Remote learning: relationships first

As schools consider moving to remote learning, you may be pondering how to continue the supportive and carefully developed community you have been building since day one of school at home. Perhaps you are worried about your students, especially the ones who might not have much supervision, resources, or even high-speed internet, because folks, this is Vermont. And we have been struggling with that for *years*.

First, let’s take a few deep breaths:

We are seeing a barrage of online resources coming the way of teachers and that is great. But we are reminded that the very most important thing right now is for kids to feel seen, loved, supported, and cared for.

You likely want to continue to foster a sense of belonging, because it is loneliness and isolation that could harm our students.

So let’s focus on how to stay truly connected to your class during this time.

One thing that can help educators and students feel more grounded and secure is this: connection. By creating opportunities to connect, not only will students feel more seen, but they will build all sorts of coping skills to use later in life.  We are going to share a plan for a humanistic, relational approach for distance and remote learning.

First — if you have time — how might you prepare for remote learning?

Start with this.

1. Know who has online access and who doesn’t, and plan accordingly.

Ask about online access, especially if your school is hanging onto devices. This might mean emailing plans to caregivers to share on their phones, or printing out plans on paper and sending them home that way.

2. Set up some remote learning agreements

Or you can adjust and extend your current classroom norms! Here are some suggested norms from this helpful resource, Humanizing Online Teaching, modified for a K-8 audience:

  • Be present. In a digital environment, it is easy to get distracted. Attention is caring. Focus on listening to each other and connecting.
  • Try not to interrupt, mute when not speaking.
  • Make space, take space. Encourage everyone to fully participate.
  • Be open to learning and acting in new and different ways.
  • Support the learning community in this time of change.

3. Make sure students take what they need

Library books, art supplies, paper, etc. If it’s not nailed down, it can be sent home at this time.

We know this school disruption is about to cause or exacerbate some food insecurity issues for students. We’re seeing communities brainstorming ways to get involved through Front Porch Forum (Send the bus drivers round with boxed lunches! Let librarians drive foods around!) and… it’s complicated. Focus on the learning supplies you have on hand for this bit.

4. Prioritize checking in with students 1:1

Prioritize students who do not have online access, find ways to connect and support students emotionally and academically. A phone call can go a long way in helping students feel cared for. Be sure to make space to surface any needs or concerns students might have.

In preparation for these conversations, know who you should communicate with when issues surface.  You cannot do this alone, so be clear about the support network you need should issues arise.

5. And finally, don’t forget about your needs

During stressful times it is important to prioritize self-care, personally and professionally.

Here are some suggestions for taking care of yourself and each other:

  • Continue to meet with your teacher team to collaborate and stay connected.
  • Take care of yourself and your family; breathe, rest, and take downtime.
  • Ask for help when you need it!

We see you, educators, working hard to take care of your students and each other! And we thank you for your hard work and your big hearts!

Jeanie Phillips, Katy Farber

Jeanie Phillips is a former (and always!) school librarian and a Professional Development Coordinator for TIIE. A 2014 Rowland Fellow, she is passionate about student engagement, equity, collaboration, and questions. Jeanie likes to hike the woods of southern Vermont with her dog Charlie and is always in search of a well-brewed cup of tea and a good book.

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