As we get closer to the 2020-2021 school year, we're feeling more and more uncertain. Let me give you a friendly reminder... we still have time. And I hope you can think on that, take a deep breath, and slow your mind down in order to enjoy a bit of your summer, but at the same time know that those deep breaths only last so long.
At least they don't last very long for me either.
I hope that this blog can serve as a platform for thoughtful consideration of your classroom should it need to remain online, become blended, or even want to flip in a normally scheduled setting.
Either way, all teachers, more than ever, want that safe, welcoming classroom atmosphere, and I hope to help you build that no matter the setting for next year.
I am a firm believer in the power of mindset. When I use that term I feel super trendy, but don't want the trendiness to be the focus. Instead the focus should be on the simplicity of the shift.
Here's the thing, if as teachers we feel that there are so many factors impacting our students' success OUTSIDE of our control, we feel that way even more so in the blended and online classrooms. But what if it's our role that needs to shift? One that is very controllable, because it's us, and it's just a matter of understanding and have a clear head (you know, mindset) on how we can influence our students in our blended and online classrooms.
1. Content Expert to Learning Facilitator
In the blended and online classrooms, you aren't necessarily no longer an expert in what you teach. Of course, you always need to have a better grasp than the average joe on what you are teaching. But the focus (at least of your students) is no longer there because when they see you, meaning during your synchronous time, they don't see you delivering the content.... because that time is too precious to use to deliver content for the first time. Instead it should be used for connection building, clarifying, and building classroom culture.
Your role can then be that of facilitator. Because much of your time will not be with them, as sad as that is, you must assure your students that the time and effort you've spent preparing their learning track (path, journey, whatever you want to call it), is valuable and intentional. You know what you're doing in selecting and preparing materials - all they need to do is focus on the content, ask questions as they have them, and trust the process. You are facilitating their learning through the path you lay out for them.
2. Manager to Emotional Supporter & Encourager
In the classroom you very much have to manage all the bodies and their behaviors. When in synchronous time in the blended and online classrooms, you still have to do that, but as much as you may be used to.
Instead of focusing on transitions, how to optimize time in the classroom, etc., you are the supporter and encourager of your students making sure that you convey the clear message that the tasks they accomplish in school don't define them, and that sometimes other things in life are more important than school. School at home is hard, people. Kind of like teaching at home is hard, but even harder because there's even less about one's life a student can control.
Be their supporter and encouraging! Which means using a healthy dose of tough love sometimes too, to get them moving in the right direction and not capitalizing on how you aren't hanging over their shoulder for an hour everyday.
3. Having all the Control to Empowering Students
I am a recovering control freak - especially in the classroom. Anyone else?
Actually, that's not entirely true. Even with changes made in my classroom, I still was very much in control, it was just a matter of deciding what students would be more in control of than I had previously allowed.
That is... they were more in control of their learning.
Like it or lump it, online and blended learning forces teachers to give up some control of the learning process to their students; likewise, it forces students to take more ownership (they just have more of a choice on whether or not they take that baton).
Embrace this, teacher friend. Assume the role more of facilitator and encourager as you empower your students in their role as learner. Remind them of the messy process, and that as long as they are working at it, focusing on the content... that's all that matters. You'll be there to help them with any necessary accommodations or specific needs, and they should trust the process.
I don't know about you, but in all of those roles I just described... I'm thinking to myself, "Uh, I want those to happen in my actual classroom, not just in the blended or online one."
My friend, you are EXACTLY right. You absolutely can take what is the silver lining of distance learning and infuse it into your real, in-person classroom once we are back to normal.
And you SHOULD.
In fact, if you don't learn better ways to facilitate, be more accessible and more sustainable beyond distance learning, then you're doing a serious disservice to both your students and yourself.
And I want to help you take advantage of that silver lining.
My one-hour, online Flipped Classroom Training is back people.
The demand is too high and the need is too intense to not offer this compact but effective training on getting started flipping your classroom so that you can make changes not just for this year's blended classroom, but for your classroom NO MATTER the setting!
Click here to sign up for one of three dates in June and I will see you there LIVE!
It will be an hour of training on the flipped classroom, an opportunity to learn about how we can work together, and a chance to get your questions answered.
I hope to see you there,