By Chrissy Roe, 2020 AWLA Teacher of the Year
We as teachers have recently found ourselves in the new world of online education. Day by day we are surviving but surviving is not our goal. Our goal is to help our students thrive.
As a Spanish teacher, I have taught virtual classes for about 10 years and have learned a few tricks along the way. For my virtual students, nothing has changed but this is not the case for my traditional students. They are accustomed to the unspoken help we offer daily. These students rely on me to read their thoughts and restate something when I see a confused glance. They know that I will rescue them by quietly pointing to key vocab when they can’t think of what to say. They appreciate that I anticipate their questions and they find comfort in my circling the room, offering guidance as they work. Here are a few tips to ensure we offer the same inviting environment while in the virtual world.
- Find your routine. Students are looking for structure in today’s chaos. Be consistent each week with the organization of your presentations and how students turn in work. Like the start of the school year, it takes about 3 weeks for students to accept your new routine. Once they learn your pattern, it will be easier to take risks and tackle advanced tasks.
- Remember their faces. Convert speaking assignments to video assignments. In the virtual world it is easy to lose the compassion you feel when you see students struggle in the classroom. Seeing their faces, rather than just avatars and files will help you stay focused on your students as individuals. If you are unable to meet face to face online, include your own instructional videos so students are constantly reminded that you are human too.
- Focus on quality over quantity. Teaching online can quickly become a 24 hour job. Instead of grading lots of single assignments, focus on one key production activity each week. Be thorough in your feedback of this assignment while individualizing comments. Students will appreciate one in depth, personalized conversation over multiple impersonal statements.
- Keep faith in your students It is very easy for students to rely on translators in the virtual world and even easier for teachers to get frustrated with such work. Make your job easier by adding one requirement to all assignments: state that all work must exhibit mastery of the current topic/topics covered in class. If you find something questionable simply tell your student that you can’t award points for work that doesn’t show off the skills covered in class. Ask them go back and incorporate specific skills from your current unit. This avoids confrontation while maintaining respect and high expectations between you and your students.
Hopefully these tips will help you fine tune what you are already doing in your new classroom so that you and your students can finish the year thriving rather than just surviving.