One of the greatest advantages of today’s technology is the power of connection. If we weren’t aware of it before the Covid19 pandemic, we are now. As a teacher in a rural Missouri high school, I always look for ways to expand the world for my students. Our community is small and is very supportive of our students, and while I bring in guest speakers from the community each year and value what they can offer my students, technology allows me to broaden our definition of community.
From the time I became very aware of what my parents did for a living, I firmly decided that I did not want to follow in their educational footsteps. They worked too hard for too little compensation for all the time and effort they spent on their work, students, and school. They were outstanding educators (my dad retired as an elementary principal, and my mom retired as a psychological examiner for an educational cooperative). In college, as I considered my major area of study and degree options, Dad pointed out that careers define where we live.
Students develop a sense of belonging when they feel accepted, respected, included, supported and see themselves as important members of a community. I knew esports has the power to reach those students who normally slip through the extracurricular cracks, so when my good friends, Jeff and Elizabeth Wofford, approached me about starting an esports club and team at school this year, I didn’t hesitate, because I believe that helping students connect and belong at school improves overall school culture.
As educators, we know how important family is to student success, and having been remote learning at home for three months, a summer at home feels the same as school — the role of parents as teachers may have even strained the family dynamic a bit. Even if you can’t go on a big vacation, we know students and families need renewal, change, and to just recharge after a tough end to the school year. Now that thoughts of vacation for many of us have bubbled to the surface, we face another challenge.
As our 2020 second semester turned into distance learning during the Covid19 pandemic, many of us found ourselves overturned in the middle of the creek, clinging to a paddle with one arm slung across the canoe to keep our heads above the water. But now that summer is upon us, we have been able to upright our canoe, toss in both paddles, and climb back into it. While the direction we will be taking this fall is still unclear, we can look back at what worked and what didn't during the school closures. There were definitely many things we did not do well, but we did shine in one particular area: connecting guardians and our school remotely.
Your lesson has gone really well, but you want to make that new learning sticky before students leave for the day or head to their next class, or before you move on to the next subject if you are teaching elementary. There are a lot of strategies that you can go to here, but which one? That, friends, is at the sole discretion of the teacher, and there is no one right answer. While exit tickets, after action reports, think-pair-share, brain dumps, and sketchnotes are just some of the many options to choose from for ending a lesson, I may have one more cognitive tool you can add to your educational tool chest.
During the challenging time of remote learning and teaching due to COVID19, the wide disparity of equity across the nation when it comes to internet accessibility came to the forefront for educators and institutions. I've watched the conversation and even joined in at times, and I've even felt those pesky pangs of envy when I see fellow teachers having awesome online success with students. I'll also admit to having my own moment of two of online student success to celebrate and share, but those moments were spread out among the six weeks my district was open for business but closed to onsite customers. It was tough six weeks.
As we navigate these uncharted waters of school closures due to COVID-19, communication is one of the most important things we can do to help students work through remote learning and all the stress that entails. Not every district has the luxury of placing all students online for the remainder of time that the schools are closed, so communication can become tricky. However, utilizing the school email is always a good idea which can be followed by other means of contact for students who are unable to respond.
On Wednesday of remote learning week two, I notice my son has hair growing on his upper lip. When did that happen? I vaguely remember him saying he was shaving, but I clearly didn't believe him. My post isn't really about mustaches and eighth graders. Like many parents world-wide, this shift has been stressful for me. I wear many hats in my district, and this time of school closure has increased my workload. I feel the anxiety and stress creeping in the minute I wake up and ponder my "to do" list. Sound familiar?
So while I am always on the lookout for ways to bring the latest technology into my classroom, my goal is not to just bring tech to my students. My pedagogy guides my use of tech, and recently, my use of spoons. Helping students practice mastery in an engaging way is always my goal. One morning in my first hour Spanish class, I contemplated student interests and how I might leverage that for our Friday Fun day.