What’s Missing In Virtual Learning: 8 Ways to Build an Alliance Even Now

Most of us are 1-3 weeks into virtual or hybrid learning.  It’s tough.  I’m not going to lie.  I’ve written in some of my previous blogs about the positive aspects: more time with Tate, walking him through becoming an independent learner, seeing the way he learns, helping him navigate the responsibility of a schedule…but it’s still TOUGH.

It’s tough when he doesn’t get it. It’s tough when he’s unfocused.  It’s tough because he doesn’t have a relationship with his teachers. It’s tough because it seems the main focus is to get a list of tasks done for grades.

And I can’t even imagine how tough it is for teachers – to have engaging games and activities that you can’t seem to do right now.  To love your students but feel disconnected.  To constantly be dealing with technology issues, both from the technology and the second grader (or 7th grader) trying to use it.

So I want to encourage you again this week, as I did last week, to make the priority to build alliances right now. And I want to give you 8 ideas for doing that:

  1. Good things – Start each class allowing the students to share “good things” that are happening right now
  2. Positive Phone calls and emails  – I know that some of you have 150 students (or more), but students are getting very little-if any-individual time with you as the teacher.  Call them or send an email welcoming them to the class and telling them one positive thing that you’ve appreciated about them so far.
  3. Weekly Game – don’t forget to have fun!  Tate’s teachers are doing an amazing job, but it is one video after PowerPoint after worksheet – and he’s bored! There is very little connection to the teachers or other students. Here are a few games to consider.
    1. Virtual Catch Phrase
    1. Virtual Jeopardy
    1. Draw Me (Students hold up drawings of vocab words and students guess their drawings)
    1. Charades

Also, the games don’t have to be virtual.  There could be scavenger hunt races, or Pictionary. Make it fun!

  • 1 on 1/ Small Group conferences – I know for my son, while he is sitting in front of the computer from 8:30- 4:00, there are still times when the teacher lets them go a few minutes early to finish work.  This is the perfect opportunity to create a small group within the platform you are using (or even 1 on 1) and have a 2 minute conference.  This is a great way to get to know your students.
  • Mail a Letter – How outdated, and how wonderful, right?! Does this take time? Yes.  Will it make your students’ days? Yes!
  • Drop a sign/gift bag – I love seeing the signs in my neighborhood that say “Your Teacher misses you!” or “Your teacher loves you!”. This sacrificial act from a teacher can make a world of difference.
  • Sidewalk Chalk on the Driveway – What a great, inexpensive way to connect. 
  • Interactive Journal – This is a great way to connect, get your students thoughts and feelings on certain topics, and acknowledge and respond to them.
  • Driveway Dance Party – I got this from my friend, Kecia Dennis.  She would drive by her students’ houses or apartments (she taught middle school) blasting music, and have a 2 minute dance party outside with her students!

Obviously, for the suggestions above that go into the neighborhood, go with someone, and make sure your administration approves. Remember that building an alliance, whether in person or virtually, takes time and effort, but pay dividends in the end!

Also as a reminder, here are a few things to avoid.

Things to remember when building an alliance:

  1. Don’t call students out in front of the entire class for missing assignments or low grades.
  2. Don’t take out your frustration for virtual learning on the students.
  3. Don’t take a lot of grades in the first few weeks of school if the virtual learning is temporary.
  4. Don’t assume that a lack of attention on the part of students sitting in front of a computer is rebellion. Imagine if you were sitting in front of a computer all day, not as the leader…it’s tough!

We are here to support you!

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AND…exciting news!  Podcast, Teaching By Reaching: Empowering Classroom Superheroes – coming THIS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4th!!

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