Trauma-Informed Strategies to Support Students During the Pandemic

By Pamela Kramer Ertel

When I learned that I would have to move my university-based courses to remote instruction for the remainder of the semester due to the pandemic, I was heartbroken. I grieved for my teacher candidates who were not going to get to do their second placement in their pre-student teaching residency experience. I grieved for all the missed learning opportunities and celebrations that would typically happen on campus.

I didn’t have much time to grieve these losses, because I knew I had to quickly switch gears and create the best possible learning experiences for my students. I recognized that we were all experiencing some sort of trauma and stress in dealing with the pandemic. While my students are not children, I knew the impact of stress and trauma could still seriously impact their ability to learn. I decided to use what I knew about trauma-informed care to help my students learn more effectively.

Pillar 1: Connection

Bath (2008) identified three pillars of trauma-informed care. One of the most important pillars is connection. “If children feel safe and connected to their teachers, they will be able to learn” (Call et al., 2014, p. 6). This is as true in elementary classrooms as it was for my more mature students. Strategies that can help children (and adults) feel safe include having a warm, welcoming voice, a positive greeting, and “soft eyes.” One of the reasons I opted to conduct my class using live Zoom sessions is that I wanted to be able to connect with my students, see their faces, read their emotions, and be able to respond to them on the spot.

I started each Zoom session with some calm, encouraging music videos. I used songs such as “It’s Going to Be Alright,” by Sara Groves; “Shower the People,” by James Taylor; and “Be a Light,” by Thomas Rhett. I selected these specific songs and videos because of their calming melodies and upbeat messages. I wanted to create a comfortable environment that was welcoming and supportive for students who were faced with uncertainty.

Pillar 2: Safety

The second pillar is safety. Bath (2008, p. 19), defines safety with characteristics such as “Consistency, reliability, predictability, availability, honesty, and transparency.” I tried to use a consistent, predictable format for each session. I started with a warm welcome and music, then presented the day’s “road map,” which included the objectives and the agenda for the session. I also allowed time for students to ask questions about anything. In the daily road map, I also posted a funny picture or cartoon to lighten the mood as we started each session.

Pillar 3: Emotional Regulation

The third pillar identified by Bath is emotional regulation. I know many of my students were feeling like they had no control over any aspect of their lives, and this is often even more acute with young learners. I tried to allow time for them to check in and share how they were feeling by using the poll feature on Zoom. I reminded them that we were going to get through this together. I knew that it was essential that I remain calm and compassionate, no matter how stressed I was feeling. In addition, I presented a clear outline of all course adjustments, which had been modified to meet their needs, so all expectations were transparent.

I also made myself vulnerable to my students by being honest about the things I did not know. For example, I had never even used Zoom before, so I willingly admitted that this was a new learning experience for me, too, as I modeled how to persevere in challenging teaching experiences, often through trial and error. I believe these actions helped my students better control their own emotions—something even more important for young students.

Additional Course Adjustments

Since my students were not able to do about half of their typical fieldwork, I searched to find the best possible videos to showcase actual classroom experiences. I found excellent videos on YouTube, The Teaching Channel, and Edutopia to help support their learning as they featured best teaching practices. We would then discuss the videos and applications to classroom practices.

Concluding Thoughts

I certainly did not have all the answers as I navigated the challenges presented by the pandemic. I am thankful that I was able to use what I knew about trauma-informed classrooms to help support my students during a particularly challenging time in our educational experience. I believe these three pillars of trauma-informed care can support learners of all ages.

Dr. Ertel is an Associate Professor at Middle Tennessee State University. She has been a teacher educator for 30 years, teaching at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and Middle Tennessee State University. She is a past president of KDP.

References

Bath, H. (2008). The three pillars of trauma-informed care. Reclaiming Children & Youth, 17(3), 17–21. Call, C., Purvis, K., Parris, S.R., & Cross, D. (2014). Creating trauma-informed classrooms. Adoption Advocate, 75, 1–9.

Educators in the Pandemic: From the Inside Out

By Larissa Rector
SPRING 2021

I am no stranger to technology, and I already had plenty of experience using Zoom for various school-wide meetings. However, when I learned that I would finish the remainder of the school year by creating virtual classes for my sixth-grade ELA students, I worried that I would not be able to adequately create an online learning environment that not only addressed the state standards, but created a culture where students felt safe and free to think for themselves—one that invited students to learn and discover meaning through books, ideas, and tasks . . . completely . . . 100% . . . virtually.

That is no small task when you are talking about keeping 85 middle school students engaged through a computer screen, but one that I tackled head on. That is what educators do: We dive right in and face challenges, always acting in the best interest of our students.

