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

8 Tips for a Successful Transition to the Home Teacher Zone

Dr. Tina L. Callaway is the Program Chair of Undergraduate Business and General Education studies as well as the Resource Coordinator at New England College of Business at Cambridge College. She is most recently affiliated with Concordia University – Portland’s Kappa Delta Pi chapter, which has sadly closed its doors after 115 years as an institution.

COVID-19 has unexpectedly opened the door to online education, sending our faces across the web thanks to programs like Zoom. Video conferencing has given our students a view into our lives outside the classroom. As teachers learn how to juggle working from home, teaching a virtual classroom, and reminding the family you’re at work, here are a few pointers from my 17 years of online teaching.

  1. Dress for success (from the waist up). Ladies, that really cute skirt or leggings looks great with a solid cotton t-shirt when you’re in front of a live class. In front of the camera, students see a plain old t-shirt. Get dressed in a shirt with a collar or at least be sure to doll up your t-shirt with a nice necklace or scarf. Male teachers, always wear a collared shirt, whether a button-up or polo. (I was in a pinch once to attend an evening Zoom meeting and had already changed into my fortunately nice pajamas. I threw on a strand of pearls, put on dangle earrings, and finished with a swipe of lipstick. Worked one time; doubtful it would work again. Do not try this at home!)
  2. Put on shoes. Why not just my fuzzy pink slippers? There’s a psychological switch when you put on shoes. Shoes indicate going somewhere and doing something other than sitting on the couch watching Netflix and eating bonbons. The simple act of putting them on will give you an “it’s time to work” mindset. Socks get you bonus points.
  3. You have now entered the Teacher Zone. If possible, dedicate a space or set up a boundary where your family knows that, once you’re there, you are in the Teacher Zone: Do not disturb. There are two benefits to having a dedicated space, whether it’s a desk in a corner or the luxury of your own home office. The first is that this, like shoes, puts you in a work mindset. This is your time for your students, not grabbing snacks for the kiddos, taking Poopsie puppy for a walk, or finding your spouse’s keys. Some people use masking tape on the floor for a boundary. Remember using tape to divide your bedroom with your sibling? The second is, this is your safe place to work and not feel guilty for not giving snacks, walks, or finding keys. You are at work.
  4. What is that?! Have you stopped to look at what’s behind you when you’re on-camera? For those fortunate enough to own a green screen and then apply a background, great. The rest of us are not so well equipped and have to rely on what’s in our home. Turn on your camera and really look at what students can see. I’ve seen a dresser mirror positioned so the unmade bed was visible. Dirty dishes and cluttered counters are distracting. Does your camera pick up the bathroom? Shut the door. Make sure your background is as clean and neat as your classroom at school.
  5. The disappearing head. If you use graphic backgrounds without a green screen, unless you’re able to stay perfectly motionless, parts of your head will disappear as you move, such as an ear or the left quarter of your brain. These backgrounds can be fun, but they’re more of a distraction as students watch to see what’ll vaporize next.
  6. Check me out! Do a test run on camera. Most programs will let you record, so do a quick session and see what your students will see. Do you wear glasses? Are you shooting laser eyes at your students? Do you have a flattop haircut or is your camera too low, cutting off the top of your head? Check your makeup, ladies: too bold makes you look clownish, not enough makes you look washed-out.
  7. Look deep into my eyes…. It’s natural to talk to the screen image of the student, but when you do this, you are not making eye contact with them. Looking into the camera (with the occasional glance to see if they are engaged) will show you are speaking directly to them. Think about watching the news. When they look into the camera, it’s like they’re talking to you. It provides that sense of connection.
  8. Who’s that girl? By now we’ve all seen the funny clips of reporters having their small children bursting into their home office. In your online classroom, these visits are distracting. Make sure your family respects your camera time. Your son may be cute in his Batman undies with his He-Man sword. Your spouse may think he can casually stroll behind you with only his shoulders and knees visible. The pets you love should also be kept away from the camera. Online time means work time. (True story: I was on-camera with a student and his teenage brother came sauntering through in only his whitey-tighties.)

I hope these tips made you smile but also made you think about what you can do to be successful as you navigate the new waters of teaching remotely.

Resources for further information:

4 Tips for Teachers Shifting to Teaching Online
https://www.edutopia.org/article/4-tips-supporting-learning-home

7 Tips on How to Prepare for Teaching Online
https://elearningindustry.com/7-tips-prepare-for-teaching-online

Zoom Tips for Teachers: Learn and Grow Together Online
(Don’t miss 10 tips for running a virtual lesson on Zoom – halfway through the article)
https://techboomers.com/zoom-tips-for-teachers-education

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 the homeschool teacher during a pandemic such as we have experienced in 2020. Connecting with families is crucial during these times, not only for supporting parents, but keeping in touch with students as well. Here are some ways that this connection can remain strong during challenging times.

