There are about 54 million students in America who normally walk through the door of a school, but they woke up and stayed home today. Teachers from over 118,000 schools, who normally prepare their lessons by using hand-on techniques and activities to strengthen their relationship, don’t have a classroom to go to. Still, each day, they stay committed and are teaching the best way they can. Since COVID-19 has forced schools to close, our communities, families, and teachers have had to find new ways to support their children, including homeschooling and online learning.
As schools begin reopening this fall, most schools are giving parents the choice of sending their children back to the classroom or doing virtual learning. Teachers now have to be prepared to do both kinds of teaching. Remember that this is a very disruptive time for students and parents in low-income communities. Many families don’t have financial security, health care, economic opportunities, and other resources and kinds of support. This could turn these extraordinary situations into ones that become impossible.
To all the parents and teachers trying to navigate this new way of life, just hang in there. Showing love is a huge lesson. We can rise to this challenge if we can learn to stand together and offer each other support and compassion. Share solutions and let us learn together as we navigate these new waters.
Here are some tips that can help you make the leap into online learning a success.
Get Rid of Your Perfectionism
This is a challenging time for everybody: students, families, and teachers. You aren’t going to have to create a whole online course. You are just problem solving to give access to learning for students in an online forum “at the last minute.” Never be afraid to dive in and learn something new with your students.
Think of Your Students as Equity of Access
Most of your students might not have access to a computer, tablet, or other devices that link to the internet. Some of them might not even have access to the internet. Remember that if they do have devices, they can access your course from their tablet or phones. Try to make sure that your learning platforms can be used on mobile devices.
It will also be useful to remember that your students might not be literate on the computer as older children. Their typing skills aren’t going to be that great either. Having longer completion times and flexible deadlines for any response that has to be typed can help fix these problems. Don’t forget the special education students either. We have to think about what it might look like to give the needed support and allow more flexibility in this new online environment.
Having Unique Teaching Skills Will Help You Online
Even though a lot of this experience is new, keep in mind that a lot of what makes excellent classroom teaching can be transferred into online learning. It is needed there, too. You can handle this: “Whatever makes you a great teacher inside a classroom can make you a great teacher in a virtual world, too.” If things get feeling too difficult, just remember:
- Create a set of goals you want your students to learn. Think about all the paths that a student could take to get to that goal. If it helps you, break it down into chunks to keep yourself from getting too overwhelmed.
- Just like you would in a typical classroom, stay transparent about your expectations, both online and academically. Give your students frequent feedback, giving them comments on assignments and checking in with them or their parents. Utilize all the chat features to keep students feeling supported, motivated, and on track. This is the best way to make sure your students have ways to ask questions if they get stuck while working on an assignment.
Students are going to need some extra pushes to remain engaged now more than ever. You have to promote metacognition in order to support their learning by asking questions that make them think.
Fuel Your Connections and Conversations in Different Ways
Your students have to be able to connect with one another, and you, in whatever way, might work best for all of you. You have to base this on your student’s platform, access, and age. You need to find ways that are creative to keep your students feeling connected by having them engage online with each other. Short videos, text-based chats, and comments are a few ways to fuel their conversations.
You could also try to structure your opportunities to minimize the amount of adult and teacher support. This can help boost their independence while giving their older siblings, guardians, and parents a chance to take a breather and focus on things other than schoolwork.
Use Various Platforms to Communicate with Families and Students
Post all announcements in different places, so your parents and students never miss any important information. Set reminders in chatrooms, text it, email it, or put it in the platform. You also have to make sure that families and students have various ways to get in touch with you. Give them your phone number and email address at the end of every communication.
Make a Social Media Account for Your Class
You can reach your families and students wherever they are. Do you realize that most of your students are probably on TikTok? Most of their parents are on Instagram. Think about creating a social media account for yourself and a private one for your families and students so you can post assignments, announcements, tips, mini videos, shout-outs, encouragement, and reminders.
Take the Time to Reflect and Be By Yourself
You are trying to learn how to use online platforms as a teacher, just like the students are learning ways to use them to learn with. You have to schedule some time to be by yourself to reflect on the ways this experience is going for your students and yourself. But just remember that no one expects you to be perfect. You can ask yourself some questions such as:
- How is the class doing emotionally, mentally, and physically?
