Updated: Dec 31, 2021
A few months ago, we knew that a hot topic on our blog would be tips for teachers that were going from digital to in-person learning. That blog did get a good number of hits, but now we find ourselves getting ready for digital learning, yet again. As Omicron spreads, so does the potential for more virtual schooling. Let’s prepare.
First, prepare mentally. Understand that school administration and all leadership are trying to save lives. While education is important, it is fairly hard to educate someone when you are dead. For some, it’s impossible. Virtual learning saves lives as difficult as we may find it. Also, understand that it may not be as frustrating this time as most students (except for our Kinder and Pre-kinders) probably know the drill of virtual learning by now. The second (or third) time of doing something is usually always easier.
Once you have mentally prepared yourself, it is time to prepare your students. Starting talking now about the procedures for virtual learning. Make sure you are clear that no decisions have been made, and you are only speaking “just in case" scenarios. Tell students the importance of getting a good education, and it is up to them, ultimately, if they get a quality education at home. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes. In the same way we prepare students to take “important test,” we should prepare them for the possibility of going back to virtual learning. You can also make it clear that you aren't just speaking of this school year, or the upcoming months, but virtual learning in general. In fact, before the pandemic, one study shows that over 50% of college students took at least one online course. Therefore, I argue that we should look at this as training for something they will likely experience later in life anyway; education and the world as a whole will be much more “virtual” when our students are as old as we are.
You could also start reviewing the technology needed to have a successful virtual class. Make sure students know how to log on, access, communicate and generally use all of the apps and websites that you would use in case we go back to “at home learning.” The time it takes to do this may seem like a waste, but when you spend countless minutes trying to teach the technology through a computer screen (“click over there; no over there! Just let me share my screen. Wait, don’t press that), you will come to realize that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In other words, you’ll actually be saving yourself from heartburn later.
Are your lesson plans fitted to virtual teaching and learning? Now may be a good time to take a look, and at least mentally think through how you can teach your upcoming standards virtually. Start the conversation with your teammates. Recall what went well and what went well…not so well last time (we won't call it a dumpster fire). How can you improve the lessons? What are the needs of all of your students? In other words, how are you going to differentiate instruction if you are teaching from home? Be sure to have that conversation with your co-teachers as well.
Use the resources that you have. I always tried not to rely too heavily on materials from TpT or even textbooks, but this is a time where we may use those resources more often than we normally would. With all of the stress that we have going on, this is probably not a good time to overburden ourselves unnecessarily. Additionally, we can always adapt the material to make it more rigorous, more simple, more whatever. I would say don’t be a hero, but you already are, so I’ll say even heroes need help. Look at it like Robin to your Batman.
This post seems to be filled with old adages and such, and here’s another: keep calm and carry on. Isn’t this the motto of every teacher, everywhere? Teachers are the most adaptable professionals you will probably ever meet. Somewhere on the Twitter verse, I saw a tweet that said teachers make more second-to-second decisions than brain surgeons. While I have not seen that study, it makes sense to me. Therefore, we can do this. We have. We will. We’re in it together.
And as a related side note, I have an episode called "Long Term Effects of Covid on Students" . We talk to Mr. Pat Watson, Superintendent of Schools in a district in Michigan. Give it a listen, and share it with an educator or parent.