The Switch to Online Learning

Instead of going back to the drawing board, I decided to use the online platform my students were already familiar with: Google Classroom. This is where it began to get tricky. Before the switch to online learning, my students were already familiar with their assignments being listed on our class page each day. They knew how to access the various documents that I would attach for the lessons being taught and how to maneuver through different pages on a site. However, it was one thing keeping students interested and engaged in person; doing it online was a complete game changer.

Giving the Classroom Back

To create an online learning experience that would keep my students active and engaged, I decided to reach out to each child individually. I asked questions such as:

  • What has your online learning experience been like so far?
  • How does it compare with your experience as a student in a physical classroom?
  • What would you change about our online learning?
  • What do you want to see more/less of?

The answers to these questions made me realize that what the students needed most was support and understanding. They needed to feel comfortable getting on our Zoom meetings each day. They wanted to be actively involved with me, as well as their classmates. I began to realize that this new online platform that I was creating was not just about continuing to meet the standards that I was expected to teach. In all actuality, it was not even a fraction of what I needed to be establishing for my students. They wanted a say in the process.

So, essentially, I gave the classroom back to the students. I established a framework for the content I would continue to teach and let the students decide which activities they wanted to do during our time together. Collaboratively, we found several sites that allowed the students to play games for the skills we were learning that stimulated cooperation and/or competition among them as they worked toward achieving their classroom goals. All our assessments came from online quizzes and were comprised of a compilation of the literacy standards we covered each week. Together we had created an online learning environment that fit the needs and voices of all the students.

Concluding Thoughts

Whether we are teaching in a school building or through a virtual classroom, the underlying goal is the same: student success. Our role as educators is to encourage students to have a say in their own learning. We want them to exercise problem-solving and decision-making skills in order to achieve their individual goals. I believe that each student is capable of excellence, and with the right guidance and support, they will develop the avenues needed to succeed in school, as well as find happiness and a place of belonging in our society. To be able to help students discover and cultivate these educational and vocational potentialities, we have to ask. We have to listen. We have to give our students a voice.

Each individual child brings something unique to the table. They each have deeply ingrained social habits, identities, dispositions, and learning behaviors—all of which contribute to their academic success. We as educators need to start embracing these differences, as well as each child’s culture and experiences, in order to offer them the best educational opportunities. A student’s voice inspires and empowers them to begin taking ownership over their own education. Learning does not start with the teacher. It begins with the student. And even in a virtual world, learning comes from the inside out.

Ms. Rector is currently a Grade 6 English teacher at Prescott South Middle School in Cookeville, TN. Her teaching experience is distinguished by more than 13 years of service across different grade levels. Her passion is creating a positive classroom culture that increases student learning.

Further Resources:

Kahoot.com

Flipgrid.com

Baamboozle.com

Arcade Game Generator.com

Quizizz.com

Quizlet.com

Tips for developing online learning: Establish a homepage, such as Google Classroom. Develop a routine and stick to it. Make sure students are given breaks during class time. Create activities, like experiments or games that will keep children engaged.

Collaboration and Communication: Teaching During the Pandemic

By Leana R. Malinowsky
SPRING 2021

My second grade class of 2019–2020 was a dynamic group of students. Curious, social, energetic, and carefree would not suffice in describing their full character or potential. I’m grateful that spring of 2020 showed me they also were resilient, the most significant trait they needed as we shifted from the classroom to remote learning. Along on this voyage came my co-teacher (special education), their ESL/ESL bilingual teacher, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, two counselors, two RTI (Response to Intervention) teachers, four related arts teachers, and, of course, the students’ families. As the captain of this crew, I knew the ship had to weather the storm. Inspired by their kindred spirits and eager nature, I grabbed the helm for one of the most challenging experiences of my 12-year career.

Communication with families and as an educational team is important enough in a typical academic year. During all-virtual learning, it became even more critical to continue this positive interaction and not let the uncertainty act as an anchor. Maximizing collaboration with support staff naturally created positive communication with families.

 “Co-teachers must be good communicators, respect each other, have similar teaching philosophies, be willing to spend time planning together, and at times be willing to drop their own ideas and go with the other person’s plans. Good communication with parents is also essential” (Murdock et al., 2015, pp. 46–47).

When navigating uncharted waters teaching virtually, use this guide for peer collaboration to enhance communication with families. These are key elements for success during a time when many families are managing virtual learning.

