The needs have changed for many. Therefore, the expectations have to change. Here are a few things to remember if you are teaching children in any capacity during 2020.
- This isn’t your students’ only year of school. Next year will come. More learning will happen. Yes, there will be a residual effect of 2020 for many years, and yes, I do think we will see an achievement gap broaden in many areas, but this year will pass, and next year will come.
- Adults are heightened. This weighs on kids. In the past week, I’ve felt frustration, fear, and anxiety. While I have pretty decent coping skills, I know my son has felt some of this. Have your kids? We cannot expect them to operate as if they are immune to the heightened emotions. Expect outbursts. Expect kids to be off task or distracted. Expect impulsive behavior. Expect the shut down. Adults are going through this right now. Kids are too. Address it, yes. But be ready for it, and address it in love and within the confines of calm and structure, and not out of frustration.
- Kids have missed Birthday parties, family events, vacation, and normal social interactions. This has a direct effect on their behavior in class, and therefore their learning. Whether you teach pre-K kids who have missed a very fundamental time in learning social interactions, or older kids who have missed out on the “normal” interactions that they are used to, their lives are now different, and they cannot be expected to act as if they are the same.
- Many students are still isolated. If you have students who are learning virually, it can be assumed that for many of these students, their interactions with other people are very limited. They may not be playing on sports teams, hanging out with friends, going to church, etc. Their brains are re-wiring to live in isolation. There can’t be the expectation that they will all be able to interact virtually.
I fully believe that unmet expectations are a key cause of overwhelm and burn out. So how do we manage expectations?
Here are 5 ways to keep things in perspective.
- Be confident in your ability as a teacher. Just because you may not be having the impact or reaching the students or bring about the learning that you normally do, do NOT let this impact your identity as a teacher. I’ve been in the midst of a multiple day virtual coaching time with several different schools, and I’ve had to talk several very frustrated and discouraged teachers off the ledge because they are used to being very dynamic teachers, and they are not feeling that way now.
- Give yourself time to learn a new skill. Brendon Burchard, whom many of you know I follow, states that no one is born an expert. It takes time and intentional learning. You are teaching in a brand new environment, with students dealing with brand new circumstances. Give yourselves time and grace to become the expert in 2020. Time to learn technology, safety procedures, how to connect with students in new and different ways, how to motivate over a computer – there’s a lot of trial and error happening. You have to let yourself try, maybe fail, and then work around it again without getting super frustrated or feeling like a failure.
- Tune in to where your students are, and meet them there. Are they easily distracted? A 20 minute video probably isn’t a good idea. Are they overwhelmed? 6 assignments a week may be overkill. Are they living in fear? Make your classroom, whether virtually or face to face, a fun (yes – FUN) and safe place to be. **As a side note, I’ve talked to several teachers who, depending on the model for virtual learning, have over 200 kids on their class rosters. Obviously this is dang near impossible to connect with each one. For the students who are reaching out, on every call, asking questions – pour into them. For the rest, try to use data to drive the direction you go with instructions. For example, if 30% of your kids turn in work, why did 70% not? Try not to blame the kids. Did they not understand the directions? Did they not find the work relevant? Are they bored? Are they confused? If you can help solve any of these problems, you may get more engagement – HOWEVER, reach out to those you can, pour into those who are present, and find joy and connection with those who are showing up.
- Set attainable goals. Break the “normal” skills into smaller goals. Students may need more background information, more repetition, more relevancy. Focus on foundational skills. Reading. Basic computation. Main ideas in social studies. Set daily learning objectives that give students something attainable to achieve, lowers the affective filter, gives them ownership of their learning, and keeps the instruction on track.
- And most importantly, make CONNECTION the #1 priority – in notes, feedback on papers, individual conversations, phone calls, emails, telling jokes, playing games, giving compliments, celebrating small successes, acknowledging hard things…Do what you can as you can.
“The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters. The hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters everyday.” – Todd Whitaker
I’m going to keep sharing this quote with you, because it’s true!
We appreciate you!
If you are looking for easy-to-implement strategies to implement right now – virtually and in socially distanced classrooms, we also have our YouTube Channel: Jenn Kleiber
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Thank you for loving kids!
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