With virtual teaching and learning, there are a lot of cooks stirring the broth which begs the question who is doing it right?
The overall answer is no one and everyone at the same time.
As teachers everywhere navigate these new paths of remote learning and teaching, I believe we're all finding methods that work as well as methods that require revision.
Just like school as we know it, there's no one-size-fits-all or "just right." Instead there are many trends and overarching priorities that seem better than others.
What are those trends and priorities?
As in any successful teaching and learning situation, relationships matter. A positive relationship with those you teach and those you teach with matters the most. This relationship is the glue that brings the learning team of families, students, teachers, administrators, and community members together in positive ways.
Common Overarching Mission
I think it's important to revisit missions during this time and tweak those missions to include what works best in real time and online. As a learning community, we need to have a common overarching mission.
Realistic, Common Loose-Tight Parameters
We need to decide on what the common parameters and boundaries are for the work we do. Similar to parents, teaching is a limitless job, and to do any limitless job well, you have to set parameters related to hours in a day, time for face-to-face instruction, time for planning, reflection, and review, time for professional learning, and time for collaboration. These parameters provide structure to our days and a loose-tight path to successfully meeting our mission.
Room for Error
As with any new endeavor, we have to be prepared for error. We will make mistakes. With that knowledge, we need to create some rules to guide our work so that the errors are not grievous. For example, we have a protocol of two professionals on every virtual meeting. I think that's a wise protocol for virtual teaching and learning with young children. Rather than strike out at one another when errors are made, we need to use those errors as stepping stones to doing the work better. We have to be forgiving and helpful to one another.
Good work in schools depends on strong teams. The better we can identify teams and work as teams the better we will be able to support the students and families we serve.
Engaging, Meaningful Learning
Even more than in school as we know it, online learning has to be meaningful and engaging. If it's not interesting, guess what? Children simply won't show up. In that regard, we have to try out lots of different ways to engage, empower, and make the learning meaningful for children.
We need to have some expectations and accountability. There needs to be some baseline with regard to showing up, engaging in the learning, asking questions, advocating for one's self, and getting the support you need. Just exactly how we put those accountability measures in place is something I'm thinking about. Right now, I check to see who is doing the assignments and who is not. I alert families of students who are not keeping up and ask how I can help. I reach out to guidance and school administrators related to students who are not showing up at all to make sure they are safe and that we are helping them in ways that we can. I also tweak lessons and create new learning opportunities when I notice that a child hasn't grasped the skill, concept, or knowledge. I'm sure we'll have more to do in this regard as virtual school moves forward.
We've catapulted into the virtual sphere across the world when it comes to teaching and learning. Before this, we fell all along the continuum when it came to this endeavor. No doubt, this will impact schools, teaching, and learning in a large way going forward. I hope this event also positively impacts the way we help and strengthen communities in ways that elevate what we can do to promote strong, positive family and child respect, care, and supports. Strong communities and strong families support strong schools and visa versa. That to me is the positive challenge of this life changing pandemic event.