Compass Points

  • Flexibility is key. The virtual classroom has many unexpected challenges such as additional steps to deliver instruction and set up meetings through technology . Give colleagues and families flexibility on when to meet and plan. This allows everyone to access necessary resources and offers the opportunity to work as a team.
  • Make planning a priority. Set times to meet with support staff individually and as a group to discuss the structure of virtual lessons, scheduling, and methods of communication, and decide which families need additional support systems for success. Make sure the team communicates about ongoing plans and anticipates adjustments.
  • Debrief regularly. Educational teams need to utilize the same practices virtually as they would in the classroom to discuss student needs, understanding, roles, and differentiated lessons. Take advantage of others’ perspectives on lessons and student performance. This allows everyone to be objective and offer suggestions. Debriefing should be frequent and consistent based on scheduling flexibility.
  • Have dependable communication. Speaking with families frequently ensures they are aware of assignments and important information, and that their child is receiving all required resources and services. This refines and builds the trust of family members, especially those who might have language barriers. Invite ESL teachers to meetings for families who need translation. With this support, family members can communicate freely and have an active voice in the conversation.
  • Utilize shared spaces. Use a shared space to brainstorm, such as Google Keep or a Google Doc for all teachers and support staff to share ideas, concerns, and questions, and plan meetings, and so on. Implement a communication app such Class Dojo (Google Classroom or other related apps) to post general information to families to see collectively. Much like a weekly or monthly newsletter, this disseminates information quickly, and many apps offer translation. It also allows multiple teachers to post messages to parents and have them shared quickly. Shared spaces can help extend planning and communication beyond meeting times.
  • Set schedules. Create a personalized schedule for students who receive additional remediation and support services. Include dates, times, and any needed materials. Share the schedule with families and update it frequently. Schedules benefit everyone in and out of the classroom. They provide structure in a learning space that has the potential to become unfastened.

Rising to the challenge of remote learning was certainly not easy, especially with limited time to prepare. I knew I had to implement best practices, creativity, collaboration, and communication together in order to sail successfully through the remainder of the year. It was imperative we stayed on course and worked together as we learned new platforms. I learned much more in the last few months of school than I ever anticipated; however, my skills have stretched beyond the horizon. My compass points provided guidance and offered possibilities for teaching in the future, both virtually and in the classroom. Keep these points in a captain’s log for a guide on the next voyage, wherever it may be!

Ms. Malinowsky is an elementary educator at Carteret Public Schools and has more than 13 years of experience teaching general education, special education, ESL students, and reading intervention. Ms. Malinowsky is a certified reading specialist. She is the Associate Counselor for the KDP chapter at Kean University and is passionate about working with preservice teachers and teacher leadership.

Reference

Murdock, L., Finneran, D., & Theve, K. (2015). Co-teaching to reach every learner. Educational Leadership, 73(4), 42–47.

Socially Just Technology Access in the Post-COVID Era

By Rebecca J. Blankenship
SPRING 2021

Since its inception in the 1960s and 1970s among radical criminologists, social-justice research has certainly evolved from the initial focus on injustices and inequities within the criminal-justice system to become a peripheral research interest among other disciplines. Within the field of education, social justice through equal access to technology has become a research area of particular focus as existing and emerging technologies have significantly changed teaching and learning in the 21st century.

Although the increase in technology use has, for the most part, significantly impacted pedagogy and instructional practice in a positive way, issues of equitable access frequently overshadow the anticipated benefits of providing students with alternative ways to engage with instructors while enhancing deeper cognitive development. This is particularly the case when engaging with vulnerable (marginalized) student populations, which has certainly changed the focus of the instructional technology and pedagogic narrative among educators and educational researchers.

These inequities in technology access require the redefinition of equitable engagement, understanding the current state of technology access among vulnerable populations and persistent barriers to access including hidden curricula, and proffer a change in the narrative towards more sustainable and equitable practices as educational theory and technologies continue to evolve in the new decade. Accordingly, the conversation among teacher preparation programs, especially in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and transition to complete remote instruction in the spring of 2020, has shifted from preparing future educators to implement best face-to-face practices to how teachers can translate those practices into a virtual classroom setting.

Additional considerations in terms of online best teaching practices parallel the narrative of equal technology access from the standpoint that many students transitioning to online learning did not have a computer or Internet access in their home. Further, for a large percentage of marginalized students, their only opportunity to interact with computers and mobile technologies is in the face-to-face school setting, which results in an imbalanced technical skill set for them compared to their non-marginalized counterparts.

Thus, the transfer to remote instruction created three imbalances in teaching and learning:

  1. Classroom teachers must now teach traditional face-to-face content in a virtual setting,
  2. Classroom teachers must now teach digital-literacy skills so that all students can actively engage with content, and
  3. Classroom teachers/school administrators must now ensure that marginalized students have equitable access to technology in addition to enhanced support services in order to actively and positively participate in the virtual classroom setting.
  4. Classroom teachers/school administrators cannot work in isolation.  In order to move forward, it is imperative that all stakeholders work in tandem with local, state, and federal agencies to secure funding and support services through specialized grants and programs that direct funds specifically to address the ongoing educational and technology access among historically underserved populations.  