Challenges Families Face With at Home Learning

  • Having questions about lesson content
  • Encouraging their children to focus on schoolwork while at home
  • Sharing one computer with two or more siblings to complete assignments
  • 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 challenge. Tell them that it is 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, meaning the parents may not be at home during the day as they are considered “essential” workers, and leave 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 in which you are available to call. 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 to them as the parade passed their houses, while maintaining social distancing guidelines

5. Be consistent: While flexibility is key, try to keep a sense of 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.

Teacher Preparation for Online Learning: Now Is the Time

Mary RiceToday’s blogger is Mary Frances Rice (University of New Mexico), who co-authored the article “Orienting Toward Teacher Education for Online Environments for All Students,” which appears in The Educational Forum. KDP is proud to partner with Routledge to share access to the article free through June 30, 2020 at Taylor and Francis Online.

In March 2020, 1.3 billion learners at all levels were displaced from their educational buildings due to COVID-19 (UNESCO, 2020).

In the U.S., most school buildings closed for the rest of the shool year (Education Week, 2020). For many, closures of this magnitude were previously unthinkable.

Even as buildings closed, many schools and institutions of higher education adopted some form of remote emergency learning.

Aside from the psychological panic induced by COVID-19 that made transition to new ways of learning difficult, many students did not have the devices and reliable internet access necessary for online learning. In fact, many teachers did not. Moreover, teachers had not been prepared to teach online. Why not? Well, for many reasons (see Rice & Deschaine, 2020). For some teacher education programs, it was because they thought online teaching was not real teaching. For some programs, it was because they lacked resources—faculty with know-how and models to emulate. For others, it was because they (and their state licensing boards) were tightly tethered to the notion that (time in seat = learning) and online instruction disrupts that equation.

Regardless of the reason, teachers in many schools distributed devices as best they could and started sending work online to families.

Did they bring their strongest pedagogical practices to the emergency online work? Some probably did.

Success stories abound from teachers at schools who already had consistent access to infrastructure and who were already using digital resources. I have a research site right now where students are receiving private music lessons with instruments provided on a rent-to-own basis by the school as part of their home-based learning. In this school, teachers are also sending students to break-out rooms for conversations, reading bedtime stories to students, and making use of learning management systems for young children. In these nice, safe neighborhoods, teachers can parade in their cars and wave to students to lessen the distance while keeping everyone safe. Moreover, in these neighborhoods, parents can stay home with children, find places in their spacious homes to make fun spaces for learning, and monitor children’s formal learning for a few hours a day.

But that is not what it is like for most families.

In many schools, the worst pedagogies and the most deficit-laden attitudes followed them to remote learning.

In another school site where I am conducting research, students were assigned to watch a 45-minute slide presentation with narration about the Falkland Wars. Students were supposed to take notes and write an essay. This  expectation—to learn using one of the driest content delivery systems ever invented—is for 12-year-olds! In another district, parents of students with disabilities were barred from entering their children’s Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) virtual meetings because they did not have district email addresses. When parents were not logging on, school officials chalked it up to parental ineptitude instead their own.

And then, there are the teachers who are not able to teach at all.

The devastation of the virus in some communities has been so intense that teaching and learning are the last priorities—with good reason.

For example, the Navajo Nation on the Arizona/New Mexico border is fighting the virus while most community members lack running water (McGraw, 2020). Surely, if we have to choose between the internet and running water, the water should win, along with food and medical supplies. But in most communities, if they had decent internet bandwidth and families had access to devices and teachers were prepared to teach online and collaborate with families remotely, all students could do home learning with some success.

Although there were good reasons to prepare teachers to teach online before the pandemic, it is understandable that many educators and many communities were caught underprepared.

However, moving forward from COVID-19, it seems prudent for institutions of higher education who prepare teachers to make preparation to teach online and in blended or hybrid spaces their highest priority.

Yes, teaching online requires different types of skills (Pullham & Graham, 2018).

Yes, teaching online requires teachers to think about time and achievement differently (Yan & Pan, 2011).

Yes, teaching online increases the transactional distance between students and teachers which must be lessened through strategic actions from teachers (Moore, 1993).

But, teaching online can be done well.

Teaching online can be a positive relational experience for students (Rice & Carter, 2015). Teaching online can also support the development of critical digital literacies and other advanced skills (Blau, et. al., 2020). But stop-gap emergency will not ever be anything other than that. And if we continue to rely on it in times of trouble, we run the risk of exacerbating educational inequalities that are already beyond tragic and unacceptable.

Communities need internet.

Students need devices.

Teachers need preparation.

Parents need support. Let’s lay the blame for uneven remote learning where it belongs—lack of planning, lack of interest, and structural inequality.

Then, let’s fix it.


