Teachers, I know this is a challenging time, but I want you to remember your University days, and how you thought you would never get through the teaching practicum. Well, you made it through, or you wouldn’t be a teacher today. You remained in the profession and have probably made a difference in countless children’s lives. You help shape the lives of the future. You got this, teacher!
This ‘out of class instruction’ is a similar thing- daunting, unknown, and overwhelming at first. I worked in the Faculty of Education at UBC for 15 years and graduated numerous teachers who never imagined they would get through the practicum or their first year of teaching. They did, and you will get through this, too. Relax; I know you can do this!
People are dealing with a lot of anxiety, stress, financial issues, and isolation. Remember the rules we all learned in Kindergarten? Be kind to each other, share everything, and respect everyone? At our school, we guide our practices by asking “Is it fair? Is it kind?; and Is it safe?. With these ideas, we have developed a fantastic community of learners who help each other, teach each other, and comfort each other. I am proud of these children as they will be future leaders who know that human kindness and connection is always a priority. Recently, the older students reminded me to treat everyone with extra kindness because we do not know what the little kids are dealing with on the inside. Good point, it isn’t just what we adults are dealing with, but how the kids see us dealing with it and how they interpret it.
If your district or school decides to distribute a list of ideas and does not require students to write exams or submit work, it’s ok. Having a few months off from learning at school won’t change their futures. Students can learn at home in a variety of ways and continue to learn outside the curriculum. They are learning new things everyday.
For those schools that are asking teachers to continue ‘teaching’ outside of classrooms, here are my top 10 suggestions based on my experience working with teachers and in schools.
One, look to your district or independent school leaders for a plan. They are working tirelessly over Spring Break to ensure we can provide the best education for everyone. Try to enjoy the last few days of Spring Break with your own families and friends.
Two, it is essential to stay connected with your colleagues to maintain human connections. In the first few weeks, everyone will be frantically planning. Teachers work best as a community. We model how to be a community every day. Work together, set up a network, and have a work buddy. Use the free Apps to connect and share. Stay in the positive zone!
Three, aim for continuity and routines in your own life first. Like flying on an airplane, you need your mask before you can put on the masks of your children. I suggest you plan out a reasonable work day schedule around what hours work best in your home. Your regular working hours may need to be adjusted based on your family’s needs. The benefit of online learning or providing ideas and activities to families is that your time is flexible.
Four, assist families as we transition into a different way of learning. Many are even more nervous and anxious than you. Set aside time each day for ‘office hours’ to respond to messages or phone calls and let everyone know this in advance. Don’t get caught up in answering messages as they come into your inbox. For now, put on an automatic message, “I’m on Spring Break, resting up for the next term.”
Five connect with your students. If you are going online, then it is make it comfortable with Zoom, videoconferences, recorded videos, etc. If not, send a postcard and use the phone! Whatever your district or school sets out, follow it. If you try to do something different, it may become confusing to families. Students may not be able to connect online or work on homework as they don’t have a teacher or parent at home to help.
Six, in terms of planning, don’t over plan or plan too far in advance. Look at what is essential, and what can you give up. It is easy to make a list of things to do, APPs to use or worksheets/ paper activities to complete, but try to keep it simple, as many students cannot work as fast online by themselves as they can with your guidance. Give things in small chunks if possible. We don’t know how long we will be out of our classrooms and don’t want to change plans or assignments in a few weeks. Remember back to those student teaching days when you planned for months and only accomplished a fraction of it? Plan a few activities in each area in advance in case something else happens, or you get ill. If you are teaching online, prep your lessons, and then once they are online, go through as a student would to ensure it works, especially all the links and timing of things. Many students learn best when connected to others. If possible, use online discussions, video chats, blogs, etc. There are also numerous educational companies offering free services and Apps right now. Use these for teaching online or for learning ideas to share offline.
Seven, if your school or district has flexibility, remind them that requiring all students to maintain a regular schedule online is unrealistic. Create a sense of familiarity and routines each day with recordings or emails. Young children need to feel a connection. You can help by making a video welcome to the day, check-in messages as to how they are feeling, tutorials for some lessons with help from Google Slides, etc. If your families do not have the Internet, please consider phone calls once a week and set a schedule up for it. The calls will be treasured for years!
Eight, most elementary teachers are used to hearing their names called hundreds of times a day asking for help. For online learning or email messages, we need to provide a lot of instructions and details, so students and their families do not have to ask for clarification.
Nine, only use what students have access to at home. Don’t assign work that requires materials that they have to buy to do complete it. Keep it simple!
Ten, once you are teaching either online or providing materials, celebrate your success, and add a new job title “out-of-class teacher” to your existing one!
Teachers do make a difference everyday. Thank you for your work as a teacher!
FISABC thanks Traci Baillie for providing this guest blog post.