When it comes to connecting with children, teachers are the experts. It's more important now than ever to place value on teachers and all they are doing to stay connected to students and to keep them engaged with online learning.
It gives me great pleasure to provide a weekly online blog for Big Ideas Learning and National Geographic Learning. We will continue to provide support to teachers, parents, and students at this unprecedented time. Teaching now is not like anything we have ever known. Schools have shut down globally and our classrooms have moved quickly from our school and classes to our homes throughout the world. Together, we continue to navigate new ways to teach our students in meaningful and purposeful ways with remote learning.
It has been a scary time for across the globe. As your school year comes to an end in the USA, here in Australia, our school year has just begun. Either way, we need to make decisions on the most impactful ways that we can connect to our students and teach them the content of the school curriculum, whatever stage of the school year it may be. The nature of connection and conversation, including reading body language, posture, tone, and the demeanor of our students can be challenging when we do not see them in person daily. We cannot make judgements to move the pace of the lesson faster or slower based on your professional read of the room through body language, eye contact (or lack of), level of engagement and interaction.
Last week, I wrote about teaching with clarity and purpose. In this blog, one suggestion I mentioned was refraining from speaking for the entire lesson as research continues to tell us that teachers often speak for most of the lesson and often, the pace is too fast for students to process effectively. Funny enough, I have noticed that some teachers have moved from a very high level of classroom monologue to not talking much at all online. Some are providing a small set of instructions and leaving students to self-manage the lesson that has been prepared for them and remaining either online or accessible by email. Some schools have provided online videos that have been pre-prepared, packs of work sent home, or live streamed online via Zoom, Teams, or Google Classroom. Whichever way your school has gone, it is essential to have clarity in what you expect the students to do and they understand your expectations. Where possible, connecting to students and staying online with them is advisable. Connection with others allows for regular check-ins and support throughout the lesson.
This week, my children started their online learning from home. It was fascinating to listen in and then ask them what their preference was. I have one child who is in Grade 7 and another in Grade 9. They were very excited about online learning from the comfort of home but have found the lack of connection without their peers difficult. They love school, but the shift to learning in their new space at home has been challenging. Their quickly found that attending school from home was not as fun as they thought it should be because they were exhausted from managing their day without the usual school routine and their friends. Their teachers have been amazing as they continue to navigate teaching in different ways. I have enjoyed hearing their voices and seeing my children smile when they are connected to school again. It’s during this unprecedented time that I think we’re all about to experience the expertise in our profession come alive online.
This week, I have included #teachersrock in the title of this blog. I used this hashtag in a very proud teaching moment, not in my classroom that celebrated our teaching profession globally. A few years ago, I was on a plane when the pilot asked if there was a teacher on board. The call was for a teacher was to assist a boy with down syndrome get back into his seat as the plane was descending. As a teacher, I proudly stood up to assist and the story went viral. It was a proud teacher moment for me, but also for all teachers. I was able to speak on behalf of all teachers globally on NPR and other media to feel proud of our profession and our expertise.
At the time that the plane incident occurred, the thing that stuck with me was how surprised the other passengers were with the way I interacted with Shamran, the young boy with Down Syndrome. The young doctor behind Shamran told his wife that he didn't know what to do when the young boy initially would not move off the floor. All teachers would have interacted in the same way that I had. They would have made a connection with him, made him feel safe to move back to his seat, all the while staying with him as he became less anxious about the situation that he felt uncomfortable about being in.
I said then and continue to emphasize that this is what teachers do every day. They adapt and assist students in any capacity, and I see this occurring right now, all over the world in this global pandemic, COVID-19. Together, we aim to make our students feel safe, start learning again, and feel less anxious about this new situation. We hope to do the same with you as teachers, too.
I have spoken directly to many teachers that feel overwhelmed as they work to ensure that their students are learning. Teachers are finding any way they can to ensure that their students are safe and nurtured at this time. As the school year is coming to an end in the United States, or in Australia, where the school year has just begun, teachers are navigating the school year. Teachers are prioritizing and continuously evaluating what needs to happen to reach all of our students and provide them with connection and learning growth is at the forefront of our minds and hearts.
Teachers are highly skilled professionals that have learned how to do their job effectively. Teachers start their professional training at university (or equivalent) and continue to learn and develop on the job and through ongoing professional development. Teachers never stop learning. Teachers must never underestimate the strength and skill of teaching, especially now.
I hope that you have had a chance to explore some of the tools provided or the ideas in my previous blogs. Please reach out on Twitter @sophmurphy23 at any time if you would connect. If you have any questions or areas that you would like to know more about, please get in touch, I would love to hear from you.
Next week, I will be bringing my children, Poppy and Charlie, into my video to discuss making connections with Minecraft and Math.
Stay safe and I look forward to connecting with you soon. #TeachersRock