“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy – I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – Art Williams
As many of us have experienced, heard from friends, or seen on the news, distance teaching has its challenges. Difficulties have ranged from tech glitches and connection issues to students not showing up to live virtual lessons. In addition to these challenges, teachers are making every effort to tailor instruction for students with special learning needs, including regular review of students’ individual learning plans. This can be quite overwhelming for everyone involved, especially the parents at home trying to balance home responsibilities with their child’s specialised needs. How can all involved work together to support the child? Here are some recommendations to consider:
When I was in the primary school, our teacher came back from a trip to Europe with the idea that our class was going to have pen pals in England. She had met a teacher from there and they talked about having their classes learn to write letters while making new friends from one another’s country. Here I was a kid from Southern California (in my mind, not a very big deal) and I was going to have a pen pal from ENGLAND! I was so excited when I got the first letter from my pen pal, Tanya. She actually sent a picture of herself — she had long red hair, freckles, and blue eyes; so different from what I and most of my friends looked like. For the life of me, I can’t remember what was written in the letter just the thrill of receiving one from another young person who lived in a different country! Our class wrote back but unfortunately after the one exchange of letters from each side, we didn’t receive more letters. It was a great idea with so much potential but just fizzled out. Clearly, something went amiss in my experience. This isn’t the case for many educators who have endeavored to introduce their students to different cultures, experiences, and values while integrating important learning skills through letter writing.
The first Earth satellite, Sputnik 1. Neil Armstrong and landing on the moon. The International Space Station. Pictures of ice from the Mars rovers. These are the different things that come to my mind when thinking of space exploration and education. These are topics that have probably been discussed, researched, and studied in classrooms everywhere. But how often is space exploration a part of student learning?
Coming into this new school year has been a mixed bag of emotions for everyone: anxiety, excitement, worry, relief. Although many schools are starting the year in-class, the possibility of switching to distance learning can add stress and uncertainty to the list especially for those juggling more than one child in school, work responsibilities, and maintaining some semblance of balance at home. There are quite a few news and social media posts of children trying hard to be excited about learning online but struggling. Understandably, this leads to concerns of substantial learning loss for our students.
I take lots of notes. Notes for projects at work. Notes when I take a training. Notes when I’m in a meeting. Notes for things I need to do at home. So many notes! But I have discovered in my many, many years of taking notes that if I don’t immediately go back and review them, highlighting what I seriously need to do and/or remember, those notes are just words on a page stored in a notebook (of more pages of notes).
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.
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.
Schools are in a state of flux. While generally the push is to open fully with 100% attendance, there may be needs for change in response to health and safety. In any case, schools find themselves planning for different scenarios that include providing resources beyond their capabilities. What can be done to maintain continuity of learning?