Our Students Need Us
Today marks two weeks away from students. It is in stark contrast to last week, where I found myself lost without them. How would we approach teaching, without the classroom? Students taught me a few things this week, and reminded me of what my experience should have enlightened me to.
The number one thing we can do right now is connect with our students.
If you find yourself at a loss about what to do next — wondering how to approach that next lesson or unit. Stop. Connect with your students. At the end of last week, I gave my students a survey via Google Forms. I asked them what they liked, didn’t like, what they needed and how they were. It yielded results that were surprising, heartwarming and reminders of what I should have known all along. If you can meet with them via Zoom for Google Meet, do it. If you can’t, use Google Forms, or even Google Docs to share a message and elicit feedback. Post videos of yourself doing ordinary things. They miss us as much as we miss them.
Some students had family members who were sick. Many wanted to know how my family and I were doing. Most wanted more of one of the assignments we had done — a collaborative Google Form where we had the opportunity to read about all of the helpers in one another’s lives. It helped me to know that the virus had encroached on some students’ lives. As much as we are in uncharted territory, we are in the same space we have always occupied – a place of comfort to our students. Their feedback guided my instruction for this week. I will do the same for next week.
Don’t be afraid. At this point, what could possibly scare us about teaching?
Having met with my students on Nearpod, earlier in the week, for a great experience on current events, I had the smartidea of doing a Kahoot game to practice this week’s vocabulary. Five minutes before the session, my co-teacher reminded me that the game required a Smart Board, in a classroom. I said, “You know what? I can’t let these kids down. I promised I would do this with them.” It failed. Big time. The students could not see the available choices to answer the questions. I invited them to have fun and guess. During each question, I posted who was ahead in the Google Classroom. I told them whomever stuck it out to the end would earn a prize. Four students held. I went on Amazon and had prizes shipped to their homes. Did they learn their new vocabulary words? No. But it was a lesson on confronting failure head on.
Make your own commitment to them.
With or without my classroom, I am committed to doing what is best for my students. At the end of last week, I thought carefully about what my students needed from me. First, they needed me to acknowledge the work they were submitting to me. I told students and their families I would interact with all work submitted to me. That meant providing feedback, and giving the student credit for his or her work. Second, they need to interact with me. While we are not permitted to meet with students via videoconferencing, I can post videos. I can create what I call “Live Events” for us to meet via Nearpod or Quizziz so we can come together at different times throughout the week. I post everything on Monday so students can plan accordingly. I remain steadfast in my commitment to assess what students need and find a way to provide it. That has always been my mantra.
Respect where we are.
Everything I am doing with students respects one certain truth – we are in unprecedented times. What we do with them right now needs to respect and honor where they are, find out what they need, and devise ways to give these things to them. Just like we did, when we were in the classroom. Right now, we have the opportunity to cultivate experiences for all of our students that make the best of the situation we are in, while continuing the love and support we delivered in the classroom. In many ways, this time is the gift of a lifetime. A chance to grow in our practice, and learn more about our students.
With the virus breathing down our necks, possibly impacting those we love, and challenging every aspect of life as we knew it, I hope it is possible to see the light when it seeps through the cracks.