After completing three sessions of the PE Huddle, one of the things I have learned is that teachers have many questions. In fact, I have received over 600 questions which makes it impossible to answer all of them. The one thing I have noticed is that the questions have a common and recurring theme. Teachers are wondering if what they are teaching online or by hardcopy is beneficial, educational, and meaningful to their students. Teachers respond to their classes, to facial expressions, and to student sounds of approval and disapproval. We make rapid decisions and change to a different strategy when our perceptions tell us things aren’t quite right. And then, suddenly, because of Covid-19, there is absolutely no feedback from students, parents or administrators which makes us long for personal affirmation rather than dead silence.
Don’t forget your role as a teacher:
As with all things in education there are many changes that occur on a regular basis. Much more information is coming forth about how to teach online. It is a completely different model and it requires a different mindset. When teaching online, the more modalities we can use, the better. Videotapes of activities, a variety of online sources, activity logs, and modification of activities to be done at home with purchased or homemade equipment now take center stage. However, don’t be fooled. The one element that is still the most important is the teacher. Students learn much from discussions with their teachers. In fact, the teacher is the centerpiece for teaching social and emotional skills. Some experts are worried about the lack of moral direction during this crisis because students are not in contact with their teachers. As you teach online, don’t forget the social and emotional elements of teaching. Most students will need it more than ever during the pandemic.
A few guidelines for teaching online:
- Break up your assignments into 5-7-minute pieces. Don’t assign 20 minutes of activity. Assign 4 bouts of 5 minutes of activity instead. The same with practicing skills or completing health lessons. Even short activity breaks of 60 seconds will get students off the sofa and their phone.
- Reduce the total amount of work by 50%. Start with success by offering “can do” assignments and then gradually increase the workload.
- Offer variety and novelty. All people get bored and go off-task when the “same old stuff” is offered over and over. Use new videos, new assignments, and new types of self-assessment.
- Encourage students to connect with each other by phone or online. Offer social assignments where students share their progress on assignments or ask for help.
Let me finish by affirming that you are doing the best you can in a new situation. When you think about it, we are educating students across the country in a way we have not done before. Almost without missing a beat, teachers have picked up the challenge and got right after it. Things have gone quite well but not perfect. But, how could you have expected otherwise. Keep faith in yourself and what you are doing. Try to learn from others, but don’t compare yourself to others. Your situation is unique, and you are unique. You are doing your best. Be your best! Thanks for being teachers. I deeply appreciate your hard work.