I have been reaching out to many of my teacher friends to see how I can best support those of you who are juggling everything and trying to stay afloat. First, I want you to stop a moment and take a deep breath. It might feel like you are taking a ride in a burning car, going 80 miles per hour and the brakes have been shot and you can’t stop the car – AND YOU ARE IN HELL. It feels like a nightmare and you can’t wake up.
I AM SORRY. YOU ARE DOING THE BEST YOU CAN WITH THE TOOLS YOU HAVE.
I am not in your shoes, but sometimes fresh eyes can help you sort through issues and that is what I am going to try to accomplish with this post. I want to help you juggle less balls or at least make it easier. Maybe I can help you get control of your day to day workflow and gain back some of the time you desperately need to take care of yourself and your family.
…and by the way, I am a certified life coach. ((SIDE NOTE: I tried switching careers at one point from education to life coaching, but something kept bringing me back to education. This pandemic seems the best time to merge the two because I have never seen so many of my colleagues feel like they are about to lose it.))
Let’s just jump into some coaching shall we…
MASTER YOUR SCHEDULE
Make four columns and the first column are the times in 15-minute increments. Why? Every minute counts right now. Every possible way that you can leverage your time is the only the way. You must master the schedule. The second column is your in-class students, write out your class schedule with them. In the third column write out your remote student’s class schedule. In the fourth column write out your personal schedule. Do this in pencil.
Your next step is to see if you can move, adjust, cancel, combine things so that it frees up more of your time. If you need to teach simultaneously can you work with remote students when your in-class students are at specials or lunch? Can you prerecord your videos? Can you make some learning as self-directed as possible?
LEARN YOUR TOOLS
The funny thing is the good teaching strategies that work in the classroom don’t translate well online. Online teaching will test your tech competencies and organization skills more than ever.
There are many tools available, but you don’t know about them if you don’t know about them. Right? Here are some tools and ways that you can use them to help ease some of your issues juggling so much.
Work out your student workflow. Both the ones in your classroom and the ones at home. You have more control about what happens in your classroom than you do with your remote students so make sure both groups have written expectations and schedules.
You are probably not hearing much negative feedback from your in-class students’ parents, right? It probably all comes from remote parents. Here is why. Either they have too much to do or not enough. They do not have a routine or schedule planned and controlled by a teacher since they are home and the parents do not want to do it. At least the ones complaining about it. So here is my strategy I talked about in my free training, when planning your unit make sure to use the MUST DO, SHOULD DO, ASPIRE TO DO for each lesson. That way, the students who need to fill the time before your next scheduled live class have work to work on. If they finish the aspire to do and pass the exit ticket (I recommend a quick check on google forms) then they are welcome to do an EARLY FINISHERS activity.
Set up some early finisher activities both print (have them sent home) and a google slide. Make sure that your students at home have access to independent books (you can send a few home, suggest a list of books available at the public library, and make a virtual classroom library on google slides.
Also make sure your students at home know exactly what they should be doing. Just like your master schedule – do one for your remote students. If they have HUGE gaps of time more than 30 minutes during the day. Parents will wonder what to do with their child and will eventually become frustrated and will turn to emailing you for answers. So, cover those areas with early finisher ideas for them and a virtual classroom library.
Tools to use:
Print out for each student of their schedule and expectations
Virtual Classroom (Google slide)
I just read an article about managing remote teams, it is a business article, but teachers are managing remote teams when teaching. Radostina Purvanova, a professor at Drake University says, the successful managers are “the individuals who help other team members with tasks and keep the team on schedule and focused on goals.” The easier you make the organization and routines in your class the more success you will see all around and the less stress you will feel.
Tools to use:
Google Classroom AND/OR Learning Management System
Virtual Classroom (Google slide)
This is the tricky part – as a classroom teacher you are well versed in engaging students. How do you engage the online students WHILE keeping in class students engaged and vice versa? This is the million-dollar question and I am shocked that admin would even expect this but alas – many are in this situation so let us just try to think of some solutions.
When you are introducing new material, you can use slides/powerpoint to guide your instruction. This gives something for all the students to see. If you don’t have two monitors, you can use DUALLESS chrome extension to split your screen. So you can also see your remote students while sharing your screen. Get feedback from ALL students with thumbs up or down. A portable whiteboard could also be used to get feedback but then you would need a way to get them to remote students.
If you are pre-recording your direct instruction ALL THE better and keep it at 6 minutes length or less – check out my video on youtube for the reason why.
Group Activity post Direct Instruction
If you are having a group activity you can easily translate many in class games so that everyone can participate at the same time.
So you have done your direct instruction, now its time to turn it to your students but this is where most of your planning and creating work will probably go. What will your students do with the information and how will they show their understanding? This is not going to be about the tools more more about the product. The great thing is it is a perfect time to really let student multiple intelligence shine. Let students show you there understanding the way they prefer. They can create videos (flipgrid), they can write, they can create and deliver a presentation, etc. Just make sure that students have a rubric, so they know what you are looking for.
Then finally you can check for understanding using a google form.
You can add another chrome extension called MOTE so that you can leave voice comments on student docs and slides. It helps to make a connection with your student to hear you give feedback on their work.
This blog post has gotten long enough but I wanted to give you some ideas since I know many of you are dealing with this right now.
No one is judging you – if they are IGNORE them. If a parent is consistently telling you what you are doing wrong, then invite them to present a 20-minute lesson on something they know how to do. Then maybe they will understand what it feels like. You are doing the best you can with the tools you have. Relax. Deep breaths and don’t forget to set a side time every day to do something you enjoy. The world isn’t going to crash and burn. Be good to yourself.
I think I need to write a blog post on self-care next!