I am going to be real for this distance learning post! People have asked me this question or variations on it a few times recently – “Now that you have been distance learning, do you feel prepared to remote teach in the fall if this happens again or if you don’t go back?”
How can anybody answer this question, honestly? Prepared!?
A Look Back at Distance Learning
First, with this round of distance learning, we went out in March. At that point, relationships with our students and their families had already been created. The kids knew me and I knew them. The families knew me and I knew them. I had already earned their trust and respect, and they had earned mine. Yes, I said earned because nobody just gets trust and respect – it’s earned.
Second, my students knew my expectations. By March they had been doing things a certain way all year. They knew what was acceptable and what wasn’t and how they should act. They knew how I felt about them as learners and they had already experienced my classroom culture.
What Will Distance Learning Like Next Year?
Now, let’s fast forward to the fall for the school year 2020/2021. If we don’t get back into the classroom at all, those new students don’t know me and I don’t know them. Their families don’t know me, and I don’t know them. They don’t know my classroom culture. This set of students hasn’t earned my respect and I haven’t earned theirs. I don’t know what they know and what they don’t. I don’t know their work ethics, backgrounds, etc.
So, can we be prepared for all of this if remote learning happens again? No! Distance learning so far has prepared me to be betting with the tech side of teaching. It’s also prepared me for what materials to best use while remote teaching and how to balance (or try to balance!) my home and school life.
So yes, I am prepared for the platform. Yes, I am prepared for the technological aspect. And yes, I am prepared for the materials. But am I better prepared for the task of teaching a brand new class in the fall virtually? In all, honesty – no!!!
How Can We Set Ourselves Up for Success with Distance Learning
We’ve got the technology and materials down, but what do we do about starting off virtually with a new class? We might not be fully prepared, but there are ways we can make the transition easier.
Teaching a new class virtually will involve taking what we already know from in-person teaching and adapting it to fit at-home learning. Your students won’t walk into your virtual classroom already knowing your behavior and class expectations, just like they wouldn’t walk into your physical classroom with that knowledge. Make sure to be clear and thorough with your expectations and rules at the beginning of the year, and think about ways you can adjust behavior management to work with the stress and tensions involved with teaching virtually during a pandemic.
It’s going to take more effort to get to know your students when you haven’t already built those in-person relationships. Research fun icebreakers you can do virtually to help you and your students learn more about each other, and think of new, creative ways you can connect with your students. This could come in the form of a quick phone call home to talk to them, virtual office hours where they can chat with you or a personalized card sent to their house.
It might take some time to find what works best for you and your new students but know that you have what it takes to still make this year great.
Read more teacher tips for distance learning:
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 1
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 2
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 3
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 4
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 5
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 6
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 7
- Teacher Tips for Distance Learning: Week 8
By Cindy Price
Cindy Price is a veteran teacher of 26 years. She has taught kindergarten for 19 years and first grade for seven years. She was born and raised in Massachusetts, but has taught in Florida, Georgia, and now Delaware.