Thus, teacher preparation programs moving forward in the new post-COVID era of virtual instruction are now charged not only with helping pre-service and beginning educators implement best online teaching practices, but also to do so in such a way as to ensure their practices are equitable for all students, especially those most vulnerable among marginalized students. Suggestions for program changes moving forward include:

  • Provide additional field clinical experiences that include working with sociocultural and socioeconomically diverse student populations,
  • Provide enhanced field clinical experiences that include working in more Title I and similar schools with large marginalized populations,
  • Redesign existing technology—key assignments to include more assistive technologies for marginalized students, and
  • Provide ongoing support especially for beginning teachers navigating the uncertainties of teaching marginalized populations face-to-face and virtually in the post-COVID era.

Additional Reading

Bridging an engagement gap: towards equitable, community-based technology leadership practice. International Journal of Leadership in Education, by E. Chang. (2019)

Cruel optimism in edtech: When the digital data practices of educational technology providers inadvertently hinder educational equity. Learning, Media and Technology, by F. Macgilchrist. (2019) 

Equitable access to education and development in a knowledgeable society as advocated by UNESCO. Educational Research and Reviews, by C. M. Jemeli and A. M. Fakandu. (2019) 

“Just access”? Questions of equity in access and funding for assistive technology. Ethics & Behavior, by E. Durocher, R. H. Wang, J. Bickenbach, D. Schreiber and M. G. Wilson. (2019)

Technology for equity and social justice in education: Introduction to the special issue. International Journal of Multicultural Education, by S. Marx and Y. Kim. (2019)

Working toward equitable access and affordability: “How private schools and microschools seek to serve middle-and low-income students.” Bellwether Education Partners, by J. Squire, M. S. King, and J. Trinidad. (2019)

Dr. Blankenship is an Associate Professor and TESOL Program Director in the College of Education at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida. Dr. Blankenship teaches ESOL Endorsement and Compliance courses required by the state for professional certification. Dr. Blankenship’s research interests include the development of virtual training environments for pre-service teacher candidates, the digital agency and literacy development of pre-service teachers and university faculty, and the effects of politics and social media on the teaching profession.

Increase Student Engagement While Teaching Online

By Will Perry and Clinton Smith
SPRING 2021

Moving to an online learning environment is scary for teachers, students, administrators, and parents alike. Although blended and online learning have become online fads in education in recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic turned “I’d like to try that” into “You don’t have a choice.” The move to an online setting has sent many teachers—brand new and veteran—into a panic of how to teach in the new environment. Teachers have scrambled to keep students engaged without having them in a face-to-face learning environment.

Building student relationships is one of the tools to ensure student engagement in an online environment, and it is not a new innovation. Student relationships are key to being successful in an online setting. Strong relationships enable teachers to engage students and lead them to success in their learning. Quin (2017) found that strong teacher–student relationships correlate positively to higher levels of engagement, better grades, higher attendance, less disruptive behaviors, and lower dropout rates.

In our brick-and-mortar classrooms, we naturally found ways to build relationships with our students but, with some strategic planning, teachers can build strong relationships with their students online, too. If you are still teaching exclusively online, remember these principles to build strong relationships with your students and keep them actively engaged.

Stay connected.

You are not a computer that posts assignments and assigns grades. As the cliché goes, students “don’t care what you know until they know you care.” That’s overly simplified, but within those words lay the keys to success. Let students and their families know who you are by providing some of your background and interests. Take the time to get to know your students. Get to know their likes and dislikes and try to incorporate them into your lessons. Let students know that you care about them and their well-being, distress, and trauma. We need to make sure the basic needs of our students are being met.

  • Create virtual opportunities for students to connect with one another and with you. Schedule one-on-one check-ins to make that personal connection with students just as you would in the classroom.
  • Enrich your lessons by using personal examples and anecdotes, and encourage students to do the same.
  • Send weekly updates for due dates and important events through newsletters or blogs.
  • Provide opportunities through virtual games such as Quizlet, Kahoot, or activities such as show and tell, comedy time, charades, or a scavenger hunt.

Consider student needs.

Consider your students’ basic human needs before getting wrapped up in academic content. Pearlman (2020) says we need to consider Maslow before Bloom. The pandemic may have caused students to experience grief, distress, and trauma. We may need to make sure the basic needs of our students are being met.

