How to Prepare for a New School Year with Distance Learning
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Hey there! I'm so glad you're here. 😊
So, if you’ve just landed your first teaching contract and your new school is telling you that you may need to start the year teaching online... you might be interested in my brand new mini-course:
Let's talk about How to Prepare for a New School Year with Distance Learning:
Ask which platform your school is going to use and introduce it right away to your students.
First, ask your new administrator and your grade level team if there will be any professional development opportunities provided by your district this summer in terms of introducing you to any online platforms your district will be requiring you to use in the new school year.
Once you find out which technology platforms your school is using and what you can use them for, ask teachers at your grade level what worked for them as they ended the school year online for the last three months.
Were there specific websites or tools they used that were especially helpful or that encouraged student engagement?
What do they plan to change? What didn’t work with their students?
Many districts have their own platform that they ask their teachers to use for security purposes, while supplementing with Google Classroom or Zoom.
If you're new to Google Classroom, click here to access a fantastic resource of 32 videos to help you get started on Google Classroom.
Find out your district requirements for online instructional hours and create a schedule.
Find out if your school has a designated number of hours that they:
1.) Require you to be online and available to students
2.) Require of instructional time
These are two very different things.
Being available to students might mean that you have set office hours when they or their parents can ask you questions, but that you aren’t actually teaching online.
Instructional time is when you are actually delivering a lesson or interacting with your class.
So, find out what the requirements will be for your district and create a schedule that you can share with your students and with their parents so you can manage their expectations in terms of how often you will be online and in what format.
Preparing for online instruction is more time-consuming than face-to-face instruction.
One hour of instruction online can take several hours to prepare for, especially when you build in the time you might need for the learning curve involved in any new technology you will be using to teach that lesson.
Also, just like in school, be sure to build in set breaks for yourself so you can catch your breath and take a break.
Have fun and get creative with this! One teacher inside my Beginning Teacher Talk Facebook Group had a sign that said “Ms. Smith’s Executive Assistant” and pointed her camera at her dog’s bed when he was sleeping when she was out on her break, with a sign that said, “Ms. Smith will back at 1:00 pm.”
Such a creative & fun way to set clear boundaries! If you teach younger students, you could also set a sign like this beside a stuffed animal & point your computer camera at it while you’re taking your break.
Set up an at-home teaching space where you will connect with your students on a regular basis.
Decide on a background you want to use for your at-home teaching space and make it cheerful and welcoming, and if you’re going to be doing a hybrid of face-to-face and online teaching, keep this background space with the same color scheme and theme as your classroom.
If you decide to join the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy
, you will get more than 70 resources to help set up and customize your classroom space, so I will walk you through how you can use some of those resources to set up a cute and welcoming space at home for online learning.
Keeping consistency for your students in terms of meeting with them in a space they come to recognize will be an important part of maintaining a sense of continuity between school and home. That way, every now and then when you surprise your students with a kind of “virtual field trip” by holding class somewhere new, it will be fun and exciting for them to see you in a different space!
Create rules & routines for how your class will interact online.
Just as you would do in a face-to-face classroom at the beginning of the year, you will need to start thinking through what your rules, routines, and expectations will be when you are teaching and interacting online.
Also, find out if your school is planning to host a virtual Meet the Teacher Night so you can start thinking through what you will want to communicate to parents on this evening.
Inside the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy
, I walk you through everything that I talked to parents about at the beginning of the school year to set our year up for success. Inside the private FB group for the Academy, I’m going to share some very creative ways that we can get parents involved in this new way, even if it’s online!
Don’t try to please everyone.
Not only are you a new teacher – teaching online is new for pretty much everyone in your district. So please, don’t try to do too much. This is not the time to impress everybody with how much you’re doing. Instead, this is the time to select what you are going to do with your students and do it well.
Focus in on the key things that you know are going to move your students forward academically – and that means focusing on reading, writing, and math – and on what is going to best keep your students inspired and engaged in learning.
Parents especially might be hard to please this year, especially if they are trying to juggle making a living and working with their child at home on school more than they are used to.
Let’s not forget that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, and we are all doing the best we can.
The best thing we can do to get through this with the most love and compassion possible for each other is to give each other grace. To give yourself grace, and give your students some grace.
So, even when you start to feel that pressure to do more, to be more, to compare yourself with somebody else online who is doing something well beyond that which you are doing – stay in your lane.
You don’t know the story behind what’s really going on on those colorful, shiny Instagram feeds. So keep your eyes forward and focused on what matters the most – your students, and what you can do for them with the 8 hours of time you will have to serve them today.
Create something special for your kiddos to work towards.
During this time of social isolation, when we don’t have the same things to look forward to as we’re used to, it’s more important than ever to find creative ways to keep kids engaged and inspired to learn from home.
There are some really fun ways that we can do that, so take some time to indulge your imagination and think outside the box for what virtual learning makes possible.
For example, taking your students on a virtual field trip can be a wonderful way to reward your students for working hard and participating in online classes each week – without all of the red tape that is often involved in taking kids out of the actual school.
One of the teachers inside my Beginning Teacher Talk Private FB group set up a a weekly show, starring "Miss Smith" as the star and took her 1st grade students as a tour guide around the city where she lived, visiting a different landmark each week virtually. Her students absolutely loved it!
So, put on your creative cap and start thinking through ways that you can motivate your students by giving them something special to look forward to each week.
Build in opportunities for kids to connect with each other virtually.
Maybe it’s a weekly Zoom party where your class gets together to connect...
Maybe it’s during Google Hangouts when you give your students opportunities to share something they did or made on Google Classroom...
Maybe it's holding some kind of a challenge that encourages students to work together to meet a goal – whatever it is, give students opportunities to connect and to work together, even if it has to be virtual, for now.
All right, I hope that was helpful for you - and if you'd like even more support as you make the transition to teaching online, be sure to check out my new mini-course:
I hope you have a fabulous week, and until next time, remember: Just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one!
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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