Teaching through Crisis
July 22, 2020
Like so many educators, I was unprepared for how drastically COVID-19 would alter our world. At first, I was strangely charmed by the novelty of quarantine. It provided a whole new perspective on teaching and forced me to explore fresh lesson ideas. Besides, it would be over soon. Right?
However, as the days passed, I began to realize the gravity of our situation. I can remember how, back in March, my coworkers and I all guessed when we would return to work in person. I was the pessimist of the bunch, predicting that (at best) we’d all return at the end of June. Now we’re marching into August and not much has changed. It doesn’t take an oracle to know this will be one of the strangest and most difficult years of school ever.
Time to Start Over
Part of the problem is that many of us are still trying to engage students the way we would under normal circumstances. We use all the familiar teaching tips and tricks only to find a lack of interest in our virtual classrooms. To fully prepare for the fall, we must accept that these are not normal circumstances. In order to succeed in this new school year, we need to pause, reflect, and chart a new course through this ongoing crisis.
As Aaron Tombrella of Edutopia rightly points out, this will take more than coming up with a few new teaching hacks. We will need to completely change our mindset as educators. How we approach students, what lessons we choose to teach, a renewed emphasis on social-emotional learning, all of these must be considered. I know it sounds daunting to completely start over from scratch, but you’re not alone in this journey. Here are a few thoughts and ideas to help you start planning.
Revise Your Philosophy
According to Tombrella, every teacher should first revise their teaching philosophy.
“Keeping a clear head during a crisis is difficult, but drawing on our beliefs can guide us through. Condensing your teaching philosophy to short statements will help you recall what is important in these moments and will help keep you centered and clear—and applying it to your work will help you chart a path forward for everyone.”
By revising our teaching philosophies, we can better focus on what’s important in the upcoming semester. Short, targeted goals will be easier to remember and provide a clear direction.
Revise Your Environment
Remote learning can be difficult. By now we’re all familiar with Zoom fatigue, and younger students can have a hard time sitting still through long video sessions. One method for keeping them engaged is to regularly change their environment. Don’t keep them staring at the same box all day. Give them moments of unstructured play. Get them up, moving, and engaging in tasks they can do offline such as:
- Interviewing family members
- Playing instruments
- Walking through a park and recording what animals they see
Revise Your Tools
Video and game apps aren’t the only resources at our disposal. Project-based learning units have shown themselves to be fun and flexible tools for creating student engagement. Not only does it provide your class with lessons that are memorable and challenging, but they can also give students the opportunity to make a positive impact on their world. Consider the Blue Apple project State of Sustainability which helps students learn about conservation while researching their home state. Or teach your students about microloans and financial literacy with Lend a Hand.
Best of all, Blue Apple projects can be completed in person, remotely, or in a blended learning environment!
Remember, You Matter!
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the state of the world, but never underestimate the difference you are making with your students. This difficult time will eventually pass. So, when we finally look back on these months, let it be with pride at what we accomplished!