Two weeks ago I asked my students to respond to the prompt I am researching ______ because I want to ______. We were beginning to narrow our topics, issues and interests in order to focus on a research question. I am starting my day with the same exercise I had given my students, responding to the prompt in this way: I am researching online learning because I want to make sure that all of my students are successful in their courses this semester. I cannot simply put all of my learning experiences and assessments online. I must learn about my new classroom. While I will be teaching the same students as before our schools were closed, the needs of these students have changed. Everything about this phase is new. Teaching Tolerance has reminded me that my work at this stage is to ensure the well-being of my students and their families, and to provide daily encouragement (Valdez Gonzalez, 2020).
The quality of my lessons directly correlates with my ability to think clearly and keenly about the learning objectives for my classroom (Saphier, Haley-Speca, & Gower, 2008, p. 371). Schools in Maryland are closed for two weeks until March 27. This two-week period is “phase 0” of my new unit; during this phase the first learning objective in my classroom is students will be able to meet their needs for personal and family well-being. The second learning objective is students will be able to respond to remote learning opportunities with focus and persistence. During phase 1, I will begin implementing research-based online learning strategies, but until my school system communicates guidance for how we will proceed after March 27 my daily lessons will be shaped by these two objectives.
According to The Urban Institute (Kuehn, 2020) we are entering a “service-sector recession” that will affect the economic stability of my students’ families. My district parent portal provides the mechanism for communicating with my students, their parents and guardians. This will be my primary method for communicating with families, but not knowing the individual circumstances of the 140 students that I teach each day I cannot depend on the parent portal alone. My first classroom activity: reaching out and obtaining a response from each of my students. This communication line can then be used to begin achieving the learning objectives.
Our futures are in one another’s hands.
REFERENCES AND NOTES
Kuehn, D. (2020, March 17). The COVID-19 Recession Will Be Different [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/covid-19-recession-will-be-different
Saphier, J., Haley-Speca, M. A., & Gower, R. R. (2008). The skillful teacher: Building your teaching skills (6th ed.). Acton, MA: Research for Better Teaching.
Valdez Gonzalez, M. (2020, March 17). A Healthy Reminder to Educators During School Closures. Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/a-healthy-reminder-to-educators-during-school-closure