As schools return to the ‘new normal’ in September, take a look at these top virtual learning tips to help you prepare and be there for your students, in case we encounter further national or local lockdowns over the winter months.
As educators adapt to virtual learning, it’s apparent that 2020 has already earned its spot in the history books. The world is grieving together as future memories, celebrations, routines, and lives have been lost. While data reports and world leaders’ messages changed week to week, one thing became very clear: people would not be returning to their normal lives quickly.
For educators, that meant embracing a profession that is drastically different than the one they signed up for. Teaching is relationship-centred, but over the spring term many educators spent hours a day talking to their screens instead of interacting with students. Even for schools that relied heavily on technology, some educators still struggled to support students and reestablish virtual learning norms.
At a time where everyone is getting ready for the start of a new academic year, it is important for educators to revisit and consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to make the most of remote teaching, just in case we experience further lockdowns as a result of Covid-19.
Focus on students, not standards to make the most of virtual learning
Students may be concerned about their health and safety. They may be feeling the financial strain of unemployed parents or the lack of connection with their classmates. They’re wondering what subject lessons, examinations and, academic and work experiences will look like in the forthcoming months.
Students are grieving about the loss of their interpersonal connections, not the missed class time working on fractions or writing an essay.
At a time of uncertainty, it was essential for educators to be flexible—and you were. If a student logged in to one of three offered virtual meetings—brilliant. Another might only have completed half of their assignments. No problem. Teachers pushed their old academic expectations aside and met students where they were.
Many families were juggling multiple schedules, not to mention multiple devices, and working with a limited amount of time and space. For a lot of students, it wasn’t that they were refusing to do the work, but simply couldn’t due to reasons outside of their control.
Going forward, one way to respect their emotional needs is to pivot from correction to praise. The ‘magic 5:1 ratio’ theory is that for every correction, five positive comments, statements, or compliments are given. Educators should consider only identifying student successes in virtual meetings in order to model positive interactions.
Additionally, this will prompt other learners to behaviourally and academically follow suit. Intentionality recognising the positive will in turn build a more productive, motivational, and supportive online community for all students.
Recreate school routines with home in mind
Schools and classrooms run on schedules, and students, although they may not care to admit it, crave structure and predictability. In fact, consistent routines are not only comforting to students and families, but can also support positive social behaviours and prevent negative ones from arising.
By making and sticking to a routine, students will regain some feeling of control—a feeling that many people are searching for. It’s crucial to try to set standards for what a socially-distanced classroom will look, sound, and feel like, and to determine how much teaching could be accomplished via bubbles versus how much could be individual study leveraging technology used in the spring term.
The virtual classroom is no different, and every student should feel heard, respected, and supported within that digital space. Creating routines and boundaries will help solidify these sought-after feelings and enhance academic, mental health, and emotional wellbeing.
Another ally to set these routines are students’ families. Communicating new expectations to parents is an additional layer of support for educators and families alike.
Teachers want their rules to be reinforced, and many parents may feel like they’re drowning if they have to navigate homeschooling again. Encourage families to set up a home schedule that embodies the familiar school expectations.
Encourage self-management and emotional regulation
As stated above, settling into a routine promotes a person’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. One by-product of setting virtual learning expectations is helping students practice self-management skills, such as changing out of pyjamas for video chats and sitting up, not laying down on a bed or sofa, while completing schoolwork. Promoting these expectations gives students a sense of normalcy and can lead to conversations about social thinking and social norms.
But teachers shouldn’t rely on students only learning these soft skills inadvertently. Educators should intentionally consider the students’ social and emotional needs while lesson planning.
One way to be an empathetic educator is to allow students to ease into virtual meetings by giving them time to connect with peers.
If a class is content-driven and on a time crunch, allotting even ten minutes for students to greet one another, share favourite items in their home, or discuss how they are spending their time will lead to a more focused and connected environment.
It’s essential to give students the opportunity to participate, but equally important to not force it upon them. Some students may not want to verbally engage during vulnerable times, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t continue practicing self-regulation.
If you’re a senior leader or careers leader, you won’t want to miss our thought-provoking and inspirational webinar!
Joined by our amazing guest speaker, Sara Milne Rowe of Coaching Impact and author of The SHED Method,
we’ll provide you with a few simple steps that you can practice to be your best self in the classroom with your students.
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