  • Ask students regularly how they and their families are doing. Students have missed important events such as sporting games and seasons, graduations, band concerts, and other school activities, not to mention normal activities they’ve grown accustomed to, such as birthday parties, holidays, eating in restaurants, or taking their yearly vacation to the beach. Worse, others have experienced the illness or loss of family members or friends to COVID-19.
  • Listen to them. Students are missing out on daily interpersonal connections with their peers and their teachers. Consider a “virtual hangout,” where you share about the good things your students are doing during online learning.
  • Look for opportunities for students to talk about their lives, their concerns, and any problems they may be having with the lesson.

Provide opportunities for engagement.

Students who are engaged are more likely to experience academic success.

  • Consider formative assessment strategies such as using journal entries or exit tickets to engage students.
  • Increase questioning during lessons, like “How would you feel if this were you?” “What’s something that’s happened in your life that’s similar to this character?”
  • Create writing opportunities for students to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Examine crises through stories or historical analysis, and ask students to describe similar experiences and if they can relate to how the characters feel.
  • Moderate a classroom chat or discussion board.
  • Create funny videos of a science experiment, read a children’s book, or take them on a virtual field trip.

Concluding Thoughts

Teachers are master relationship builders, so don’t let an online environment be a barrier to building student relationships. If you expect your students to be engaged, show them that you care about them, even from afar. Teaching in an online environment may be challenging, but focus on building strong relationships with your students and increase student engagement. Your students are depending on you!

Dr. Perry is Associate Director of Philanthropy at Vanderbilt University and a former high school Spanish teacher.

Dr. Smith is Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Tennessee at Martin and the KDP Public Policy Chair.

The New Classroom: Pros and Cons From the Students’ Perspective

By Saundra Shillingstad and Sheryl L. McGlamery
SPRING 2021

On Wednesday, March 11, the World Health Organization announced that COVID-19 was officially a pandemic. The outbreak of the coronavirus prompted universities to make radical changes in scheduling and delivery of classes. An announcement was made on March 13 that the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) would allow students to take a 2-week break from campus and online classes. UNO started spring break early, March 14, and the semester resumed March 30. Course delivery shifted at UNO to become online for the remainder of the spring and summer semesters.

The disruption of going from face-to-face class meetings to online course delivery affected both students and teachers across the nation. For those of us who had never taught a course online, and for students who hadn’t participated in an online course, the learning curve seemed very steep. My colleague and I got busy getting ready to work and teach online. We had 2 weeks. The preparation evoked a bit of fear and anxiety in both of us. However, as we soon realized, we had nothing to fear.

The UNO College of Education, the Teacher Education Department, the Office of Digital Learning, and the Center for Faculty Excellence provided faculty and staff with numerous workshops for remote and online learning in an effort to prepare faculty and staff with guides for moving courses online as well as workshops for advanced support features and resources. We participated in the workshops, acquired the skills to navigate the online tools available to us, and were ready when classes resumed March 30.

During the 6 weeks of online course delivery, my colleague and I touched base with each other frequently. Our conversations often turned to how the students were adjusting and feeling about the move to online course delivery. Before the semester’s end, we asked students the open-ended question: What are the pros and cons of online course delivery via Zoom? We collected and reviewed their responses regarding the abrupt change from on-campus course delivery to online course delivery via Zoom. Here is what the students had to say:

Pros:

Convenient

  • “I love not having to travel to campus or worry about getting from building to building safely.”
  • “Taking the course from home was the only way I could have done it with my kids out of school.”
  • “No commute!”

Access

  • “Having the course delivered in Canvas (which we already use) made the transition to online pretty easy.”
  • “I loved having access to the recorded lectures. Instead of having to send an email if I had a question, I could quickly access the video and review what I had forgotten or needed clarified.”
  • “I love ‘anywhere’ learning. I had to move back home (my family lives in California). I am grateful we were able to finish the class online.”

Cons:

Attention

  • “The struggle is real. It is sometimes hard to understand the content and stay focused.”
  • “Large-group discussions are difficult. I am still trying to figure out how to insert oneself into the conversation.”
  • “Recorded class sessions were available for review when I did not pay attention.”

Distractions

  • “Classmates not muting their microphones was a major distraction”.
  • “People! Put your kid down, turn off your TV and music, stop looking at your phone, get out of bed, stop slurping and eating—you are driving me crazy!”
  • “Classmates need to figure out how to be professional when ‘live’ on Zoom (does everyone realize I can ‘see’ what you are doing?). PAY ATTENTION!”

Technology

  • “It stressed me out when my Internet service was unreliable or weak.”
  • “I disliked it when I would lose connection and have to figure out how to rejoin the class session.”

