will continue to stay home and rely on their screens for instruction and social interaction. Those who do attend school may find sparsely populated classrooms with curtailed opportunities for group activities. What was once the hub of their social lives may prove to be an almost empty landscape void of playful encounters such as bus rides, recess, hallway jostling and joking, school lunch, and other once banal occurrences. Who knows when these activities will resume?

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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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The Connection is What Matters Most

By Bridget Vaughan, an ELA and Literacy District Coordinator and teacher advocate

Recently my job has changed. I now support teachers with remote learning. As a part-time online educator in higher education for the past 16 years, and a full-time middle school teacher and administrator for over 20, I thought I had this figured out. I transitioned to teaching online classes many years ago. Back then, college students opted to take these classes and paid for them, so they were eager to learn. For many years, much of this was about helping students learn the technology. But after time, I built in every question or piece of content that was unclear, and students got more tech savvy. Of course, it never replaced face-to-face instruction, but it was pretty much smooth sailing.

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Supporting All Learners During Remote Learning

By Kathryn Nieves, a special education teacher at Sparta Middle School in New Jersey

When my school district called me on a Thursday evening, I did not have to answer to know what the message said. I knew it meant we were going into remote learning. As a special education teacher, I worried about IEPs, accommodations, modifications, and, in short, just supporting the emotional needs of my students. Although my students have 1:1 Chromebook devices and experience using them, I knew we still faced many obstacles. The following are tips for supporting all learners that I have discovered throughout my journey (so far) in this uncharted area of education.

Stick with the technology they know first

    As an advocate of educational technology and a Google Trainer, I’m the first person to dive into using a new tool. Even though I was getting almost hourly updates from different edtech companies offering free accounts or trials, I knew this was not the time for me to try out all these tools with my students. For the first few weeks, I kept it consistent. I used tools where my students had a level of comfort and familiarity. Since moving into a fully online platform was new for them, I did not want to add more novelty to the pile until they felt more comfortable.

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