This school year is like no other. Teachers everywhere are on an emotional rollercoaster as they deal with daily changes and challenges. Here’s some great advice on how to handle this and keep your sanity by focusing on what’s important.
The Pandemic has made this school year to be unlike any other and because of that we have to approach it like no other before. I’m here today to give you some real talk about this whole situation.
In this video, I want to do a couple of things.
First, I want to chat with you about how to approach this year overall, especially as we begin navigating new waters.
Next, I want to talk about some lesson and activity strategies that you can use as you plan that will make your life a little easier.
Finally I’m going to hone in on the KISS principle in the hopes that you really can make this an inspiring year for yourself and your kids.
Let’s Get Real by talking about this year overall.
Here are the key words I want you to think about: expectations, flexibility and questioning.
First – EXPECTATIONS…
You’re going to need to modify your expectations for this year. Things are not the same, you’ll need to adapt and modify and, in some cases, even lower your expectations. You will not be able to do everything you’ve done in the past. And that’s ok.
The key here is to be easy on yourself. We may have had a trail run at this new way of teaching in the spring, but this is going to be different.
All eyes are on us and while that may make you want to exceed expectations, you want to make sure you are doing so in the right places. Exceed expectations when it comes to empathy for others: your students and their families, your colleagues and yes, even your administration.
Let’s not forget that we are still in a pandemic and stress is all around us in so many ways.
Exceed your expectations in communication. Put your effort into communicating with families and your students. Get them on board and build those relationships. THAT is what is going to make this year a success.
Exceed your expectations in how you care for you. Really. When it’s time to go home or shut off your computer, do it! Take your weekends for personal time and if you want to work outside of school hours, consider scheduling it and limiting it so that it doesn’t linger in the background like the pile of laundry that no one wants to deal with.
It’s ok to separate your personal time from school time and if you are teaching remotely, it’s going to be really important to do just that. You need that time to take care of you, your family, your personal matters so that you can be refreshed and ready to give it your all when you put your teacher hat back on.
Now let’s talk about FLEXIBILITY.
If there ever was a time where you’ll need to be flexible, this is the year. You’re going to be learning new technology, changing the way your classroom is set up, figuring out schedules and different types of classwork, paperwork and communication.
And this year, expect a lot of twists and turns.
Give yourself some slack, (maybe lower those expectations on yourself), take a breath, think about how you can be flexible and roll with it.
Now, before I continue on, you have to understand that I know that can be so hard. When I say these things I’m talking to myself as much as I am to you. I’m a teacher too, and this coming year really has me feeling both optimistic and uneasy for many reasons. And I know it is for you too.
I’ve spoken to and messaged with so many teachers whose feelings are all over the place. And we need to remind each other to slow down and give ourselves the chance to be flexible as we figure things out.
Make sure you ASK QUESTIONS!
Ask questions. Ask questions, get the guidance of your administration and then make your move.
I can’t stress this enough.
So many educators want to plan ahead and make things happen, but this year needs to be different.
We all have new guidelines and regulations we need to adhere to and those are changing week by week if not day by day.
So ask questions. Get that guidance and then make your move.
See, what we have to remember is that we are dealing with safety. It’s not just about best practices in education, it’s safety, and dare I say, life and death.
I see so many teachers agonizing over how to put their students in groups with homemade barriers and systems for supplies and the innovation is amazing. Keep in mind, though that if you don’t already understand what your district or school expects, you could be wasting time, energy and money.
So, don’t be afraid to ask questions and get the answers you need in order to plan for your classroom or learning space and plan for your lessons and activities.
Let’s Get Real Strategy #2 – activities and lessons!
Building Community & Relationships –
First and foremost, I suggest that you take things slowly and focus in on activities that are going to build community and relationships first. That is the key to any school year, but this year especially!
And it definitely shouldn’t just happen at the beginning of the school year, but through the entire school year!
Consider having some sort of morning meeting each day with your students or, if you only see your kids once a week, give the first 5 minutes of your class time to building connections.
For example, have students share a quick story or an artifact that ties into the subject you teach. Maybe you can start your class with a song as your students come into your classroom or virtual meeting space.
I plan to have my students think of a daily intention each morning to get their minds in the right place.
The key to making something like this work it to make it part of your routine. It may not work perfectly the first times, but keeping at it and helping your students to understand the importance of these small activities will help them so much in the long run.
Virtualize Your Lessons!
The next thing you need to consider as you plan your activities and lessons is that they should be easy to do virtually. It’s very possible that even if you have some face-to-face learning, you will also need to go to remote at some point. Planning with this in mind could make a big difference for you later.
That might mean practicing some apps with your students when you are face-to-face or creating slide shows that are able to be used in a physical classroom or online.
You can also explore creating your own instructional videos. These do not have to be something you need to stress over. Instead, get on camera and demonstrate a concept that you know you will be teaching this year.
Maybe you can make a video about color or how to create a multiplication array. Creating a short video for your students is a great way to teach them something as it allows them to watch and rewatch your lesson.
They can also practice the “power of the pause button” where they are able to pause the video. This allows the concept to sink in and gives them an opportunity to write down a question they have. Then, they can bring their thoughts and questions to your live, synchronous class time together.
One thing I’ve heard from so many teachers is that they are worried their students won’t have the right materials for some of the lessons and projects they want to do.
I hear ya! That is definitely one of my concerns as well and we can’t take anything for granted.
However, this is where creativity can really start to blossom.
Freedom in structure!
When you have limitations, creativity can abound. You may have experienced that yourself as you prepare for and teach within these new constraints. And this can be the same for your students as well.
As you plan for some fun activities and projects like book creating or origami, don’t limit students to plain paper. Maybe they have some recycled paper or old magazines they can use.
If you want them to make sculptures, but are certain they don’t have clay in their homes, challenge them to watch this video and make their own playdough!
Is there coloring involved but no paint? Share this video with them where I show you how to make paint at home in four different ways.
Students can look for objects in nature or around their homes to create scenes and new textures.
No scissors? Show them how to fold things and tear or simply rip paper to make what they want.
This could just be the thing that allows students to really explore their out of box thinking and you could be the teacher that really helps them to expand their minds!
And be sure to check out my how-to playlist on YouTube that you can post inside your classroom and share with your families.
Let’s Get Real strategy #3 – The KIS Principle
Maybe you’ve heard of this before. KIS stands for Keep It Simple! (and yes… I took off the last S.)
This is probably the most important thing for us to remember. We do not need to complicate things right now. Instead, we need to simplify.
So, think about it. How can you simplify things for yourself?
Will using other people’s videos help you out?
Can you team up with a colleague and plan alternating lessons?
Can you whittle down the number of apps you are using to enhance student learning to 2 or 3 really good ones?
Can you use and reuse a great activity? This is a favorite of mine. For example, once I show my students how to create a mini-book, I can use that many times throughout the year to introduce a topic, have students take notes, create a final project or ask for students’ reflections. Having a versatile activity like that is such a help!
What are some ways you can KIS this year back into gear? I’d love to hear about how you plan to simplify things for yourself and your students, so please add what you plan to do in the comments below!
So there you go – Let’s Get Real.
And I mean that. Keep yourself in check so that you can make this a successful year. There are new standards of success this year. So clear your mind and be ready to take on this new challenge.
If you need some support through this time like we ALL do, come join our Inspiring Teachers community on Facebook where we will support and encourage one another through these next few months and beyond.
I can’t wait to welcome you into the group!
I’m sending you all my best.
Take care of yourself.
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