I have been an online instructor for a university for eight years. Each term I change my course based on what I feel would enhance the learning for my students. I learn so much from them. I love sharing my experiences and insights. This last term I decided to try a new course. I sent out an email to my course developer who put me in touch with a colleague who set me up with a course I have long wanted to teach, Children’s Literature. Whenever I try something new I get a bit anxious, and once I get into it (believe me, I research), I feel like Wonder Woman. On top of it all, I was given autonomy to make any changes I feel are necessary. Being brand new, I hardly changed a thing. To have that level of trust and responsibility given to me is life affirming. I went well above and beyond and made more work for myself than necessary. But oh, what a good class!
I now need to say goodbye to my students as they have completed the term. I received feedback from them stating how much they learned from the course. I wish the course was longer. We could have covered so much more in depth. Goodbyes are hard, but I know the students will make a difference in the lives of their own students. That’s the best outcome ever.
Update: I had a former online student contact me to tell me he passed the RICA exam! I also have students from past classes email me for advice and resources. I love staying connected to education in my “retirement.”
I put together some tidbits of wisdom that I gathered as a teacher, as well as insights from mistakes I have made and learned from. I hope they are of value to you.
Bring your best self to school. For many students school is a safe haven. Once in on a rainy day I ran over a dog on the way to school. Needless to say I was devastated, late and had mascara all over my face from crying. I took the day off rather than try toTeach after such an awful experience. The students need you to be completely present for them.
Build trust with the students, parents and staff. I have learned how important it is to have trust among those you work with on a daily basis. Keep confidential information to yourself. Another person’s life experiences are not your story to tell.
Help students set goals. Not everyone will have the same goals. Model goal setting by sharing your own goals. I shared with my class that my goal was to read 40 books in one year. It inspired several students to do their own goal setting.
Decide what kind of classroom management you want. Be consistent, caring and fair. Read about Positive Discipline (Discipline teaches, punishment hurts) Decide if you want a reward system (points, stickers, small tokens) Time out area for stressed kids (helpful, not punitive) Time out for YOU (teacher time) Teach how to be peacekeepers. Be consistent, be fair. When issues arise, hold a Class Meeting to talk it out together.
As a University Supervisor I have the task of observing and shaping future teachers. It’s a job I love. I try to pass on advice I’ve gained over the years. My work with both mainstream and students with special needs has shown me that for many students school is the best part of their day. They look to their teacher for validation that they are valued for their unique contribution to the class. It’s imperative that their teacher models enthusiasm, interest and compassion. This isn’t always the easiest thing to do when we have problems at home ourselves. I always tell my future teachers to bring their best self through the door of the classroom. If they have issues they cannot put aside, take a day off. Students need their teacher to be completely present, completely invested in moving students forward, and most importantly, happy about doing so.
So what can a teacher do to bring their best self to class? Get enough sleep. It seems simple enough, but looking at a screen before bed can hinder a good night’s sleep. Another useful tip is to exercise just before bed. Light stretching and deep breathing gets your body into a relaxed state. Reading a book before bed is another way to get your eyes tired enough that they close. Many times I have to reread passages not realizing that I was dozing off. Last but not least, say a prayer for everyone you know, especially the students who are in your classroom.
Student engagement is a vital component in any classroom. Over the past year, remote learning has become a reality for most students around the world. As many students return to in-person learning, or any number of hybrid learning environments, here are some ideas to keep engagement rates high and help maintain student learning in any environment.
Virtual, In Person, & Hybrid Learning Environments
Nearpod: Software to create lessons with informative and interactive assessment activities.
Netboard.me: collect, organize and share any web content. Create Web pages with texts, links, documents, videos, photos, presentations, etc.
Prezi: with a basic subscription and a profile that states you’re in Education, you get PreziNext and PreziVideo for free. Access to designer templates, millions of reusable presentations, etc.
Slidesmania: Free PowerPoint templates or Google Slides themes for education. You can find simple, formal and even fun templates.
Sutori:organize, plan and center instruction. The collaborative nature and ease of use makes Sutori the perfect companion for student and teacher presentations.
Symbaloo: is a cloud-based application that allows users to organize and categorize web links in the form of buttons, offering its PRO version to all educators at no cost.
Creating Digital Lessons
EdPuzzle: Video lesson creation software with lots of usable content.
Kahoot: A game-based learning platform that brings engagement and fun to players at school, at work, and at home.
Loom: Instantly shareable video. Capture your screen, record your front-facing camera, and narrate it all at once, then instantly share with a simple link.
Pear Deck: Facilitates the design of engaging instructional content with various integration features.
Squigl : Content creation platform that transforms speech or text into animated videos.
Thinglink: Tools to create interactive images, videos and other multimedia resources.
Management and Brain Breaks
Go Noodle – GoNoodle is a fun website with a variety of brain breaks and indoor PE fun right in one place!
Whole Brain Teaching – The teacher breaks up information into short chunks, using large hand gestures, varying the intonation of her voice by speaking loudly and then softly, quickly then slowly. The greater the variance, the more likely students are to recall and use the information. It activates various parts of the brain, locking information into long-term storage.
Class Dojo – Encouraging and supportive behavior management device. Teachers can encourage and support students for any skill or value — whether it’s working hard, helping others, staying on task, etc.
We all know when someone cares about us. Students come to school hoping they will be liked and accepted. A teacher that takes the time to know each student creates a solid foundation of trust. Learning is often connected to experiences and emotions. When a child feels secure, learning can move into long term memory.
From the start of the school year find out what your students are interested in. What do they want to know more about? Use an interest inventory. Share your hobbies, favorite sports, songs, movies. Take time to establish an atmosphere of security and respect.
Class meetings are a good way to teach social skills, establish community and foster open communication. Regularly check the status of the class. Encourage problem-solving with teacher guidance.
Give sincere compliments. Model how to show appreciation. Have students practice through role play.
Have students bring an object from home that is meaningful to them. Ask for volunteers to share what it is and why it is meaningful. You could do this on Mondays to get students to think about what was shared. Building connections in the classroom will benefit everyone.
Teachers, I hope you have a safe, productive, positive school year!
Supporting and celebrating diversity and inclusion in school works because it gives all children the potential to achieve, and creates an environment where those with additional needs are not segregated and seen as ‘other’; they are part of the same community of learners. Inclusion addresses negative cultural attitudes and misconceptions about people with disabilities, or those who are members of minority communities.
Websites, Blogs, and Media About Inclusive Classrooms: