Updated: Apr 24, 2020
I spoke with a teacher the other day who has started to play the guitar after wanting to learn for decades. She articulated that this is something she’s always wanted to do, that her deceased father had played, and that she had been looking at his old six-string with longing for many years. Well, the “Great Pause” of this global health crisis has arrived, and with it, her opportunity to learn guitar--and she is doing it online. Maybe your personal goal isn’t in music; maybe it is in relationships or fitness. Perhaps you can take this time to blow the dust off that book you’ve been meaning to read or reread. Our varied personal goals are waiting for us to approach. And they are important! Consider the vision, define the goal, and come up with the actionable and measurable steps that can help you achieve it...then start teaching your students. You have to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others with theirs.
As we move to create a Culture for Learning Online
(link to: https://www.growthcoachgroup.com/live-streaming), teachers have much to consider. Of course, in any learning environment there are people involved--the most important part of the equation. As teachers, though it may be counterintuitive, we must consider ourselves the highest priority, because we can’t be there for anyone else if we neglect to care for ourselves first. As we transition, we must also consider the systems and devices in play. Merging the people with the nuts and bolts is something many have mastered in brick and mortar teaching and learning atmospheres, but our new, if only temporary, environment will challenge us to move in a way that is easy on us and the people we serve. Prior to the pandemic, teachers had a place to go, routines before and after school, opportunities to gather with friends. We had clear goals, both personal and professional. It is imperative that we address all of the aforementioned pieces of teacher life in the online world and take the time to breathe into our own oxygen masks while we examine what these important pieces look like now.
Our schedules are going to drive an enormous amount of our success at this time. What time does work start and, perhaps more importantly, what time does it end? How will we hold ourselves accountable to these time boundaries? How about breakfast, lunch, and dinner? We have to eat, and making the best choices right now may be tough. Our exercise routine, no matter what it looked like previously, needs to be considered. I’ve spoken to teachers who previously only had movement from the routine demands of the job. Some of them have chosen to go for a walk at scheduled intervals during the day. A conversation this morning with a twenty-year veteran of the job revealed that she has found more time to do the intense workouts that she doesn’t get to do when brick and mortar school is in session. She has a workout space designated in her house and is taking advantage of it while cooped up! However you can factor in exercise, it is important to set aside the time for it.
Our social connections are important. I have heard from teachers about their efforts to Zoom it up with old friends. Some have reported that they have rekindled some old relationships that they didn’t have the time to nurture when regular school was in session.Professionally, this could be a time to connect and revisit a piece of growth that you’ve been wanting to engage but haven’t had the time. I’m participating in collaborative work with Stony Brook University (link to: https://www.stonybrook.edu/commcms/dtale/resources/ctlc/online_workshops.php) that is allowing teachers to access free professional development on an array of topics. Each of the facilitators is gifted in the area they are offering- from online tools to strategies to wellness This resource, and many others, could offer a way for you to continue your professional growth.
At Growth Coach Group, we have been connecting online in order to explore the potential of growing our ability when it comes to teacher language with our clients. The pause has created a learning environment that isn’t nearly at the pace of the classrooms we are accustomed to--and this can be a great thing Things move quickly when there are twenty children in our presence and we don’t always say what we wish we had. Online learning seems to reduce the number of redirections needed, and, from what I’m hearing, those are mostly in the area of technology. (Link to: https://www.growthcoachgroup.com/live-streaming) This is to be expected, and, it sounds to me, those redirections are being done with empathy. Imagine a big smile on my face right now, as I’ve been the recipient of lots of empathy with these technological changes!
Another benefit to using technology as a medium is that we have the opportunity to write much of what we intend to communicate. We can examine our words, make sure our communication is supported with pictures, videos, and charts. We can avoid empty praise and be specific in our feedback! (What We Say and How We Say It Matter, Anderson, 2016)
While observing and participating in the shift to online learning, I have seen a range of successes. Those most comfortable are those who have examined what teacher actions were already in place and transferred to the online environment with ease--or even better, with no change at all. The actions teachers took in their classrooms that brought the most comfort and allowed for children to learn are the ones to look at in the initial phase. Perhaps you already used a certain platform or a particular learning structure. Bring them with you. Next, go with the actions that require as little online adjustments as possible. You may have explored collaborative groupings in your regular classroom. If you can find a platform that you yourself can manage easily and the students can manage too, go for it. I guess there could be a third phase, but why? I’m not sure it is necessary. The stress that monumental online change can bring is not worth the potential drain on the energy of all the parties involved. Especially with technology, easy does it!
If you find the below chart helpful, please use it to think through how to adapt the systems and structures you found comfortable in the classroom to online learning.
Success during this time for our students and ourselves will be the result of how well we took care of ourselves first, so that then we could take care of others. Go with what keeps you, your colleagues and the families we serve healthy.
Respectfully submitted by Growth Coaches - Andy Dousis & Dr. Nicole Galante