By Jorge Valenzuela
With schools and educators currently navigating the impact of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) to daily life and the instructional day — it appears as if American schools will need to acclimate to the reality of at-home learning for the remainder of the school year.
For many of our educators , an abrupt disruption to the classroom has caused increased stresses as they rally with colleagues to curate resources for keeping their students safe, nourished, informed, and academically inclined throughout this challenging time.
As usual, the education community has rallied together to provide schools and parents open access to the right digital tools for organizing both learning and schedules during the newly found time at home. In fact, a team of colleagues has even formed the Facebook Group #HomeEdConnect to offer weekly challenges and grade-level specific tasks that families can complete together over the course of a week; they even incorporate Wednesday check-ins with experts, fellow teachers, and parents for support. Despite the fact that relevant tools are readily available for educators, the current conditions and climate still negatively impact their certainty over the academic success of their students — not to mention their own emotional and physical well-being.
COVID-19 has riddled us with the above-mentioned challenges and confined us momentarily to our homes either by ourselves or with our families/roommates. Here are three things we as educators can do to use this limited time to reboot and level-up both personally and professionally.
- Communicate with Students and Their Families
As teachers, we are naturally advocates for our students, and no one has to ever tell us about the plight and conditions of our most vulnerable kids — particularly those furthest from opportunity.
At times like this, worrying about our students is amplified even though we are required more than ever to practice social distancing. For our own sanity — keeping the lines of communication open can provide vital assistance to our students and their families. My recommendation is to keep tabs and remain in touch (through a district-approved messaging app/website) while honoring our local government’s response to coronavirus outbreaks in order to communicate the following pertinent items:
- COVID-19 checklist for parents
- Locations to local food banks and medical care
- Recommendations, resources, and tips for families
- District approved digital learning resources
- Help students self-manage with this nifty ‘daily schedule’ by ASCD board member Dr. Neil Gupta and this ‘home learning schedule’ by PBLWorks National Faculty Kiffany Lychock
- Reboot Yourself
Think of rebooting yourself in the same way you would a computer. The purpose of the reboot is to enhance the system’s performance by getting it back to where it was in its initial power-up. The key here is to understand that a reboot isn’t meant to change the purpose of the computer; it does change how the computer is currently functioning. And the same way machines can get slow and perform at less than optimal performance — so can humans.
Rebooting works best when we remove ourselves (voluntarily or involuntarily) from our daily routine or a difficult situation. Although teaching and its preparation is ‘heart work’ — it is also ‘hard work’ and very demanding. As a result, our own self-care often takes a backseat to it, and so do our families. Therefore, being confined to our homes for the next few weeks due to COVID-19 can be leveraged for some much-needed self-care and family time. Here are some recommendations for a successful reboot:
- Do nothing for a couple of days (or as needed) and rest as needed daily
- Reflect on personal items of concern and devise an improvement plan(s) (i.e., diet, exercise routine, mental health, relationships, etc.)
- Strengthen bonds with those you live with (relatives and friends)
- Spend quality time with pets
- Read and make time to catch up on your favorite show(s)
- Explore a hobby or develop a new one
- Plan your next trip
- Level Up Your Teaching
Learning has no finish line — even for educators! Having the time to improve our practice without many interruptions is a blessing and as all teachers know — time is a downright luxury! Luckily for us, several organizations for education are providing teachers with FREE PD in response to COVID-19.
To maximize our personal learning during this time, I recommend categorizing our areas of focus to either design and planning or delivery of instruction. Here are a few suggestions for leveling up:
- Enhance or plan a new PBL unit with this handy project planner, design elements check list and rubric by PBLWorks
- Explore a new Free course in the Teach Better Academy on how you can implement best practice strategies from a distance in the classroom with educator Rae Hughart.
- Dive into a plethora of FREE COVID-19 Resources curated by the ISTE STEM PLN
- Explore Discovery Education’s free access options in in response to COVID-19
- Check out education resources I am personally curating and updating for both teachers and parents
For many of us, the challenges of COVID-19 are new, unexplored, and very scary. However, our teachers prove on a daily basis, that there isn’t anything we can’t do either individually or collectively! This too shall pass — so let’s use the upcoming weeks to reboot and become better for those we serve — including ourselves!