An Important Message to Parents AND Teachers…plus 5 Tips for Online Learning

So let’s face it…online teaching and learning is hard…for everyone.  I think we can agree that most of us are doing our best.  Teachers are doing their best to get relevant content to the student in manageable ways, parents are doing their best to manage life right now and keep their kids motivated, engaged and sane, and kids are doing their best to keep up.  But it’s hard. 

As we are settling into our new temporary norm, I think it’s important to “not lose sight of the forest for the trees” – as the saying goes. It’s easy to get bogged down and stressed out trying to fulfill somewhat unreasonable expectations.

Here is the message I want to send:

TEACHERS: You are not an online teacher.  You are a classroom teacher who loves to work with your students to bring about learning.  Give yourself grace right now.  Do not lose sleep over the kids who aren’t turning in work or giving it their all. Don’t expect for a whole lot of learning to take place right now.  Have students deepening and practicing the skills you already taught them. Introductions to new skills are fine, but be careful “grading” them.  Although it is P/F in most places, students seeing a low grade can be very discouraging! Make yourself available. Check on your students individually. Make them feel loved and valued and they will be much more apt to reach out when they need help.

PARENTS: Your students will be okay.  There will be provisions put in to place to fill the gaps of the end of the year right now. Stay calm.  Be available when possible.  Ask your students questions and talk to them.  READ to them (if they are 5th grade or below) and have them read. (You can read ___ for the main things to focus on right now.) Explain the shifting dynamic of learning to your students.  Typically, your students have learned the new material from the teacher, watched him or her teach and model it, perhaps practiced the skill with the class or in a group, and then worked independently.  Now, they are jumping straight to the independent work, and they are having to learn as they go.  THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE MORE MISTAKES.  They are going to fail some….that’s how they are going to learn.  If your kid is like my kid, this was very discouraging, and we really had to talk through what Pass/Fail meant and why they were shifting it that way.

There’s a post going around social media that highlights the importance of keeping your kids safe, happy, centered and in a low stress environment.  At Pressing Onward, while we value education and feel that it is the pathway to getting wherever you want to go, right now, there may be other priorities.  To recap the previous post, here are the 6 things to focus on during this time to keep your students moving forward:

  1. We are all in the same storm!
  2. Read to your kids every day.
  3. Have your students read (whatever they want) every day.
  4. Practice basic math facts: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division
  5. Have conversations with your kids – A LOT
  6. Have your students write organically

Teachers, here are 5 tips for teaching online:

  1. Continue to show love and grace to your students at this time: remember that a lot of them are having a lot of frustration. There could be tension at home, multiple siblings on one device,  frustration with the work, or any number of things going on. Also, not to be too blunt, but the students may be bored only working online, and boredom is a main contributor in raising the affective filter, halting motivation and decreasing learning.
  2. Determine the top 3 skills you want your students to master: Students are not going to do a whole lot of new learning right now, and I have no doubt there will be provisions for this next year. Focus more on deepening the learning and practice of skills that students have already been exposed to and need to master.
  3. Decide how your students are going to learn the material. Aim to make your lessons no more than 20 minutes. Always keep ‘learning’, and not simply ‘doing’ as the priority.  Do they need to do 30 math problems, or can they do 10? What are they learning by watching the videos?
  4. Think about the number of “clicks” the students are having to do to get to and turn in the assignments. This can be another cause of frustration for both parents and students.  Keeping this as streamlined as possible can be super helpful to the learning process.  Tate’s reading teacher has done a really good job of this.  She created a PowerPoint with daily tasks and hyperlinks, and this makes navigating the tasks much easier for a 4th grader.
  5. Give/Get Feedback: Use student surveys, have students do self-checks before they turn work in, or use FlipGrid to have students check in via video.  If our goal is learning, and we want to continue to reach our students and give them value, give them ongoing opportunities to give their own feedback.  This is a learning curve for everyone, and the students are your customers/audience.  Getting ongoing feedback can help you as you continue to plan moving forward.  It can also help you target specific students for more in depth teaching instead of just posting “Does anyone have any questions?”

In closing, we are all in this together – whether we want to be or not. 🙂  I saw a quote that said, “We are not all in the same boat.  We are all in the same storm, but our boats look different.” How wise. Keep your boat afloat, find joy where you can, rest in the fact that you are doing a good job, and know that this, too shall pass!

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