Socialization

  • “I missed conversing with my classmates, something that is SORELY lacking in this online environment.”
  • “We miss out on networking with classmates and finding friendly faces that we can connect with in upcoming semesters.”
  • “Missing the socialization period before and after class, as well as the small talk with professors. I hate it. I miss in-person.”
  • “Missing out. Don’t get the same ‘face-to-face’ contact that I would if we were in person.”

The students’ feedback leaned heavily on areas that could be improved, or what they viewed as challenges. We asked the questions to gauge and monitor not just how we as faculty were feeling, but how the students felt. To us, the student’s perceptions matter as we move forward during uncertain times. Our desire is to provide the students with high quality learning experiences, in and outside of the classroom.

Dr. Shillingstad is a Professor in the Teacher Education Department in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Research interests include teacher induction, assessment, and program assessment. Saundra is a member of the Eta Omega Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Dr. McGlamery is a Professor of Science Education in the Department of Teacher Education at University of Nebraska at Omaha. Research interests include teacher induction, assessment, multicultural education, and teacher development.

Successfully Teaching K-5 Online

By Queen Ogbomo and Stephanie Wendt
SPRING 2021

On March 13, 2020, most schools in Tennessee, like others around the world, were shut down because of COVID-19. Educators were left in limbo, unsure of what was going to happen next. For some, it was weeks before they were informed of what to do. Like one teacher said, “For me it was very frustrating not having clear directions on what we should be doing with our classes at first. Not just for teaching them, but even communicating with their families. I was worried about how my students were doing and the conditions they were going through” (Teacher 1, personal communication, 2020).

Teachers were left to fend for themselves during an unprecedented pandemic—without direction from administrators—and with many eyes looking to them for answers. No clear guidelines or expectations were given for teachers and families for several weeks. 

Two to three weeks following school closings, teachers were informed that instruction would be moving to online distance learning. Many teachers were in shock. This was unchartered territory. Both teachers and families were facing the reality that students would be learning at home together. While families are central to the education of their children (Burgess & Sievertsen, 2020), the question now was, how many of these parents or families have the skills and time to teach their children? How many of them have the technology at home, or even know how to use the technology, to successfully support their children? There were clear frustrations on the part of teachers with the rapid decision to transition to online learning. Were school administrators assuming that everyone involved had adequate Internet service and/or technology to support online initiatives, or that parents knew how to use the Google tools?

Like one teacher from Michigan said, “I feel like we were thrown into online teaching. We did get some quick basic training sessions on Google Classroom and Google Meets; basically, we had to learn by trial and error, just spending time on each” (Teacher 2, personal communication, 2020).

Recommendations for Teachers

1. Be flexible with instruction times.
Providing clearly written directions and video instructions within an online classroom is imperative for students’ and parents’ understanding of materials. Having these accessible will aid in student comprehension. 

2. A popular platform for many teachers and students is Google Classroom.
If this is what you’re using, list everything by week using topics, and include a “Resource Tools” topic at the top. The resource tools should include, but not be limited to, how to use Kami (online document annotation and markup tool), how to take a screenshot, and how to print assignments. 

3. Stay in regular communication with your students and their parents via email.
Email communication should be brief and include regular times for Zoom meetings by topic and days of the week. By establishing regular Zoom meeting times, students will become accustomed to a “class schedule” at home. When you schedule meetings, designate specific times for teaching concepts and having other meetings be strictly for question-and-answer sessions. Don’t require all students to attend the Q&As—just the students who have questions and need assistance or further clarification. Of course, all students should be required to attend Zoom meetings when you’re teaching new content. A suggested schedule might be meeting on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In the morning on these days, hold required 1-hour Zoom meetings with students, during which you will teach content. Offer a 1-hour open Zoom meeting in the afternoons of the same days for students to attend on an as-needed basis. When you prepare for your meetings, write down a list of things you want to accomplish in your time with the students and always have a backup plan in case technology does not work. 

4. Keep your Zoom meetings as interactive as possible.
Show students how to use the microphone and video functions as well as the hand-raise and chat functions. During your first class meeting, set expectations for using these tools, as well as for behavior and dress code. Continue to reinforce these expectations as needed and communicate them to students and parents via email as well. 

5. Lastly, make the most of your Zoom sessions by incorporating different types of media.
Show videos—these can be teaching videos found online or ones you’ve prerecorded for classroom use such as read-alouds, science experiments, or direction videos. Students also enjoy playing games online to build community. These could be team-building activities that you would typically use as icebreakers. The goal is to make the online classroom as personal and engaging as possible.

Dr. Ogbomo is an Associate Professor at Tennessee Technological University. She teaches social studies, mathematics, and science methods courses. She maintains an active research agenda in minority and multicultural education, mathematics and literature connection, science and literacy, STEM education best practices, and online learning.

