With the spread of coronavirus, many schools are now facing the reality of long-term school closures, with little to no preparation. If you are an affected school, you might be wondering what you can do to keep you and your students on track. Here’s our list of tips and suggestions, compiled by teachers already in lockdown, to help you through.
Not yet in lockdown and wondering how you can make sure you are prepared in case of such an event? Check out our last blog post, here.
Meet with your team regularly – even remotely! It helps to remember that you are still a school and you are still supporting one another. Some schools have daily staff meetings or calls to debrief the day and to discuss what went well, what are the challenges, if there is any new corona information or decisions, etc. Others might choose to have one twice a week, or even to have an ongoing discussion in a staff forum.
Keep things uncomplicated – leaders at an online school say the biggest tip is to “Keep it simple!”, whether that means not setting assignments across too many different platforms for your students, or simply learning to manage your expectations in terms of the amount of the syllabus you might get through. Simple is the best approach in such a complicated and unknown time!
Plan a balance of learning that can be offline – and non-screen based. There are many amazing online tools that can really enhance student learning and engagement, but it can be healthy for students to take a step back from their screen from time to time. Encourage some at-home exercise where possible, or try to set some tasks such as poster-making and arts and crafts that they can work into their schedule. Mixing it up keeps it interesting and engaging.
Make it fun! – find ways to keep your students talking, engaging and having fun with the rest of their peers, even remotely. Try grouping your class into teams, and setting different competitions for the week. Daily quizzes, exercises or even a step count competition where each team competes against one another would all work nicely. Grouping students creates a collaborative mindset and a sense of camaraderie, even when they are apart.
Plan for student face time – whether through video, webinar, or other meeting platform, it is important that students see their teachers actively. A live webinar allows for student questions and answers, which can benefit everyone else on the call. Remember, it is quite tricky for anyone to pay attention for extended periods of time on a video call, so you can allow for about 20 minutes of presenting, 10 minutes of questions, then 15 minutes for an activity.
Set boundaries for yourself – When your dining table becomes your office, it’s important to set some boundaries between work and rest. Have an alarm set to remind yourself to eat lunch and to actively disconnect in the evenings. Allocate some time to address messages and communications, and carve out some time for yourself, too.
Maintain self-care – if you are quarantined at home, be sure to take care of yourself. Eat healthily where possible, drink plenty of water, and try to maintain daily physical activity. If you are alone, try to keep connected to family and friends as well as work interactions.
Set clear expectations – make sure to clarify whether students are expected to attend lessons in ‘real time’ or if virtual attendance is fine. Be sure to explain the level of communication and contribution that you expect from each student, and also explain when you will be available to help them with any questions or concerns.
Be patient and flexible! A few reminders:
- Not all families have multi-device access.
- Some parents will be trying to manage both their work and their children’s work.
- Some parents may only be able to support their child in evenings and weekends so consider fair deadline expectations.
- Have a range of core must-dos and flexible choice can-dos to accommodate different needs – some students will need challenging, and others won’t. Let them choose their pace!
- Accept different ways of turning in work.
- Be mindful of time – students will take longer than you think to complete tasks.
We hope you found these tips helpful, and that you now feel better equipped to deal with a last-minute school closure. If you want some ideas on which tools you might find useful for remote teaching, check out our recent blog post written by a teacher in a Chinese school on lockdown, here.