As I have been supporting Leaders and Teachers through the COVID-19 crisis over the last several weeks, I stand in awe of the amazing efforts of Educators globally. Below are a few reminders that I believe will help us sustain our Remote Learning efforts.
Connect Through Relationships: Our first connection should not be to the internet, it should be to our students and families. Frequent check-ins on student health, well-being, and safety should be at the top of the list. Many of our students are struggling with the isolation from friends and school was their safe place. Connect, even if it is by phone.
Consider Equity, Always: While providing remote learning for COVID-19 school closures, we must also consider the fact that not all students have devices, internet, or stable home environments to support learning. We need to consider equity when planning for learning from home, issuing guidelines for engagement, and creating policies and practices during this unprecedented time.
Clarify Expectations: We must be crystal clear about our expectations for time, tasks, and engagement. This is nothing like a brick and mortar classroom and therefore, it must be reimagined with clarity provided for teachers and learners alike. Give permission to think outside the box and know that giving students choice and grace rule the day.
Prioritize the Priorities: We cannot, and should not, try to teach all of the standards outlined on pacing guides / curriculum maps during the school closures. This is a time where we must prioritize the standards that are essential and consider ways to teach and learn these standards in a variety of formats.
Value Tasks Over Tests: Offer students the opportunity to engage in solving real-world problems with tasks that challenge their thinking and promote creativity. Have students show what they know through a product or performance. Testing online, while easy to administer, is not the best evidence of student learning when working remotely.
Know That Less Is More: Teaching and learning a few things more deeply will prove to be better in the long run than trying to cover the curriculum. Consider the breadth and depth of assignments/tasks, reading, asynchronous learning. Make learning fun and don't overload the inbox.
Provide Feedback, Not Grades: While our students are digital natives, they are not used to learning remotely. Providing students with frequent and timely feedback is more important than grades. They need reassurance they are on the right track and they miss you walking around the room checking their progress, your affirming words, and the time you take to reteach when they need some help.
Care For Yourself And Others: Taking care of yourself by setting office hours, taking time for your own family, and practicing self-care is imperative. We have made it through the first couple of weeks and now need to sustain this effort through the end of the school year. That requires taking care of YOU so you can care for others.
Collaborate To Innovate: I am always impressed by the ingenuity of educators! This crisis has brought out the best in all of us! Continue to rely on your PLC (Professional Learning Community) and your PLN (Professional Learning Network) to learn new tools, share ideas and solutions, and to create community while dealing with this crisis.
Nothing About This Is "Normal": Few districts were equipped to shift their entire learning enterprise to remote learning. And even those districts were set up for days of digital learning, not weeks on end while dealing with a global pandemic. None of this is "normal". We must recognize that we have families losing jobs, experiencing stress and anxiety, dealing with ill relatives or friends, and more. Because this is not "business as usual" we must not think that school should be too.
Let's be gracious to one another, to our students and the families we serve. I anticipate this experience will cause us to rethink much of what we do in "normal" school in the future and I don't think that is such a bad thing. However, right now, let's be practical about our approaches and know that we can make up the time, fill the skill gaps, and teach our hearts out when this is over.
For now, take care of each other, shelter-in-place, and know that you are appreciated!