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The New Normal of School: A few suggestions, a few resources, a few tools. You can do this

It’s been less than a week. It doesn’t seem like it. But think back to last week. I was looking forward to watching the Big 12 basketball tournament and already had a tentative NCAA bracket filled out. You were relaxing on your spring break or looking forward to a well-earned break this week.

Today?

Whole different world.

Here in Kansas, the entire school system has shifted from a face to face model of teaching and learning to one that revolves around e-learning. For the rest of the year. And you may not yet be in that sort of long term distance learning environment. Yet. But I think school for the rest of spring 2020 is going to be very different for most of us.

So what can that look like? What tools should you use? Are there tips and tricks that can help? I want to start the conversation and share some ideas and resources that can help in this world of a new normal. And I know you’ve all been buried under a ton of information and emails and free offers and suggestions and to-do lists.

So I’m going to try and keep this short. Today is just enough to get you started – I’ll be updating and adding posts all spring.

First thing?

Breathe.

Seriously. Take a deep breath and let it out. Close your eyes and do it again. And think of the beach. Or the mountains. Or wherever your happy place is.

Cause it seems overwhelming now. But you got this. I can’t think of another time in my entire teaching career when so many people have got your back. Not only can we do this but what we’re going to do is going to be awesome.

Second thing?

Make a decision. Are you going to resist this? Accept this? Or be grateful for this?

Patrick Buggy of Mindful Ambition suggests that when we resist, we’re the ones who tend to suffer the most. When we accept the situation, the resistance goes down as well as our suffering. Feeling grateful is the inverse of resisting it. We’re excited and hopeful instead of feeling negative and contracted. And I know right now it’s probably not easy to feel grateful but how you decide to react to the current situation will have a huge impact on your students.

One teacher I know said

I’m grateful that because we’ll have less time with our kids, I get to make better choices about my scope and sequence. I don’t have to worry about trying to teach everything!

That’s the third thing.

Less is more.

You’re going to need to change not only how you teach but what you teach. Be willing – and grateful about it – to find ways to cut your content. Don’t stress about that big end of the year project you always do that you hate to grade cause it took forever.

Maybe you can adapt it but feel free to ditch it for 2020. The new normal says it’s not going to happen. One thing I’ve noticed in the last week is that there are lot of things that are not as important as we  thought they were.

Less is more.

But I do have a  few suggestions, a few resources, and a few tools that might be useful.

A Few Suggestions

  • Drill and kill is not the answer. Continue to focus on powerful questions and problems.
  • Don’t expect lower quality. But expect to assign and receive less work.
  • Create a consistent schedule that includes virtual office hours so that students can contact you. Stick to those hours.
  • Be super clear with students about what you want. Bulleted lists are great for this. (Less is more.)
  • Post short videos of yourself – daily if possible. Most kids will miss the social part of school. Let them see you.
  • Give yourself and students lots of grace.

A Few Resources

A Few Tools

So.

Pick a few of these. Explore them a bit. Then decide. Resist, accept, or be grateful for the chance to teach in a whole new way?

Together, we can do this. What are you using? What’s working for you?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Work with Me page.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Tammy Waller #

    Thanks Glenn. Spot on as usual.

    March 19, 2020
    • glennw #

      Tammy,

      Appreciate the comment! We can do this.

      glennw

      March 19, 2020
  2. Greg C. #

    Great tips posted here, as we all get adjusted to a “new normal.” I am sure as time passes, more and more states will close schools for the remainder of the school year, and we have to make the best out of the situation and maintain our responsibilities to students.

    I agree with your tips with an emphasis on avoiding drill and kill. It will not be easy to get strong participation with online work – even if access was not an issue. Most important is to offer meaningful content/tasks for students that will keep them engaged. As a world history teacher that would have been starting World War I if we were in school, I am posting my first lesson/activity on the Influenza outbreak of 1918, totally going out of order from the war. But I think most important is to build relevance and meaning, and given these times, connecting current world conditions to a historical event from 100 years ago must be seized upon. Science teachers, of course, should be in dreamland with the relevant current content being provided by this situation. Math teachers could be graphing, using data country by country day by day. The possibilities are endless, but we need to use our imagination as educators and make content meaningful, so students are encouraged to complete work while out of school.

    You are spot on with suggesting simple bulleted lists. This is helpful to students and adults alike, to be honest. I have struggled all week with e-mails from colleagues that seem to send multiple rambling messages in one day. We should be clear and straightforward to students. I have been trying to post a daily message each morning at 9:00 am to all of my students (using Canvas, our school division’s learning management platform). Keeping them on a schedule of sorts is helpful for them.

    Great idea too about video messages. I am going to try that out on Monday!

    Thanks again for the tips and resources.

    March 20, 2020
    • glennw #

      Greg,

      Thanks for the post! You’re right – this is a whole new world for many of us. Staying focused on engaging questions, being as clear as possible, and remembering less is more will save the day.

      And I love your idea of jumping out of order to focus on 1918. Relevance is the key!

      Good luck as you and students work together in the new normal!

      glennw

      March 20, 2020

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