This school year has been unbelievable.
Have you seen the series of videos Canadian Comedian Julie Nolke has done about talking to her past self?
To give context, I have been teaching remotely since the spring of last school year, first with my home school, and since September, with our School Board's Elementary Remote School. This year I am teaching a class of 31 Grade 6 students completely online.
What would I say, if I was talking to my past self...
1. HOLD ON...this is going to be a bumpy ride.
Hey past teacher self, if you thought the missed days, lack of extracurriculars & field trips, picket lines and general turmoil in education of the last school year was as bad as it could get, hold onto your marking pens, you are in for a bumpy ride. Never in a million years can you imagine that by this time next year you will be teaching completely remotely during a stay at home order, due to a global pandemic....that being said, don't panic. Although bumpy, you can do this.
2. CREATE ROUTINES & SET YOUR LIMITS.
Hey past teacher self, in the past you have proven you have sometimes struggled to clearly define your limits. You've pushed yourself to the point of exhaustion because you so desperately want to do your best for everyone, sometimes to the detriment of yourself. This year you will need to set those limits like never before in order to exercise self-preservation. You will also need to encourage your colleagues to do the same and advocate for those who are worried to speak up. Develop routines for yourself, your students and your family. Routines are safe and familiar. Post daily schedules in your online classroom, so students and parents know what to expect and you feel organized and grounded in a routine. Schedule daily or weekly Google Meet/Zoom calls with colleagues to debrief, commiserate and laugh...yes laugh!
3. GET OUTSIDE, MOVE, STRETCH & EXERCISE.
Hey past teacher self, I hate to tell you but your hockey league is going to be cancelled, as are your daughter's swim practices and your husband's baseball league. Being online full time you will need to move more than ever! Sign up for online exercise classes, go out for walks as a family or alone. Do some yoga, go for a jog! You need to get outside and move! You also need to encourage your students to do the same. Incorporate breaks into your regular class routine with opportunities to stretch, do yoga and dance. Talk to them about getting outside safely at the end of the day. Encourage them to do all of their school work during the time you give them in class, because homework is the last thing students need right now.
4. CAMERAS ON DOES NOT EQUAL ENGAGEMENT.
Hey past teacher self, you have always seen your students when teaching in person, that was a given...now let's talk about teaching in the 2020/21 school year. You might think having cameras on in a Google Meet or Zoom meeting would also be a given, but it is not. You will quickly realize that there are so many factors that prevent students from turning on their cameras. Of course you will invite them to turn their cameras on, and some will jump at the opportunity and feel safe and confident enough to do that, but many will choose to not use their camera. You may never actually see some of your most engaged learners. You will need to learn ways to measure engagement using the tools you have accessible to you. Google Meet Polls will become your friend. Choose the set ways you wish to communicate with your students, as too many methods can become difficult to track. You will be able to engage students without seeing them.
5. YOU NEED A TEAM & YOUR STUDENTS NEED A TEAM.
Hey past teacher self, you have always taken for granted the ability to walk next door and talk to a colleague. This school year, you will physically lose that ability, but you need to create those opportunities online. Meet with colleagues daily or weekly to collaborate. You will need to create content and activities like never before due to the new format. Join online teacher communities on Twitter and Facebook to share ideas and strategies. Share the load with a teaching partner (oh, and past teacher self, your teaching partner is online with you...so don't panic). As much as you need a team, so do your students. You will work with parents and families this year like never before. You will send messages when you are concerned or want to celebrate and appreciate their insight and responses. You will celebrate other staff members and administrators who pop into your Google Meet and strive to give your students a sense of community within your Remote School by having live streamed assemblies and school wide events.
What would you say to your past teacher self?
Those are just a few things I would say to my past teacher self...but I bet you have a list as well.
Stay Safe & Well Friends.
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Please follow along on my journey. I am an Ontario elementary school teacher who loves to learn new things! I love to share, collaborate and learn from others, so please keep in touch!