We are all about community here at Teacher Horizons and a large part of that is sharing how things are going, whether good or bad. Due to the global pandemic of Covid-19 most teachers around the world are teaching remotely right now. For some this is completely uncharted territory and for others, somewhat familiar. Some are taking to it well, some are finding it infuriating. Whichever camp you fall under, all are having to adapt to this “new normal”. Students are adapting to a new way of learning and parents a new way of supporting. However, solace can be found in knowing that we are in this together.
Advice from teachers on teaching remotely during Covid-19.
There’s a lot of advice out there right now, but just hearing from others in the same situation can help. We recently chatted with a few teachers around the globe to find out their experiences. They kindly shared a lot with us especially how they stay connected and driven when physically distant from students, colleagues, staff and parents. We hope the below will give you some inspiration and support as you continue to navigate teaching remotely.
Nothing is functioning as normal right now so you can’t expect your teaching, the students’ learning or parents support to be functioning as normal either. The teachers we chatted share the same attitude: to go with the flow and adapt accordingly.
For some, all lessons have started online already and for others the schools are still prepping to get everything over to remote classes, especially when it comes to Early Years education. In terms of the method used some are using video conferencing while others are not using live video at all:
“We have powerpoints and are sending them out to the students. I have had to adapt all my lessons to explain what I want them to do for the activities, or explain why we are learning the things we are learning. etc. This is because we are not doing video lessons so it’s hard to get across the stuff that I would normally explain naturally before we do a lesson or a task. That’s taking up a lot of time.”
Another teacher mentioned: “All lessons have moved online at my school apart from Early Years (3-5 year olds) We are getting things ready to start that soon, making storytelling videos. etc. “
Adaptability can mean starting out one way and then switching it up if it doesn’t work, for example, one teacher shared: “We started to find too much time online exhausting so we’ve scaled back the number of face to face computer hours in place of personal reading /listening activities and some off-line off-screen challenges. They like that. Now it’s more like 3hrs online and 2hrs personal study and research or production of video or writing.”
Online teaching over video can be really time intensive and cause stress for the teacher. We are noticing some alternatives arise right now, including using audio and setting tasks for students to report back. This also helps adjust to students’ varying set ups as not all students are in an environment where they can spend hours on the computer screen in their family home.
A few of our teachers used debating and video outside live streaming as a successful method. If students complete work outside of the virtual classroom they can come back and reflect together. Having a recording is also useful so it can be accessed again. This helps with enabling students to work at different times to match to the changes in their households, too. It’s all a learning curve.
You can look back on our article Top Resources for Remote Teaching to find extra ways to support yourself and your students.
Visuals seem to be very useful right now, especially supportive materials like Google images and students making presentations. In Zoom classes more focus is on speaking and listening rather than doing the writing tasks there and then, which makes sense.
Finding a way to bring fun and engaging activities one would use in a classroom takes some imagination and creativity but it’s doable: “Games and challenges seem to be the most popular stuff. Making video content and debates work well too. Research via online news is great, too.”
Another teacher is focusing on speaking with their teen class: “All input is done prior to lessons online now. Activities-wise we’ve been enjoying a few races to write the correct word in the chat box (e.g. I read a definition, they compete to be the first to type the correct answer or unscramble sentences / questions etc).”
Breakout rooms seem to be popular but as one teacher shared: “Break out rooms on Zoom are brilliant for pair / group work, but a few times when I drop in I find them chatting. I am a little concerned that I can’t monitor what they are saying to each other when they’re in break out rooms.” Other Popular and creative things have been writing notes from podcasts or videos. Giving students autonomy and control with their own marking proves popular: “They do quizzes and some test walkthroughs which they can mark themselves as they go along. They send back their marks.”
Being more flexible with ways of communication seems helpful right now, too. As one of teacher states:
“sometimes just a quick message check in seems to work at building confidence in the less communicative students and opens up a channel for them to tell you if things are going well or not. Especially in these challenging times.” or another teacher said: “Sometimes picking up the phone and calling admin has proved helpful on a few occasions when unsure.”
Communication can, of course, be challenging: “Working with other colleagues to make sure lessons are planned in advance has proven a little challenging at times. I don’t want to pressure people right now, but at the same time, if we don’t stick to deadlines it makes others’ jobs more difficult and stresses me out. I’ve felt the management side of my job to be much harder by email than face to face, you can’t get tone across in an email, can you?”
Some teachers are using this time to see the silver lining in finding new ways of communicating remotely: “Loads of students have had to work out how they actually find their emails, it’s quite useful really – after this we will be able to communicate with them really easily, parents too. We are also using Showmyhomwework and Google Classroom – it’s a combined effort for sure!”
While it is great to be able to pick up the phone or WhatsApp and support each other in this time, it is increasingly harder to switch off. As work and home is now blurred, finding the ability to switch off becomes a true challenge experienced by many:
“Challenges include managing WhatsApp, Zoom and email all at the same time with different students contacting me from all three. Everything else is going well I think!”
“I’ve found the number of different ways in which colleagues are getting in touch with me a bit overwhelming at times. We’re all close friends too so it’s difficult to separate work life and social life at times when the pressure is on at work.”
Having stronger boundaries actually help with feeling more connected. That might sound a bit contradictory, but having a bit of space allows you to turn up 100%, not feel as burnt out and able communicate more efficiently when in work time. Of course this takes some time to successfully implement especially as being available as a place of support and helping for others is desirable right now. A teacher shared how setting clearer boundaries really helped: “Initially as I was organising a materials writing project I needed to be contactable as the deadline with really tight. Since those first few weeks I’ve been much stricter with when I’m working and when I’m not.”
Don’t get caught up in the technicalities.
Monitoring students progress is not going to be the same as before just as there is no way of predicting how students will take to new methods of delivery, so it is best to not get too caught up in this. This is the same for technical aspects too, some students will adapt faster than others as goes for teachers, too. Remind yourself that you are in extraordinary circumstances right now and just doing what you can is enough.
One teacher shared about monitoring progress: “I try to keep it the same as before, with daily check ins on my part. Keeping a note of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation points etc and quizzing regularly. End of term test seemed to go well. With possibly a couple of students cheating on the reading and listening (but absolutely no way of knowing for sure).”
Coming together in solidarity is needed now and we hope the above helps you feel more connected. We’ll wrap this up with some encouraging words from a teacher: “Keep up the good work. I think we could have some really positive outcomes from this – more online teaching resources, flipped learning modules to use next year and better communication!”
And not forgetting these words of wisdom: “Take regular breaks! I’ve found taking regular breaks really helps!:
Thanks to all the teachers that took the time to share their feelings in this busy time and well, keep on keeping on. You are doing great!
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