Wednesday, March 25, 2020

5 Teacher Tips to Save Your Sanity During Distance Learning | Distance Learning Series #2

This post is second in a series on distance learning. If you missed the first installment, all about connecting with students, check it out here!
Shifting mid-year from traditional schooling to distance learning is certainly not something we ever thought we would have to prepare for as educators. There are so many questions and unknowns as we enter these uncharted waters!

I served on the Continuous Learning Task Force for my district as we figured out how to move forward for the remainder of this school year. Here are the five main things I took away.

1. Less is More
I have been repeating this often to myself over the last week or so; it's becoming my new mantra. "Less is more." Focus on the "meat" of your lessons and standards, and don't worry about the fluff. What is it absolutely essential for kids to know by the end of the year? What will they need to master before entering the next grade level? Focus on those things.

2. Keep it Simple
Don't try to learn every new platform and program. I know that I have been inundated with emails and advertisements from every education platform and website, all touting why they're the best for at-home learning, or how they are offering free subscriptions right now. Some of them sound amazing! It is tempting to try to learn and do them all. I appreciate these companies stepping up and helping teachers and parents, but it is all overwhelming. I am going to continue using platforms and programs that I have already been using, and with which my students and their parents are already familiar. We are already having too much new stuff thrown at us; we don't need to add in one more thing to figure out and adjust to.

3. Be Flexible
Some people are having a hard time wrapping their minds around this new approach to teaching, and are thinking they need to have a strict classroom schedule with live lessons at set times. That's just not realistic. Many teachers have young children at home who are going to run screaming through the room during a live lesson, or who will need to be online completing their own assignments. Many students will still be at daycare during the day and will need to complete assignments in the evening, or complete several days worth of assignments in one day. One of the beautiful things about distance learning is that it can be worked around family schedules. Give yourself--and your students--a lot of grace. Everyone is doing the best they can.

4. Be Available
While being flexible, it is important that you are available to your students and parents. Distance learning is not "set it and forget it". You cannot upload assignments for the week and then enjoy a week of "paid vacation". Students and parents will have questions and need assistance. Students will miss you and want to connect with you. You might choose to schedule some live videos or lessons so that you can connect with students, but make sure to record them and upload them to your chosen platform so that all students can access them later.
Many districts are recommending set office hours. This can be difficult to achieve for those of us who have littles at home, but make sure you are checking your email, messages, etc. multiple times a day and responding promptly. You are still their teacher, and you still have an obligation to give them a quality education.

5. Set Boundaries
Being available does not mean that you are obligated to respond to parent emails and phone calls at 10:00 pm or on weekends. If you choose to do that because it works for you and your schedule, great! Just remember that you are not constantly on-call, and it is okay to set aside personal time when you are not available. If you need to schedule a set lunch and planning time during the day in order to ensure you don't get burnt out, do it. Whatever works for you, just don't forget to take care of yourself. You can't pour from an empty cup.

Stay tuned for more tips on distance learning, and remember to breathe. We will get through this together! Even in the midst of the unknown, keep teaching with heart and passion!

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