Remote Learning A-Z: W is for Working Together

Working together is even more important than it used to be. We have been on this Fall Remote Learning adventure for almost two months. With a teacher spouse and a distance learning son, I’ve seen it from all perspectives. I am continually impressed with the effort and perseverance of all Derek’s teachers. I am also appreciative of the kindness and support my husband is receiving from the families of his students.

Is the Honeymoon Ending?

My son’s teachers are trying so hard to provide engaging content. Even so, I’m seeing the fatigue of remote learning set in with my son. Every teacher I know is finding their groove, yet also feeling the strain of continually revamping even the simplest activities. Parents with kids of all ages are finding some of the initial Honeymoon feelings have worn off.

As a school and as a nation, we are all in this together. So let’s figure out ways to help each other make the best of it! below are tips for working together remotely.

Assume Positive Intent

This is a generally sound mindset in most any situation. I think we’re all a bit on edge today. Even so, it’s important to remember we don’t know all situations, and everyone is doing the very best job they can.

Take a look at the post from our intern, Emeline Tu. Among other things, she does an excellent job in reminding all of us to approach this situation with empathy.

Communicate

As a former school administrator, one lesson I learned was that even if you think you’ve communicated often and clearly, you haven’t. Never assume that because you posted an announcement once or said it over a video meeting that anyone heard it (or will remember it).

Set a Communication Schedule

One strategy for ensuring consistent and clear communication is to have a schedule. Set a routine, communicate that routing, and then keep to it. As a teacher I created many systems that ended up being more maintenance than useful. So take it from me, remember to keep it simple (see below). Don’t create an overly demanding or complicated routine you will regret having to keep up in a few weeks.

Involve Students

Consider involving students in writing or recording updates for parents. Here’s a sample newsletter on a Google Doc, with more explanation in our Collaboration post.

Speak Up

Now that we aren’t physically together, we lose out on the little social moments we used to have at drop off and pick up. It’s more important than ever for teachers to communicate succinctly, clearly, and often. And parents, don’t let things sit until they grow into a problem. For some addition ideas, read this Edutopia article: 12 Conversation Starters on What Parents Want You to Know. It is from 2013, but still great ideas for communication applicable to remote learning.

Keep it Simple

We are all overwhelmed with the amount of links, emails, and texts from multiple sources. Think about families with multiple children, from primary students who need more support with daily class activities, to secondary students who need to juggle the assignments and systems of multiple classrooms daily.

Two Streamlining Tips

Having a central place for all your links, announcements, and assignments helps your families wade through all the information. See our post on Links for ideas on how to keep your virtual information organized for students and parents.

Try this formula for each day: What We’re Learning, Ask Your Child, and How You Can Help. Post it in a continuous slide presentation so people can look back at it as needed.

Ask for Feedback

I’ve seen this in so many environments: the most persistent voices will often get the most attention. The unfortunate byproduct is we often don’t get the full picture of a situation: a few loud voices seem to represent the whole.

Teachers, frequent feedback from students and parents is one way to get off that hamster wheel. You will be surprised at all the things going well, as pick up a few tips for tweaks to make.

Our Exit Tickets are a quick and easy way to check in each day.

Ask for feedback from all your families regularly, and you will soon find it isn’t intimidating. Send out a simple Google Form survey monthly or weekly to take a pulse of your entire class. Approach your survey positively, keeping in mind the goal is working together more productively. Ask questions from the perspective of students’ needs and social-emotional health. Ask how you can improve, but don’t forget to ask what is going well, too!

Give Feedback

How many times have you looked up reviews on websites like Yelp and Amazon? How many times have you written a review yourself, either positive or negative? People in general tend to only give feedback when it’s astoundingly negative.

Positive Feedback Goes a Long Way

Don’t fall into the Yelp trap with your classroom community! Parents, your two-sentence email of encouragement or thanks goes a long way in supporting your teacher’s efforts. And teachers, taking some time to appreciate each student goes exponentially further in building connections and inclusivity. See this post for more information.

Parents, when giving feedback, approach it positive, solutions-focused mindset. Also temper expectations: some things we wish are unrealistic in a remote environment with a large class load. Teachers may not respond immediately, since they are teaching online all day. Also remember, while your child’s teacher is your direct conduit to the school, they have far less control over the policies and laws governing wider district decisions.

Forge Connections

My good friend has a daughter in first grade. The other day she said to her mother, “It’s hard to make friends on Zoom.” Ugh!

This is not true only for our youngest learners. Working together (student to student) is also a challenge right now. Remote students are missing many daily, physical interactions that used to be the norm.

Build in Time to Connect

While content instruction is always front and center, think about little ways to build in connection time among students. When students feel more connected to you and to each other, their learning benefits.

Check out our post on Interviews for ideas to forge meaningful connections between school, home, and each other. Consider ways for students to ask questions of each other to get to know their classmates. In our Interviews, we include over fifty silly questions you can ask your class. Students can also ask the questions of each other. Try one today!

Take Advantage of Tech

Even though remote learning is a challenge, there are some perks inherent in technology that teachers can use to their advantage.

Some posts you may find helpful:

Now that many lessons are being recorded, take advantage and post those videos for review. Read more about using video here. All learners benefit from hearing something more than once, and parents welcome videos they can review for support. Another perk – you might escape the, “That’s not how my teacher said to do it!” lament. (Parents, don’t feel badly about this: I have advanced degrees in education and this happens to me frequently.)

Work Together, Stay Positive

The most powerful strategy for student success and well-being is a connected team that is working together. We hope these tips help you forge virtual connections with your school community!

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