We really can do this!
We are navigating the new normal and coming to grips with the fact that times are not just uncertain, they are challenging. But it’s really impressive to see how well and quickly we are rising to this challenge.
Students are at home with caregivers, and school leaders are encouraging some level of communication with students regarding distance learning and district expectations for the coming weeks. Depending on where you are, you may have very specific daily expectations for school while others have limited or no strict guidelines. Whatever camp you fall in, our team has captured some best practices across our home districts in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and Washington, DC, and we want to share them with you.
Communication (even just a tiny bit) goes a long way.
- The first day of no school for our kids was met with excitement, as most of our kids don’t really understand the magnitude of what is happening in the world right now. But by day two and three, our kids began to realize that they actually like school and really miss their teachers and peers. Small gestures by teachers, such as a brief email to share what they are up to while at home or to simply say hi, have been so meaningful to our kids. Beyond email notes, quick video and audio clips have also been great ways to connect with students while schools are closed.
- The bottom line: Don’t overthink it! Offering small bits of communication more frequently is a great practice. These messages (virtual hugs) take minutes to build and send. Keep the message simple, personal and light. They miss YOU and they miss their routine!
Virtual office hours are great for students, caregivers and teachers.
- This time offers an opportunity to ask questions about homework or to simply feel more connected. We know you miss them as much as they miss you, and this amazing way to connect with other humans is a perfect method while we practice social distancing.
- We’ve seen teachers use virtual office hours to stay connected to their students while offering caregivers a way to hand the schooling back to the professionals for a few moments. Use a platform like Zoom (our favorite) or Google Meet and schedule open office hours each day or every other day. Offering this one hour will give you a chance to see and hear from your students and will make a BIG impact on engagement.
Schedules require a little flexibility.
- Parents are juggling work and homeschooling right now. Many are struggling. In fact, it has been amazing to see how many people are sharing how much they appreciate teachers now through social channels – finally, right?! One thing that school does for us, as parents, is to offer a sample schedule of what each “homeschool day” can look like. The beautiful tip we have seen alongside these schedules has been to be flexible. We cannot expect our kids to move through each day at home the same way they move through the well-oiled machine we call school.
- Here in Massachusetts, it has been pouring rain on and off. My kids spent more time on their devices working through school work on the rainy days, while today we had an extended “recess” to enjoy that the sun is back out and the weather is mild. Knowing that my kids’ teachers expect them to be scheduled and diligent but also take breaks to enjoy the outdoors during this new normal offers me a bit of peace of mind as a newly devoted homeschool mom.
We all need to adopt a growth mindset just like we’ve taught students.
- We’ve written and talked a ton about growth mindset for educators, and right now is our time to underscore this idea and to scream it from the mountain tops. Maybe you are already super tech-savvy. Adopting virtual platforms and connecting with students from afar is no sweat for you. Perhaps you are distance-learning-phobic and don’t quite know where to begin with this current situation. If you are the latter, consider taking a couple of days to read Carol Dwek’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success as a way to jumpstart your own personal mindset that centers on growth and the fact that you can do this!
We are all in this together!
Most of us understand the importance of living our lives as normally as possible while social distancing. That said, the reality is that it is incredibly difficult for all of us in various ways. As educators, caregivers are relying on us to help navigate a homeschool lifestyle that many of us never dreamed we would take on in our lifetimes. As you work to remain healthy, know that even the small things you do to support your students and families make an incredible impact. We are so grateful for all that you do!