- What can I do to make my student’s learning more meaningful, inclusive, and accessible?
- Am I learning anything about my students as they participate in my online classroom?
- Do I see any trends that my students are participating in, and what are some causes?
Ways Your Expectations Could Influence Your Student’s Performance
Every student is vulnerable to their teacher’s expectations. One study done in 1968 was the first to state that the expectation of a teacher, even if it was based upon something unimportant, could influence how well a child did in school. This practice is harmful and is more commonly known as the Pygmalion Effect.
All the academic hardships that they experience later in life could be connected to a lack of encouragement and motivation from their teachers while they were still in elementary school. If there aren’t any interventions implemented early, this could manifest itself into some learned helplessness later in life.
There are also the damaging comments that have been heard from teachers like: “Bobby doesn’t ever do his homework.” or “Barry is always causing problems.” or “Angela is always talking during class.” Rather than allowing any negative first impression to turn into permanent opinions, teachers could try to build an environment where each child is expected to succeed, challenged, and valued.
During my childhood, I can remember those teachers who were encouraging and pushed me to live up to my potential. I also remember the other teachers who focused their energy on the students who they thought were worthy of their attention, like children of business owners and professionals. It was the rest of the classroom who was destined to work at the local factory or fast food restaurant that was not worth their effort or time.
Teachers have to realize that even if a child is aggressive or has terrible manners, they still have potential. However, they may get on your nerves every now and then but don’t forget that you have to educate each child. You didn’t choose this profession; this profession chose you. You have to take a vow to change the world without allowing the horrible world to change you.
The study was done in 1968 originally thought that a teacher’s expectations act as a self-fulfilling prophecy since the student’s achievements will reflect their expectations. When teachers form healthy expectations, they can convey this through friendly and supportive actions, eye contact, and smiling. Lower expectations have been seen as obstacles for deprived students.
It is hard to get rid of biases that concern the abilities of disadvantaged students, but it is a crucial step toward educating the deprived youth effectively. Teachers have to enter the classroom, believing that every student can and will learn. When you lower your academic standards, and you give your students easy assignments, you are setting a stage for reduced achievements.
Teachers should never accept excuses for any poor performance, and they shouldn’t develop their expectations based on income, ethnicity, or other factors that don’t relate to the student’s performance.
“TESA or Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement”
This was created in the 70s by the Los Angeles County Office of Education. It is one of the best training programs that are available to administrators and teachers. This training tries to change a teacher’s behavior, not the student’s since most of the student’s success is based on how a teacher behaves. This isn’t a mistake. That sentence is very true.
The title of this program says it all: “Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement.” Knowing people will rise to any expectation that others might have of them has been around for many centuries. This means that whatever expectations a teacher might have of any of their students will influence how well the student does. If a teacher thinks that a student is a high achiever, then that particular student will achieve great things. If a teacher thinks that a student is a low achiever, the teacher will ask them easier questions subconsciously, and this causes the student to achieve a low level.
There is another example in wait time or latency. Teachers will wait for a longer amount of time for a student they believe to be a high achiever to answer. This will result in an answer that will be given in full sentences and more complex. With any lower achieving student, the teacher won’t wait as long for them to answer, and the student’s answer will be given in either one word or short phrases and won’t be as complex.
Even though teachers really don’t mean to do it, most teachers will:
- Let lower-achieving students sit in the back where they can easily be ignored.
- Spends 25 percent less time listening to low achieving students
- It seems like they give help to the low achieving students, but they actually provide more help to the higher achieving students
- Call on the high achieving students more than the low achieving students
- Give less time for girls or lower-achieving students than the high achieving students or boys.
- Ask more complex questions to high achieving students than the low achieving students.
The theory behind TESA is when you apply positive teacher-student interactions, you can raise academic achievements. Teachers shouldn’t mean to treat their students differently, but when they take the TESA workshop, there is usually a huge “AHA!” moment about how they have been treating their students and what they have expected them to achieve.
- TESA worries about quality and quantity interactions.
- TESA has been structured to make the teacher more aware of how they perceive and how these perceptions of their students can affect their expectations.
- TESA is based on a belief that the best way to make a change is to change ourselves.