We are inviting our readers to pause….breathe in….and exhale slowly.
Currently, educators across the country are consuming information at an overwhelming rate whether it is from the news, email, social media, etc. Due to school closures in response to the spread of COVID- 19, teachers are being called to provide resources or facilitate learning with their students and families in a space that is solely online. The range of comfort levels in teaching and learning through technology is as wide ranging as the number of schools across the country.
Know that you are not alone, and that we too are educators facing the same uncertainties as you. We are here to remind you of the choice we can make together to shift from thinking: How will I get through this? to How can I GROW in this with my students and their families? We can see this as an opportunity to be empowered to build and organize learning models that will help us redefine the way we work with students and families at any point in time. In this blog post, we are offering a framework for approaching learning and teaching beyond the classroom. Our intention is that this compassionate mindset guides you in both protecting and transforming the educational experience of young children.
Breaking Down the Framework
Ensure a Method for Communication is in Place
Utilize a form of communication that is intuitive and comfortable for you and your families. If you are thinking of trying a new tool, consider options that will support teaching and learning both in and out of the classroom moving forward. Some methods can include direct messaging on apps like Seesaw, Class Dojo, Remind.
Create a Home Base for Information
This serves as a visual guide for families to organize a learning environment. It includes expectations, learning activities, and a proposed schedule for timing. Content can be organized in places like a Google Site or a Google Doc.
Among many benefits to using a tool like Google Sites, one of the biggest bonuses is that information can automatically update for embedded documents (like Jessica’s Google Slides).
Develop Learning Connections
Provide options for hands-on learning that spark conversation. Take it to the next level by requesting families to share photos or videos of student engagement and provide feedback to them.
Offer Purpose and an Authentic Audience
Student creations with a common theme can be compiled and turned into a class book, video, etc. Some tools can include: Flipgrid, Book Creator, Google Apps, Seesaw, and Adobe Express.
Consider exploring a new activity, resource, or tool with a small group of students and families who are ready to go further. Use this opportunity to differentiate instruction.
Tap Into Your Teacher Heart
Despite the fact that circumstances for learning and interacting with our students are different, we do not need to feel distant from our teacher heart. We can reflect inwards and think about what we would need to feel connected to students and happy with what we are offering families. I (Jessica) ask myself: Is what I’m doing reflecting my teacher heart? Have I made choices that validate what I know about best practices? My check in for that is the amount of smiles I get when I’m working with my kids during the day and seeing their videos, photos, and comments. I know I am working in line with my beliefs because I can feel my teacher heart in it. I have gotten chills, laughed out loud, and felt the reaction that I would if something special happened in the classroom. I have found fulfillment in compiling their work into projects and in working closely with families. I have found joy in planning special and connected experiences. My teacher heart misses the children in the classroom with me, but the feeling of teaching and being connected with my students is not lost.
As we all take on new challenges, it can be easy to overlook the steps we have already taken to support our students and families. In what ways have you already been brave in taking steps toward growing as a teacher and a learner? Pause to celebrate the evidence of your success so far!
As you evaluate new tools and platforms, identify ways that they will allow you to support teaching and learning from home, as well as in the classroom. Identify aspects of these experiences that may allow you to elevate, transform, or redefine your practice in learning and teaching.
What are the pieces of your teacher heart that are most important for you to maintain? Identify the ways that you are staying true to your values and pedagogy as an educator.