Is the plane crashing?

Have you heard administrators like Casey Allen, superintendent of Ballard County Schools in Kentucky say, “We will be building the plane while we fly it, on virtual learning.” This quote is from an August 5 Washington Post Article, America is about to start online learning, Round 2. For millions of students, it won’t be any better. As a parent, this is disturbing to me if most teachers weren’t given training between March and August. So this begs the questions, “Is the distance learning plane in danger of crashing?” “Has it already crashed?”

Teachers, parents and students have all been frustrated with internet issues. Low end Chrome books and other devices purchased by the thousands are not necessarily equipped for the tasks being asked of them. How do we keep the distance learning plane in the air?

I propose we are missing a very important parachute which every teacher needs if the plane begins to crash and burn- human connection. When digital goes awry, the teacher has to rely on his personal connection with students to ease their frustration, keep them engaged and continue learning. There are going to be lots of hiccups. The Teacher-Student relationship is similar to the Doctor-Patient bedside manner. Patients will put up with a lot of tests and even unknowns if they like their doctor and feel heard. Students are very resilient when they feel a positive connection to school and their teachers.

Creating teacher-student connection

Take time to get to know the students. Ask students interesting questions about themselves. Hold discussions about how the year is going and what they like and don’t like. Take their opinions into consideration and use them to help brainstorm solutions. Online learning tends to be more streamlined and have less discussion than in person. Use that time you save to connect with students.

Play games. Rather than simply giving students five minutes to disconnect, play some silly games and encourage humor. Students are likely not really disconnecting anyway. In my house, they are going from the computer screen to a phone screen in that five minutes. If you want students to break- you need to engineer the break! For more on humor in the classroom, see this blog.

Let them teach you. If there is something your students are into that you don’t “get,” ask them to teach you. Let them share video tutorials on Tik Tok and then create one. What is this year’s “dab” or “floss” moves you can all do together?

It’s risky to be silly.

It feels vulnerable even though you are alone and no other teachers can see or hear. But that’s just it- humans would prefer to take risks in groups.

Collaborate with the other teachers in your subject to try some new things. It will feel safer if others are doing it too and you can compare notes of what worked and didn’t. Trust me, take the risk to connect with students and they might just meet you halfway—keeping the plane in the air until a hybrid or in person learning resumes.

Need more ideas? Check out Closing the Distance in Distance Learning: A Teacher’s Guide to Online and Mask Communication.

Call Alison at Moving Image Consulting- her programs for in-service professional development are available to give educators the missing links to fall 2020 success. 630-234-1392