With Portland Public Schools continuing online-only classes in the surge of COVID-19, virtually all public school teachers in Portland, Oregon, have had to learn how to navigate teaching online. The tools have become more streamlined since the sudden shutdowns and distance learning of early 2020. However, the strategies and systems still hit snags often, and teachers are understandably worried about keeping up with their standard curriculum.
For teachers all over the country, the continued focus on virtual teaching means that they are learning and becoming more adept all the time. However, if your school system has only recently returned to virtual teaching, here are some tips for navigating the challenges of this time and helping your students at the same time.
6 Tips For Navigating Virtual Teaching Online
1. Explore Options for Virtual Classroom Software and Tools
While most school systems have set software and tools that you'll use, there may be other web-based software that can help your students approximate more of the interaction, collaboration, and engagement that you see in an in-person classroom. This year has been a banner for companies to ramp up programs that can help your students break out group discussions, work on projects together online, or even do virtual 'scavenger hunts' for information in online research. One way to make virtual classrooms less overwhelming is to expand the tools you use for lesson planning.
2. Continue Your Professional Development as a Teacher
While many teachers couldn't imagine doing a full-time teacher professional development program right now, a course or two can help you feel better prepared for your next step. Many teachers have felt that this year taught them a lot about the value of a productive environment. Online education courses can help you grow in your role or help you make a small pivot to another area within education.
3. Keep a Journal of What Works and What Could Be Improved
It's wise to remember that this year has been entirely unprecedented for education: no one has perfect answers for how to run your online classroom. You should feel the freedom to see your classroom as a place for experimentation to engage students using everything you know and see the results. You can keep a journal of what kinds of activities are most effective and help students learn and remember the lessons you want them to process. There will be lessons that don't go over as well, just like in a regular classroom. Taking note of those helps identify patterns, both in what kinds of technology work best and what this particular unique group of students needs.
4. Seek Feedback and Candid Responses From Students
Your students might also be experiencing online learning for the first time, and they are noticing more than you might think. You may have a handle on what is causing challenges for them, but consider how to get feedback from them. Children have different ways of learning. Your particular group may have some input that could inspire a new method in your teaching. By asking about the learning environment, you show them that you value their input and want to be successful.
5. Talk With Fellow Educators About Maintaining Standards While Understanding Student Circumstances
When you have meetings with fellow teachers, start a conversation about the balance between high expectations, which benefit students as they learn more, and increased support. This year, the students may need a more thorough overview or assistance than usual to achieve the best results. Consider how students may have ambient noise, lack of internet, or other challenges that impede them from completing school at home to the level they would meet in the classroom. The answer usually isn't to give everyone perfect scores or let many students fail their courses. Instead, find a medium ground where you can balance the support and the challenge we all need to learn.
6. Take Time To Yourself and Recognize You've Overcome So Much
You've nearly jumped from one kind of job to another this year, and you deserve incredible kudos for doing so. Take as much time as you can find to rest and recharge, recognizing that you are part of what is helping so many children get through a challenging year. You aren't responsible for working 24/7 just because you've moved to virtual teaching; find space for self-care.
Teachers work very hard and are often incredibly passionate about their work, but getting a new infusion of passion through a professional development course can help during tough teaching years. Explore our course offerings to see yourself continue to grow as an educator.