Keep This, Toss That After the Strangest Year Ever2
July 16, 2021 by Dr. Robbie Barber
This post is Week 6 of 8 in the #8WeeksofSummer Blog Challenge for educators. The prompt for this week is: What will you Keep/Lose/Try this coming school year?
Following the #StrangestYearEver, it is a serious question on what changes we make. We should make informed decisions on what is worth our effort and what isn’t. What we don’t want to do is create a scenario of even more work on the teacher. Yet, we should not go backwards. Not after all we’ve learned this year.
My Google Classrooms (or other LMS). We taught everyone how to find items in their classrooms, turn in homework online, receive feedback online. Don’t stop! And, please don’t make it a choice. Force students to continue to handle the online and know that you won’t lose a single paper.
Student email. We taught to find their district issued email. Keep using it. Make sure they log in daily to get their email. Do not let this skill go. And, please, provide more training to our students so that this tool does not become overwhelming. It is a life skill and we all need to learn and use the tool properly.
Some meetings online. (I hear you groaning now. 😫) Let’s think about it. The high school teacher-librarians in my district were able to meet monthly instead of once a semester. Yes, I want to see my colleagues in person. No, I don’t enjoy the large online meetings. BUT, I see an advantage to meeting for less than an hour once a month. Rather than the long, stacked emails, we can discuss or verbalize the issues better to each other in a meeting. I still want to see each other in person, and I will send out emails to ask or answer questions, but I found value in this online meeting.
I’ll also continue to email our Tissue Tabloid newsletter on Monday mornings. I will go back to printing copies for the bathrooms because that was it’s original intent. But I have enough teachers who enjoyed receiving it that I’ll send the email. AND, I’ll remind teachers they can DELETE the email to avoid loading up stuff they won’t re-read. Plus, it will also continue to be located on the Google Classroom Faculty Lounge.
Some meetings online. (I hear you cheering! 📣) If the faculty is in person in the school, let’s meet face-to-face. We need to see the body language lost online. Desperately. And, while we’re at it, stop recording every meeting online because you can. It’s ridiculous. If you miss the meeting, ask someone. Not everything needs to be recorded. Sheesh.
While we’re at it, let’s toss the concept that we can teach online students and face-to-face students at the same time in the same place. It does not work. If we need to teach online (and I have some teachers who were AMAZING at it), let’s get those specialist teachers to teach solely online and others to teach in-person. It is two very different sets of need in work and engagement, not to mention motivation.
Flipping more classes in multiple ways. I worked very hard last year on providing step-by-step written instructions (with images). This is my natural preference. But some students need to watch the video. Which means I need to make a video or find one and provide the links. I know how to (I’ve taught classes on making videos) but it is not natural to me. I need to get over myself and do the work. Providing more methods of learning will increase my sphere of influence and engage with more students. It’s that simple (and that hard)!
Try more…everything! Ask your teacher-librarian for books for your room so that students see them everywhere and can read when they’re done. Reading is a reward. Try a new online lesson plan or software. As a teacher-librarian, I try to curate online lesson plans and share with specific teachers or departments, as I learn their schedules and content.
I’ll admit that one of my major failures as a teacher-librarian is my hesitancy to do a book club. But I did one with the staff on the book Stamped! by Jason Reynolds. I have students who are interested in doing the same book. I need to find a way to organize book clubs and be available for students who are interested without staying after school every day. I’ll find a way to make it work.
This is an oversimplified list of keep/ lose/ try. What items are you desperate to keep in your teaching? And what are you desperate to lose? And, do your students agree with your choices? Ask your students what they want to keep / lose/ try. It might surprise you!
Dr. Robbie, what a great post. I have really tried to learn this lesson since the pandemic started about “what is worth our effort.” You have included some powerful things in your post, and I am going to share it with my vice principal as we are planning to do the simultaneous lessons next year–online and in-person. I have only heard that it is not really working for people. Thank you for your post.
The problem with simultaneous is the lack of body language in communicating and the lack of control over the online environment. While there are some (few) who could manage both, in general, neither the teachers nor students know how to react to both environments at the same time. Will siblings be interrupting the online student? How will the online student sit still for the whole class? Most students get up and move at least a little. If an online student moves, they’re off screen. Teaching online is very different. I recommend the book Small Teaching Online: Applying Learning Science in Online Classes by Flower Darby and James M. Lang.