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We wanted to share some of what we have learned recently from the education podcasts we have been listening to.

Principal Center Radio

Douglas Fisher - The Distance Learning Playbook (Jul 31)

Douglas Fisher’s has some great, practical tips on distance learning! 

He suggests that teachers should integrate synchronous and asynchronous learning. Get students to work together collaboratively. Have intentional, small group interactions with students since not all have students have parents at home to assist them/supervise them. School should really consider offering on-campus supervision for children of essential workers when the school 100% virtual. 

Moving forward, after this pandemic, we will better understand that learning happens outside of the school building, and that learning may not take as much time as previously believed (it doesn’t take 8 hours to learn what is usually taught in a traditional school day). 

We have also come to recognize the importance of the routines that actually going to school can teach. If you are starting the year virtually, and it has been 6 months since your students were in school, teach routines at the beginning of the year just like you normally would, but also think about routines like encouraging them to get enough sleep and not interupt class to go the the bathroom. 

You also need some healthy routines. If you are working from home, try and set up a specific place to work at home so that you “go to work” in order to help you better establish healthy boundaries even if you aren’t reporting to a school building. 

It is also a good idea to encourage student to have a workspace in the house rather than having students do school in their bedroom. Not only does this help them separate school time from home time, but it keeps random eyes out of students bedrooms. 

You may also want to teach students to turn off the self-view; most people are self-conscious about seeing themselves. You may find students are more likely to turn their cameras on if they don’t see themselves on the screen.

Robert Barr & Emily Gibson - Building the Resilient School: Overcoming the Effects of Poverty With a Culture of Hope (Aug 13)

A resilient school teaches both students and teachers how to be resilient depsite trauma and/or poverty. 

Regardless of how great a school is, there are so many students who miss large amounts of school due to poverty. Many resilient schools have started to develop community outreach programs which function as coordinators to community support. Schools are able to help students and families find the support they need which allows them to focus on being in school and learning more. Teachers then know exactly what to do when they learn of needs that their students have. 

When students are hungry or do not have suffient clothing for harsh weather or experience hygiene problems due to a lack of basic necessities like water or electricity, teachers need to be able to connect families to a liason who can truly assist them. We all know the very real truth of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Another way community outreach programs coordinated through schools can help is lessening the amount of families that have to move around so much due to poverty (which results in students giving up due to moving so much). 

Programs like these allow teachers to worry less about all the things they cannot do, freeing them to focus more on the things they can do. Classrooms and schools that foster a sense of community and belonging were found to have had a higher rate of participation when they transitioned to distance learning in the spring.

It is important to realize that teachers in high poverty schools are actually first responders who are dealing with trauma daily. Barr and Gibson’s book provides guidance on how to provide that support which can also encourage greater teacher longevity in these schools. 

ASCD Radio Learn Teach Lead

Meeting the Increased Need of Students to Feel Seen, Heard, and Belong (Aug 11)

How do we continue to build community during virtual learning? We have to focus on relationships and community, creating inclusive spaces. 

Think specifically about students that are generally marginalized in a traditional setting and be purposful with planning that includes them. 

Focus on the strengths and interests of students and colleagues during this time. 

There really is no one way to behave, teach or interact that works in every facet of the world so we have to be flexible and creative in our planning, teaching, expectations, and assessments. 

“Restory” students who come with baggage, stories, and warning from previous educators. View their differences as something to be honored and utilized. The word “restory” includes the word “resotre” within it, and we must restore the value of themselves and aducation with some of these students. The student so often is not the problem; it’s their response to and interaction with the academic and cultural landscape within the classroom. Those are the things we have some control over. 

Other questions posed and discussed in this podcast include: How do we really create an inclusive classroom where we are meeting students where they are and what they need? Are students with IEPs receiving less access to the curriculum as a result of being separated?

Keeping Students Engaged and Connected Online: Three Things That Work (Aug 11)

How do we help students stay connected in a time of remote learning when we cannot engage face-to-face? 

Personal contact with teachers is what seems to be making the most impact on students. Maxamize the time you are spening with students individually, either face-to-face, on the phone, or in small groups virtually, and  minimize the amount of time spent in direct teaching a whole group. If you have a lecture, you can record it and they can watch it on their own time, then allow student time to process independently or in small groups. When you all come together, discuss what was taught, applications of what was learned, and answer questions (this also a great consideration for leading professional development). 

What we did when we were face-to-face is not exactly what we should be attempting to do virtually. Don’t confuse the delivery system with the broader goals. The goal doesn’t change; how we get there is what changes. 

We need to focus on intrinsic motivation,rather than extrensic, particularly in remote learning. Focus on belonging, curiosity, autonomy, and mastery rather than just achieving a grade or a sticker (especially since many have transitioned to pass/fail during virtual teaching). Explain how information will build a skillset towards specific tasks and emphsize student ownership over the goals (rather than just “here’s the assignment” or “this is what I want you to do”). 

Be specific in evaluation: consider using narratives with specific feedback rather than just cold grades, especially since interaction is limited. 

Think about some of the things we need to take from this experience rather than just waiting for things to “get back to normal”. What have you learned and implemented during virtual learning that can be a tool you can use when you are back in a more traditional setting? We don’t want this time to feel like wasted time in the end.

The Cult of Pedagogy 

Creating Moments of Genuine Connection Online (Episode 152)

What exactly is a moment of genuine connection and how do we do that in virtual learning? 

We cannot realistically spend 10-15 hours a week spending time with students like they do in those inspirational teacher movies, building relationship so students feel respected and safe - while also writing lessons, growing professionally, and providing meaningful feedback on assignments. 

We must uUse the “brief” daily opportunities to actually connect with students (Even with students you don’t really like). Call out things about the student that make them feel valued and respected. Use expereiences that are embedded in regular classroom activities, and track these connections so that you ensure that every student is reached regularly. Set goals on how many students to connect with weekly. And, give yourself credit for the attempts - you won’t e able to connect with every student each time. 

Perhaps you could schedule brief, 60 second check-ins with students during your office hours, or send students a short, quick video or audio feedback to assessments (students who receive audio feedback are more likely to interpret the nuance of the feedback properly and retain it than if it is written). Or, send a quick video postcard to your classes. 

Also, consider calling students who have internet connectivity issues just to check in and make that connection.

Other Episodes 

Here are a few more episode we found particularly enlightening.

The Education Exchange: Some School Districts Are Talking About Not Reopening Until Next January (Episode 140)

The Education Exchange: Stanford-Affiliated Doctor Says Schools Chould Open in September (Episode 143)

The Harvard EdCast: Reducing Absences, Capturing School Days (Feb 6, 2019)

Principal Center Radio: Brad Gustafson - Reclaiming Our Calling: Hold on to the Heart, Mind, and Hope of Education (Aug 2, 2019)

ASCD Learn Teach Lead Radio: How Can We Manage Our Emotions As We Learn Through an Unprecedented Crisis? (April 28, 2020)

The Cult of Pdagogy: Reopening School: What It Might Look Like (Episode 146)

The Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast: How to Best Prepare New Teachers (June 17, 2020)

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