Shifting the Goals of Virtual Learning: Let’s Set Us All Up for Success

Unmet Expectations = Frustration, Impatience and Shut-Down

Hi friends.  “First of all, let’s all take a deep breath.” That’s the way one of the 50 emails that I got from my son’s principal this past week started.  Today is actually Tate’s 10th day of virtual learning.  It’s not easy. For anyone. He’s very energetic. Very social.  Likes (needs) to connect.

For him, and probably for most students, virtual learning is not the best.  Nothing can replace a face to face interaction with a teacher, collaboration with peers, and diversity in the activities and learning modalities that the classroom provides.  But that’s not our reality right now, and that’s okay.

Here are some of the positives:

First, for as active and passionate as I am about education, I realized how little I knew about the way my son learns and processes.  He has had very little homework in the past, has always made As (and usually 1 floater B), and other than his reading, I really didn’t see him active in his education.  This has been a huge eye opener, and I think we actually have been able to tackle some dependent learner tendencies that I may not have even known he had otherwise.

Second, he’s in 5th grade, and will be going to intermediate school, where they change classes and don’t all stay together all the time.  This time has allowed him to learn how to follow a schedule and manage his time.

Third, we have been able (through trial and error) to see what environment he works best in.  He is learning to manage himself and his needs (I need to stand up, take some deep breaths, go shoot 10 baskets outside, take a quick block on my scooter at lunch, etc).

Fourth, he CANNOT WAIT to go back to school.  I think he will have a new appreciation for his teachers and campus, and whenever he complains from now until he graduates, I will bring up 2020 and remind him to be thankful! 🙂

As I’ve talked to several teachers struggling with the current situation as well, I realized something.  Teachers are so passionate about what they do, they don’t give themselves grace to not be perfect. So when they are not able to seamlessly flow from one activity to another virtually, connect with every student, ensure learning is taking place, keep kids engaged 100% of the time, take kids to higher level thinking in conversations because they can’t hear everyone over the computer, be as creative as they want to be because they are limited in the activities they can do (just to name a few of the feelings)…they often time feel like failures, and will lose sleep trying to reach perfection.

And students (at least mine) feel the same way. He feels limited in that the teacher isn’t always accessible, gets lost trying to toggle from one thing to the next, can’t remember how to get back to the text they read to answer questions, can’t find the directions in Canva to an assignment on a separate link…and starts to shut down before he even gets to the actual work.

I think part of the issue may be unreachable expectations.  I think it’s okay to shift the goal.  Maybe entire class periods need to be dedicated to breaking students into groups and just having connection conversations with them. Maybe it’s okay to play a game one day for 30 minutes to re-engage the brain.  Maybe it’s okay to do a mini-PE lesson in math to get the students up and stretching and the blood pumping again.  Maybe it’s okay to not stick to the scope and sequence at the benefit of your and your students’ mental well-being.  If you are temporarily virtual, here are the goals I would consider:

  1. Teach your students (patiently) how to find information and lay the foundation for independent learners.  They are trying. They are distracted.  They are tired. But they are trying.
  2. Connect. Play games, have small groups, and talk to your students.  Have them talk to each other.  The more small groups you can do, the better.  It’s hard to have whole group conversations virtually (as you know).
  3. Pick 1-3 main skills they can be practicing. Build their confidence.

Give yourself grace.  Give your students grace.  Give their parents grace.  Assume positive intent on everyone’s part.  Everyone is trying.  Let’s set reasonable, manageable, important goals to reach for, and find joy in this time. 🙂

We are here to support you!

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