Dr. Wendt is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at Tennessee Technological University. She teaches courses on science methods, field experiences, learning theory, educational technology, and grant writing. Dr. Wendt assisted educators and preservice teachers with transitioning to online instruction during COVID-19.

Reference

Burgess, S., & Sievertsen, H. H. (2020, April 1). Schools, skills, and learning: The impact of COVID-19 on education. VoxEu. https://voxeu.org/article/impact-covid-19-education

4 Tips to Maximize Remote Collaboration in Crises

By Lisa Polk

Massive change during times of crisis requires us to consider our priorities through a different lens. The decisive actions required during the COVID-19 pandemic were incomparable to patterns of previous crises. However, assessing available resources and considering possible solutions can help you navigate through uncharted waters. Limitations and opportunities that were previously nonexistent can be an asset in maximizing the needs of remote collaboration.

Onsite learning environments that aided teacher–student interactions during learning have evolved into a form of remote collaboration. We are holding meetings in online platforms that are unfamiliar and require new learning for some participants. Remaining flexible with priorities, responding reasonably, and allowing for innovation can help you maximize collaboration.

1. Prioritizing: Key factors in prioritizing include thinking about the purpose of a meeting and staying in focus. Before the meeting, communicate the agenda and goals, which you reach the desired outcome. Virtual meetings might only include a brief timeframe for action items, but you can accompany them with previously shared documents or follow-up emails for effective and efficient collaboration. Your priorities might not follow a common pattern from one week to the next, but if you stay focused on needs, goals, and solutions, you can have success.

2.  Responsiveness: Being considerate and responsive to the preferences and needs of others can help you maximize collaboration in a variety of learning environments (Evmenova, 2018). Accessibility and preferences might change for someone from one week to the next in remote learning, requiring flexibility for modes of communication and access to instructional materials. (Rogers-Shaw, Carr-Chellman, & Choi, 2018). Remaining responsive to the needs of others and flexible to change can help everyone collaborate effectively.

3. Feasibility: Prioritizing quality over quantity is a key factor in providing a feasible approach to collaboration. Offering feasible avenues of communication and remaining open to varied approaches can increase opportunities to connect with students and colleagues. Assisting with feasible access to materials, connecting to virtual meetings, or locating food services can help meet the needs of individuals as well as send a message of care and concern.

4. Innovation:  Share innovative ideas and optimal tools for solutions to current issues. If certain approaches provide multiple modes of access to learning, such as choice boards or familiar instructional materials, offer these as possibilities, and be willing to initiate action. Interact positively and listen while collaborating. It is a time to think outside the box and share expertise (Gustafson, 2017).

By being considerate and flexible, you can positively impact learning during times of crises. Being responsive to the needs of others can ease tensions and promote learning. Maximizing collaborative efforts can help further academic achievement, and you’ll be sending students and colleagues a message of value and concern. 

References

Evmenova, A. (2018). Preparing teachers to use universal design for learning to support diverse learners. Journal of Online Learning Research, 4(2), 147-171.

Gustafson, B. (2017). Renegade leadership: Creating innovative schools for digital-age students. Corwin.

Rogers-Shaw, C., Carr-Chellman, D. J., Choi, J. (2018). Universal design for learning: Guidelines for accessible online instruction. Adult Learning, 29(1), 20-31.

Ms. Polk is a doctoral student at Sam Houston State University. She has been in education for 29 years and is currently a K-12 Curriculum Specialist. Her research interests includes implementing instructional approaches that promote academic growth in all students.

Interrupted Student-Teaching Experiences: 5 Tips to Get to the Finish Line

By Laura Sabella, Cynthia Castro-Minnehan, and Ruthmae Sears

Dr. Sabella is the Director of Field and Clinical Education at the University of South Florida. She oversees clinical experiences across programs and teaches the capstone Seminar course for secondary final interns. Her research interests include the transition from student to secondary content teacher, the role of the university supervisor, and partnerships in secondary schools.

Ms. Castro-Minnehan is a third-year doctoral student in the Mathematics Education program at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include collaborative learning during clinical experiences through co-teaching and co-planning.

Dr. Sears is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida for mathematics education, and KDP advisor. Her research focuses on curriculum issues, reasoning and proof, clinical experiences in secondary mathematics, and the integration of technology in mathematics.

Student teaching is a critical time in teacher preparation. It provides crucial space for pre-service educators to bridge the research of coursework to actual practice in the classroom. It allows teacher candidates to operationalize the true experience of teaching through classroom management, facilitating student learning, and supporting student assessment.

As a result of COVID-19, there was major disruption in this sacrosanct space. Many candidates were anxious that hard-won relationships would be shattered, or that parts of their new teaching profession would no longer remain. Many feared they might not meet credentialing expectations.

