Help for Emergency Remote Learning

Tweet from Mom about her child pretend "paying attention" on a Zoom class

Teachers all over the world, and particularly here in the United States, were asked to implement “online learning”, in many states for the entire remainder of the school year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.  However, what we’re asking teachers & students to do should not rightfully be called ‘online learning’, ‘distance learning’, or ‘virtual learning’ because all of those things are intentional and planned. Instead, what we are asking should be called emergency remote learning (term coined by A.J. Juliani). I’m reminded of a quote I saw about the term ‘working from home’:

You are not ‘working from home’, you are at home during an emergency trying to work.

The distinction is important.  All of us are dealing with SO MUCH right now.  Adding such a massive change in our teaching, learning, and working style is bound to cause stress and we all need to acknowledge that. This is not normal. We are all trying to adapt (students included — as seen from the title image, some students are adapting better than we want them to! *smile*).  Grace is required.

The grace needed in this new reality is what I want to discuss in this blog. Specifically, I want to offer some help (tips, thoughts, mantras) for this new reality and in particular for teachers who are engaged in emergency remote learning for the first time (because it’s the first time for all of us going through this).

As I’ve written many previous blog posts about the benefits of educational technology (like this one) and how we (teachers) can improve our practice by effective use of appropriate instructional technology tools (like this one), I felt like a post on the new normal we all find ourselves in was warranted.  Now granted, I know many people have already written about this (examples are in the references section), but I wanted to add my voice.  I’m also aware that, as of this late date in April, many of you have already been “in this” for weeks or months now.  So, think of this as both permission and help:  permission to accept if things are not going as great (or as fast) as you’d originally planned and help to move forward as this is likely going to be our new reality (some experts say for the next 1 - 2 years).

Here are my suggestions for you and your students during this extraordinary time:

  • Slow Down (One recent school district found that they needed to double the amount of time they’d originally planned for instruction / projects.  So, something that they’d originally thought of as a six-week unit is now a 12-week unit.)
  • Prioritize relationships (Given the choice between completing the curriculum, ‘covering’ that last topic, or having all of your students finish every assignment and ensuring that your students still enjoy learning, still trust you care about them, and still believe in their own abilities — choose the relationship! No one is “falling behind” when we are all here in the same place.  Everyone is “losing” this time, so that means we are all equal.  Maintain your relationships above all else.)
  • Maintain that (human) connection (Despite crazy hair, untidy houses, and background noises, try to turn on your video at least once a week and interact person to person (screen to screen) with your students.  That human connection is important.  Probably the MOST important thing.  Also allow for a few minutes during each virtual session for just sharing “life”, checking in, and asking how everyone is doing.  These human touches are critical during this time of stress to show your students that you care about all of them, not just their content knowledge.)
  • Enjoy nature (Yay sunlight! Get outside. Take a walk.  Plant something. Listen to the birds.)
  • Keep moving (Physically!  Use a timer and take a 5-min stretch or exercise break for every hour you are sitting in front of your computer.  Use a standing desk.)
  • Just get there (Like the parents traveling with small children, your ONLY goal is ‘to arrive’ — see more from the article given in the refernences section.  Yes, many can thrive in this environment, but it is ok if you are not one of those people (or if your students are not).  Instead, focus on just getting there — get to the end of your school year with your sanity and your relationships intact and count the win!)
  • Get creative (make art, listen or create music, dance, write)

Below is just one example of wonderfully creative & artistic items that you can use, either for yourself as a mental break (#musictherapy) or for your students as a tiny moment of joy into their lives and work. Maintain the fun!

I hope this post helps you be easy on yourself, be understanding and gracious towards your students, and be filled with the belief that we are all doing our best and we will get through this.  Also, for those of you who were never a fan of teaching online, I hope this experience does not convince you to write it off completely.  This is not indicative of what the online learning environment is, so once we’re on the other side of this, please give it another chance (and let me know if I can help you!).

Lastly, remember to go a little deeper than the surface when you check in with people (including students).  Here is a great article that gives a list of questions that can replace the standard, “How are you doing?” I also want to mention that all of my tips also apply to pastors, ministers, clerics, rabbis, and any other religious leader trying to offer worship and maintain connections via virtual options.  Try to focus on the essence of what you want to maintain / convey and let all the rest go.  Your flock will appreciate it!

As always, I'd love to hear from you.  Especially, I would love to hear if you have any additional tips to offer, or if you have other comments about this blog post! Stories of emergency remote learning (successes or failures) are also always welcome!

References:

Link for EdWeb (a great resource!)

Article “Only Goal is to Arrive”

Post “New Reality”

A great “song” about Emergency Remote Learning :-)

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Author:  Dr. Diana S. Perdue

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