Let me give you two scenarios that I heard this past week in coaching:
Coaching Meeting with Teacher A:
Me: How’s it going?
Teacher A: Great! I mean, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but my lessons are really planned out for me. I just spend my time on the phone with kids. I make a lot of phone calls and they call me when they have a question.
Me: How do you feel like the virtual learning is going?
Teacher A: I mean, I don’t have anything to compare it to. The kids have a lot of questions about the content. I don’t think they are really learning much from the videos, but once we talk about it, they seem fine. I have some kids who just aren’t turning in work or showing up, but most of my kids are.
Me: How many kids do you have?
Teacher A: Close to 200. Oh hold on one sec, a kid is calling me. “Hey Matt! Hows it going, bud?” Matt: Good, Mr. T. How are you? Teacher A: “I’m good, Man. Can I call you back in just a few minutes?” Matt: Sure. Thanks.
Coaching Meeting with Teacher B:
Me: Hi! How’s it going?
Teacher B: I mean, it’s going. I spend my time cracking the whip.
Me: Oh ok. What does that mean exactly?
Teacher B: Why aren’t you turning in work? You’re missing 5 assignments. You’re kid is going to fail. You’re kid could pass but he needs to turn in work. No one shows up. No one turns any work in.
Me: Ah gotcha. So how many kids do you have?
Teacher B: About 150.
Me: Ok, so what about the students who are showing up. Do you feel like they are learning?
Teacher B: No, you don’t understand. No one shows up. Look. (Shows me his phone). I’m on a zoom call right now and no one is there.
I honestly was thinking to myself – I mean, I don’t really want to be talking to you right now. I can definitely see why teenagers aren’t reaching out.
Here’s my question. What is the goal? The first teacher, who is a brand new teacher, had the lessons planned out for him. So his goal became getting to know the students however he could. He didn’t even know how to really measure their learning, but kids were reaching out and asking questions because he had spent his time connecting.
Teacher B had a different goal: Turn work in. His conversations were built solely on getting the students to turn work in and get a grade. He wrote off building a connection because of the way the system is set up right now (not ideal – I’m with him on that), but moved right to the goal getting students to turn work in and pass.
Teacher B is a seasoned, experienced teacher.
Teacher A is brand new.
In which class do you think more learning will occur?
One of the ways we talked about in the previous blog of shift expectations for 2020 is to tune in to where your students are, and meet them there.
Are your students 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.
Assume your students want to do well, but something is hindering them. Assume that without a connection – a reason other than grades to show up – that most kids won’t show up. Give yourself grace. Give your students grace. Set reasonable expectations, and get creative with connections.
Thank you for loving kids!
And remember, if you want some easy-to-implement strategies, check out our new YouTube Channel: Jenn Kleiber.
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