However, we canproactively ensure they get to the finish line. We offer practical strategies to help you move student-teaching experiences forward. We must acknowledge that there will continue to be districts that implement teaching online, face-to-face, or hybrid, with potential disruptions or reversals to any teaching model. These recommendations uphold the goal of supporting candidates’ completion, regardless of the setting.

1. Plan ahead.

Assume we will have future disruptions to instruction. Plan ahead by ensuring candidates record themselves teaching while they have access to physical classrooms. These videos can be unpacked later for additional data and feedback or to provide reflection for improvement.

Plan for a shift to online instruction. Identify resources that will smooth that transition such as online platforms, online teaching sources, access codes and passwords, and training with software and programs schools are using. Consider what services are available free to candidates. In this way, you can plan for continuity in instruction.

2. Continue contact where possible.

Provide opportunities for student teachers to maintain meaningful interactions outside the physical classroom. Encourage continuity with their students through online teaching, virtual story times, grading, tutoring sessions, office hours, and so on. To keep the sense of community, candidates can participate in PLCs and faculty meetings online. Additionally, they can continue to engage with their teachers using co-planning and co-teaching online.

3. Review state and district policies.

Reviewing state and district policies is critical. Many candidates may fear they won’t meet state or district requirements for clinical work. Check to see if states allow unconventional field experiences, alternative assessments, and substitute placements, and whether they can reduce the number of hours required.

4. Acknowledge and affirm.

Teacher candidates need to have their worries acknowledged when faced with frustrating disruptions to clinical experiences. Recognizing the concerns they have and the difficulties they are facing is crucial to their success. Affirm that you will navigate the disruption and new space together. Support affirmation theory and consider the affective domains where you can best support candidates during difficult times.

5. Embrace possibilities.

Finally, look on the bright side and embrace new opportunities as we engage in this space. Despite the challenges, recognize that there’s always something to celebrate. Take advantage of new tools and experiences. Welcome possibilities of unpacking and expanding new skills teaching online. Appreciate many candidates may shine with new alternatives.

As we go forward, clinical experiences will continue to expand so our candidates become quality educators. We will support them regardless of the setting, with the goal that all opportunities can successfully promote student learning.

5 Ways to Connect With Families During the Pandemic

Dr. Laura Anderson is a former elementary school teacher and now a Professor of Education at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. She teaches courses in pedagogy and children’s literature and is a counselor for Upsilon Kappa Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Few parents, however, envisioned being homeschool educators during a pandemic. Connecting with families is crucial for teachers during these times, not only to support parents but to keep in touch with students as well. Here are some ways you can keep this connection strong during challenging times.

Challenges for Families with Online Learning:

  • Questions about lesson content
  • Keeping their children focused on schoolwork at home
  • Two or more siblings sharing one computer
  • Internet and computer problems
  • Finding time to work with their children after working all day

How Can Teachers Help?

  1. Be an encourager. Let the parents and students know that they can succeed during the pandemic. Tell them that it’s been a learning curve for you as well. Respond quickly to emails or calls from students and parents who express fears and frustrations. Give written, encouraging comments with feedback on assignments.
  2. Be flexible. Not all families are equipped with the technology or materials needed to complete all of the assignments. Many of their schedules are different; some may be considered essential workers and may not be at home during the day, leaving their children in the care of grandparents or sitters. You can help by extending due dates for assignments, which will alleviate family stress. Also, adjust assignments for children who struggle academically.
  3. Be available. Using apps such as Remind allows parents and students to text questions to you without having actual access to your personal telephone number. (See remind.com/teachers). You might also set up specific times to talk with parents and students on the phone about assignments and concerns they have. Ask families to give you a contact number where you can reach them, and let them know the general time(s) you are available to receive calls. Don’t forget parents whose first language is not English. Written directions in their first language or a connection to a speaker to translate would be helpful.
  4. Be creative. Think outside the box on how you can be connected. For example, several teachers in my area wanted to see their students face to face and decided to have a school faculty parade through the attendance zones. They decorated their cars with signs expressing how much they missed their students, planned a parade route, gave families approximate times in which they would be on each street and sent out an “invitation” for families to come into their front yards to see their teachers. They smiled and waved as the parade passed their houses—while maintaining social-distancing guidelines
  5. Be consistent: Although flexibility is key, try to maintain some consistency by keeping things as familiar as possible. If you have circle time procedures such as the calendar, identifying the weather and day of the week, use these to open your Zoom sessions. When making assignments, try to use the same formats and procedures that you use in the classroom.

What ideas do you have that you can share with others? Please share your strategies and tag me at http://www.instagram.com/lhsa52