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.
Continue reading “Journaling: Creating the Feel of School Virtually”
By Ronnie Eyre
Teacher appreciation week approached us so quickly. March felt like the longest month of the year, and then April came and teachers and students alike were told to start distance learning. These teachers and kids showed up! They proved that they were able to handle working on their academics while still being kids. Teachers made changes to their lessons by creating their own document cameras. They created spaces in their homes for anchor charts and bulletin boards. Teachers pushed themselves harder than they ever have, recognizing that an education is so important and that it must continue even through distance learning, online video chats, and tons of emails.
Continue reading “Teacher Appreciation: How to Say Thanks from a Distance”
By Sharon Kunde
It’s now week five of my school’s pivot to online instruction. We’ve weathered the chaos of week one, the understated pleasures of weeks two and three (no commute! teaching in ratty old slippers! baking during intervals!), and the tedium of week four. The time for soothing words and procrastination is over: it’s time for assessment.
If hearing those four words make you feel like this talented music teacher, take a deep breath. As traditional assessments – from pop quizzes to the SATs, from oral examinations to student presentations – become increasingly untenable in terms of both logistics and equity, we can use this moment as a chance to reflect on big-picture pedagogical outcomes. I, for one, want my students to cultivate an ability to engage with the world. I want them to develop critical consciousness, which involves curiosity about why things are the way they are and how they could be different. I want them to realize commonality with disparate people. I want them to develop the capacity to concentrate and to notice, along with the technical skills to develop meaningful responses to what they see. Grades merely index those nebulous capacities – grades are a language I use to communicate the extent to which I see particular habits of mind and technical capabilities manifesting in my students’ work.
Continue reading “Classroom, Interrupted: Rethinking Assessment in a Time of Pandemic”
By Katharine Davies Samway
If we have a computer, regular access to the Internet, and a cell phone with unlimited calls and texts, we may forget that our students may not have the same access to these tools, which are essential for online learning. In some cases, schools surveyed their students about their technological needs before the schools closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In other cases, teachers have had to use time during the school closure to identify students’ needs.
Teachers I’ve interviewed comment on the importance of surveying students and families in order to determine which technological tools they have access to. At Laura Alvarez’s K-8 two-way immersion bilingual school, teachers polled their students by phone, text, and email about their access to a computer and the Internet (as well as their access to everyday necessities, such as food). Alvarez estimated that she spent one-third of her time in the two weeks before spring break calling, texting, and emailing students and their families. She learned that most have some Internet access via a smartphone, but none of her 8th grade students had solid access to the Internet. A couple of her students had a cousin or aunt who had a computer, and some had computers at home, but weren’t sure how well they worked. Recently, the school has been distributing Chromebooks to students who do not have access to computers, using social distancing when doing so.
Continue reading “What About Students Who Do Not Have Access to the Tools that Are Needed for Online Learning?”
By Ivannia Soto
I have just completed my fourth week of teaching college-level courses online. With each class session I have had to make new pedagogical shifts, which are as applicable in a K-12 online setting as they are in a higher-ed environment. I mostly teach preservice teachers at Whittier College, a small liberal arts college in Southern California, known (for better or worse) for being Richard Nixon’s alma mater. My specialization is second language acquisition and designing equitable environments for English language learners (ELLs) within school systems. Historically, ELLs in classrooms have been relegated to little or no classroom participation. ELLs have not been required, or oftentimes, expected to speak in the classroom setting. As I oftentimes remind my preservice teachers, the person talking the most is learning the most, so we must require all students to speak and be engaged in the classroom setting. I am taking this lesson to heart as I transition my own classrooms to an online setting, where students can easily become passive and disengaged, whether they are K-12 students or preservice teachers themselves.
Continue reading “Essential Pedagogical Shifts: Prioritizing Student Engagement and Self-Care during Lock-down”
By Mark Whipple
As an Instructional Technology Specialist in a suburban middle school south of Boston, MA, I was curious about the ways teachers might begin to use technology in our new and suddenly-online learning environment. The expectations coming from states, school systems and individual schools vary widely, and teachers’ level of experience and comfort with technology varies just as much. What techniques for in-person classroom teaching can be applied, and what new methods are needed? What are some approaches to meeting the needs of students when not physically with them? What do teachers need to do in terms of self-care to be present for their students?
Continue reading “Perspectives From the Field: Teachers Teaching Online”
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.
Continue reading “The Connection is What Matters Most”
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.
Continue reading “Supporting All Learners During Remote Learning”