Yesterday, I had an engaging dialogue with one of my former colleagues on how our teaching philosophies are now shaping in a virtual learning environment. Interestingly, she shared some of her critical classroom incidents where students unwilling to open their cameras, keep themselves muted throughout the class and even does not appear in later classes. Most of the time, she felt there is no one in the class as most students keep themselves muted, only a handful of students shared and participates in the lesson. She confessed that sometimes she was discouraged. Although she knew where she needed to go, but she couldn’t see how to get there. Listening to my colleague’s concerns gives me a sense of what kind of stress teachers are going through globally to facilitate students’ learning during this devastating situation. However, this conversation also makes me reflect, are we still following the same pre-covid teaching philosophy in planning our lessons?
The teaching philosophy is the teachers’ beliefs and thoughts about what’s essential in teaching and learning. Teachers even include teaching philosophy as part of their lesson plans in the form of a one or two-page written description of how and why one leads the way one does. It excels in every decision and directs the course of learning in the classroom. However, the teaching philosophy varies according to the context and the situation in which a child is being taught, especially in the time of stress. Apart from context, student learning engagement is one of the essential objectives of teaching philosophy. Any teacher needs to go an extra mile and engage such students who are off track, make specific points, and energise already on-task learners. But the question is, how can we connect with students when we’re separated by either a computer screen or the physical barriers, we currently need to keep everyone safe in the classroom?
Eric L. Johnson, a sixth-grade teacher Chicagoland area, and Jonathan Eckert, a professor at Baylor University, have proposed five ideas in one of their engaging articles. These ideas can help teachers facilitate students’ learning virtually asper their designed teaching philosophy.
Be Dramatic—Shout and Whisper
When we notice early sleepers still arising, students with pre-lunch cravings or post-lunch comas, or end-of-the-day clock watchers, in other words, students who are distracted for various reasons throughout the day we find that, whether we’re teaching in-person in a mask or virtually via Zoom, alternating between using a booming voice and a conspiratorial whisper draws students into the drama of our learning experiences.
Focus on Connecting with Students
We have to engage our students, particularly those struggling, in just a few moments of conversation. The need is genuine for students who don’t usually participate in a class or online calls.
If you’re teaching virtually, take two minutes four times a week before or after a synchronous session to ask individual students about their weekend and their interests. The best time is usually right before or after class, but reaching out with a phone call works as well. Continuing to follow up with them a few times a week for a brief two-minute conversation is the key. The two minutes four times a week can also be one minute three times a week, or even one minute one time a week. You can do this with one or more students per week.
Make Sure Everyone Speaks
Every class member should expect to speak in every class, and the norm should be that everyone contributes. Our classes are richest when all perspectives are included. Cold calling is controversial, but it’s possible to take the sting out of cold calling and transform the downsides into a warm invitation to share thoughts. A wise teacher knows when to bring each student into a conversation through round-robin questions that elicit a response from everyone or rapid questioning that allows many students to participate in a limited time frame.
There are many ways to ask questions that help students feel safe, such as using a tool like Mentimeter to make participation anonymous while ensuring that every student gives feedback.
- Really See Each Student
Students need to hear about the excellent work they’re doing—and they’re achieving a lot of fantastic jobs this season. General or generic praise, however, not only gives students a false sense of accomplishment but can also lead to praise becoming meaningless. Be specific with praise, and use this as another opportunity to break down that dividing wall.
Sel, Early and Often
Regularly attending to the social and emotional needs of students establishes a focus on well-being. In class, try to incorporate social and emotional learning activities, whether as a stand-alone or, to really maximize the benefit, incorporated into a lesson plan.
In elementary through early middle school, give students words to describe their feelings using the framework of the Zones of Regulation. Older students can be given assignments that lead them to connect their learning to their community, such as asking family members, religious leaders, and other potential mentors about their experiences.
Of course, the purpose of these ideas is to facilitate students’ learning and try to direct our teaching [philosophy accordingly. Lastly, to un-distance distance learning, make sure to first take care of yourself so that you can take care of those entrusted to you. 😊