The school year is in full swing and depending on how your area has been affected by the ongoing pandemic, that ‘swing’ may feel more like a roller coaster ride! With possible adjustments in learning environments from in-class to remote instruction, teachers should be prepared. This includes classroom management procedures and routines that should be easy to implement and follow. Managing a classroom virtually has its challenges such as lack of teacher’s physical presence for monitoring engagement, and limited view of facial expressions and body language to communicate thoughts and feelings but it is not impossible. At this point in the year, routines have been established to navigate the learning day. How can these procedures be adapted to remote instruction? Review the chart below.
I don’t know about you, but my activity levels have definitely decreased this past year. I find that I’m spending more time in front of my PC for work and recreation (video chatting with family and friends, going on virtual tours, streaming channels for shows and movies, etc.). With many children in remote or hybrid learning situations, their activity levels are also decreasing as it has become easier to move from one place to sit to another place to sit (i.e. chair to sofa). Besides allowing for more physical activity during breaks (run outside for 15 minutes, 5-minute stretches every hour, 60-minute lunch and recreation break sans devices), learning should also incorporate more movement. In addition, with the push for more hands-on STEM integration, students having to school at home need a viable option for STEM learning besides online games and interactive worksheets.
When schools and universities closed campuses earlier this year, educators and students struggled with the shift to remote learning. If educators weren’t already using some method of remote learning, such as flipped or hybrid, they soon discovered that facilitating instruction from afar was quite a challenge. Especially for those in continuing, higher, and adult education institutions, giving lectures, conducting lab experiments, and having class discussions became nearly impossible. Instructors had to alter how they were accustomed to presenting material so that it was more engaging over a video conferencing application. For many, this was a frustrating and overwhelming addition to the pile of tasks they were already having to deal with, especially if they were not accustomed to incorporating tech into their instructional plans. There was also the concern that students were not feeling as connected and motivated with the lack of interactivity and faculty contact.
You’ve probably scrolled through quite a few social media posts of teachers and students engaging in remote learning. There are posts with teachers dressed up in costumes, really working to get their students engaged. There are posts of students in pyjamas, bodies contorted in different ways as they try to make it through a virtual lesson. Overall, a nice mix of the positive and negative experiences with remote learning. Although it seems that more schools and educators are prepared, it brings up another concern — remote teaching burnout. With remote learning a reality for many, it is important to recognise the warning signs of burnout for teachers and move towards its prevention. But first, what is burnout?
I love feedback. I appreciate how feedback has helped me to improve in different aspects of my life. I believe in giving feedback that makes someone feel good about a job well done. For me, feedback is essential to growth! Yet, I can remember countless afternoons struggling to write feedback on all my students’ essays before the next class. I wanted to be thorough and write about all of the points I referenced in the lessons but my hands would cramp, my brain was mush, and by the last student’s paper I was barely writing a sentence or two that I hoped would help them improve. Not until a colleague showed me what she did — quick notes on each student’s work as she walked around and observed them during independent work time — that I began to feel like my time was being used more effectively and my students were able to implement recommendations. I also found that because I was saving time, I could talk with each student and really get a sense of their comprehension and academic needs. Those quick conversations with each student were some of my favourite times as a teacher.
When I was beginning my learning adventure at 6 years old – back when teachers used blackboards and duplicators (Banda machines) – playing a game in class was the BEST! In Southern California where I’m from, it was unusual to have rainy days but when it happened our teacher would have us play Heads-Up, Seven Up during indoor break. I can remember hoping someone would put my thumb down so that I could guess the mystery person at the end of the round. We would play this game the entire time and groan aloud when break was over. Playing that game was a welcome respite from the months of circle time lessons and worksheets. Did I learn anything from playing Heads-Up? I didn’t think so at the time but looking back with my “teacher eye,” there was communication, engagement, and reasoning involved. Of course, I doubt learning those skills was intentional but it taught me two important things when I stepped into my teacher shoes: 1) children will remember the experience of a fun and engaging game, and 2) children can learn concepts and skills, solve problems, think critically, collaborate, follow rules, communicate thinking, etc. while playing a game!
Whatever our opinions are on in-class vs remote learning, the unpredictability of coronavirus has necessitated that many schools opt for the latter to ensure the safety of teachers, school staff, and students. That being the case, the following are helpful tips for teachers, parents, and students.
Not to state the obvious, but education is in a time of dynamic change. This change will affect not just this school year, but long into the future of what education may be for our children and grandchildren. It is important, then, to rethink how education leaders, teachers, and parents/guardians prepare for each school year so that students can still meet, or exceed, learning goals and objectives. Beyond what can be seen on paper, education also supports a child’s need to experience, explore, and apply learning to real-life now and in the future. To do this successfully, teachers who are now dealing with a virtual classroom environment must adjust their teaching practises. Why? Because remote learning requires specific skills such as conducting classes using video conferencing, sharing content in different ways, and providing feedback on student assignments and projects.