By Enrico Pelazzo
It’s a whole new world.
“One day we were in the classroom, where I often wished we could develop more on-line support for the curriculum, the next day we were teaching from home wishing we could be face to face. Be careful what you wish for.”
This comment came from Dane Holland who teaches in Wilmington, Delaware. Three quarters of the 2019 – 2020 school year were in the traditional classroom setting, but American teachers and students suddenly had to grapple with a whole new world of instruction when COVID-19 forced everybody online.
He added, “The most impactful element that made a rapid on-line transition successful, at least in our school’s case, is that we already knew the kids. We had been together, we knew personalities and we had trust. The simple conclusion I draw has to do with trust. Our students trusted our intent, and we trusted theirs. Online instruction is challenging enough, knowing your students remains a cornerstone to success in any environment.”
Rachel Perez of Fayetteville, North Carolina said, “ I agree most about the relationships. It’s so hard to establish those online. It was hard to maintain them with students I’d spent months getting to know. Building a good classroom culture online seems nearly impossible to me.”
Wendy Caluwe Davis who teaches in East Syracuse, New York has similar concerns. “If we start the new school year online or go online really early in the year it will be harder to build the trust and relationships with students that is really important. Having already had strong relationships and rapport with students in March they were more likely to buy in to what I was asking them to do.”
Effectively transferring curriculum to an online environment and building relationships with new students is going to require skills and strategies many teachers have never been exposed to.
Unfortunately, some districts will issue vague guidelines and expect teachers to figure it out on their own. But even if district-guided online instruction is carefully choreographed with the best intent and latest technology, every teacher saddled with a lab portion to their course is at a disadvantage from day one. There’s no at-home substitute for ninhydrin, microscopes, or staged crime scenes. Plus, neither you nor your students get the social benefits of working closely, and growing closer with each other every class period. No, Dorothy, you ain’t in Kansas anymore. This will be a whole new ball game with a whole new set of rules. Ignore it at your peril.
The sooner you accept, buy into, and adapt your curriculums to the crappy, stupid, new model of education COVID-19 has forced us into, the better your classes and your students’ experiences will be. No, it’s not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be fair, but it is going to happen. The only possible silver lining to all this is the inevitable sharing that will come from teachers who figure out ways to be successful. As more and more educators learn how to develop relationships with remote students these practices will spread throughout the teaching community like the virus that put us here in the first place. Some of those tips and strategies will come from coworkers, and some will come in the form of the obligatory professional development sessions every teacher dreads. However it happens we’ll figure it out.
Below you will find a number of helpful resources. The rest is up to you.
NOTE: At press time all of the links on this page worked perfectly. If you receive a 404 error (page not found) error, please cut and paste the URL into a different browser. If the problem persists, cut and paste the title into a Google search.