References

  • Blau, I., Shamir-Inbal, T., & Avdiel, O. (2020). How does the pedagogical design of a technology-enhanced collaborative academic course promote digital literacies, self-regulation, and perceived learning of students?. The Internet and Higher Education, 45, 100722.
  • Education Week. (2020). Map: Coronavirus and school closures. Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/map-coronavirus-and-school-closures.html
  • McGraw, G. (2020). How do you fight the coronavirus without running water? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/02/opinion/coronavirus-water.html
  • Moore, M.G. (1993). Theory of transactional distance. In D. Keegan (Ed.), Theoretical principles of distance education. (pp. 22-38). Routledge.
  • Pulham, E., & Graham, C.R. (2018). Comparing K-12 online and blended teaching competencies: a literature review. Distance Education, 39(3), 411–432.
  • Rice, M. & Carter, Jr., R. A. (2015). With new eyes: Online teachers’ sacred stories of students with disabilities. In M. Rice (Ed.) Exploring pedagogies for diverse learners online (pp.205-226). Emerald Group Publishing.
  • Rice, M. F., & Deschaine, M. E. (2020). Orienting toward teacher education for online environments for all students. The Educational Forum 84(2),114-125.
  • UNESCO. (2020). COVID-19 educational disruption and response. Retrieved from https://en.unesco.org/covid19/educationresponse
  • Yan, H., & Pan, S. (2011). Rethinking time management of online instruction: Flexible or strict?. Open Education Research, 3. Retrieved from http://en.cnki.com.cn/Article_en/CJFDTotal-JFJJ201103018.htm

COVID-19: A First Year Teacher Perspective

getty

Kathryn Getty at #KDPconvo19

Kathyrn Getty is a first year educator in New Jersey and a recent graduate of Kean University. She joined the Delta Rho Chapter of KDP in April 2018.

The 2019-2020 school year is my first year of professional teaching.

Going into my first year of teaching, fresh out of college, I was a mix of emotions.

I knew it was going to be difficult and that it was going to be a learning experience.

However, I never expected my first year of teaching to include a pandemic, resulting in remote learning.

Being a first grade teacher in an urban community, I have students who cannot readily access a tablet or computer and those who do not have internet.

The practicality of using a platform such as Google Classroom just wasn’t feasible for our demographic of students.

So, we spent hours upon hours printing packets that contained two weeks’ worth of instruction for ELA, math, science, and social studies.

The lack of printers in the building proved to be a huge issue.

In order for other grade levels to print out their materials, I volunteered to head to Office Depot and print the remainder of the packets that we were unable to complete at the school. Thank goodness, I had the KDP discount. Because of that, I saved $364.83!

The day before remote instruction began, parents had the entire day to come in and pick up their child’s materials.

Their materials consisted of two packets from the lead teacher, each consisting of one week’s work. In addition to that, work was also sent home for specials and my five gifted and talented students, and my seven ELLs were provided supplemental materials from the ELL teacher. Once the students had everything they needed, remote instruction was ready to begin on March 18th.

My main source of communication with the parents is Class Dojo, an application that parents can download on their smartphone or use on the computer. On Class Dojo I am able to post reminders, direct-message parents, and award points to students as an incentive. For weeks one and two, I recorded the students’ attendance if they answered a question I asked about their work for that day on their Class Dojo portfolio. In addition to Class Dojo, I also created an account with Splash Learn for students to get supplemental math practice, and I have been assigning students reading assignments through Raz-Kids.

One word that would describe my remote-learning experience is flexibility.

Many parents are essential workers and are unable to work with their children or contact me during the day. As a grade-level team, we decided to have the attendance question due by 9:00PM in order to accommodate those parents.

I have noticed that empathizing with the parents and remaining in constant communication helps put them at ease and allows the remote learning process to run more smoothly.

Most recently, our administration has told us to begin running Zoom sessions so that we can interact with our students and teach/answer questions in real time.

Being able to interact with my students has made me feel like a teacher again.

This situation is not ideal; however, I have learned more about adaptability and patience than I ever thought I would.

To know that others are dealing with the same scenario has shown me just how supportive and connected the teaching community is.

convowjoe

Members of the Delta Rho Chapter with Joe “Mr. D” Dombrowski at #KDPconvo19

The Delta Rho chapter of KDP has begun a weekly “teachers lounge,” where officers and members log into Zoom to talk about our successes, struggles, ask for advice, and socialize “face to face”.

My favorite part about KDP has always been the connections and closeness of our chapter. A pandemic has not stopped us from socializing appropriately or growing as professionals. Even though we do not know when this pandemic will end, I am put at ease knowing that I have the support of my co-workers and Delta Rho chapter.

When we return to the classroom, I am confident that this whole experience will have made me a better teacher.

COVID-19: A Substitute Teacher’s Perspective

LizTaylorLiz Taylor, a 2019 Daytona State College graduate, has weathered a significant numbers of ups-and-downs in her short life. She recently wrote about how her chapter supported her recovery after a life altering accident. (link to blog). She’s currently serving as a substitute teacher for Daytona-area schools.

Phew! It was Thursday, March 12th, the day before Spring Break.

I spent the day at Bunnell Elementary in Flagler County, Florida.

I had already gone tumbling down half a flight of stairs while walking my students to lunch, so I was looking forward to what I thought would only be a week off school.

All the students in the class I was teaching that day were freaking out about the Covid 19 pandemic that’s been spreading around the world. I reassured them the best I knew how to.

Little did they know, I was scared, too.

I knew that we all deserved a week to relax away from school. Little did I know we’d be off much longer than that.

I had just arrived home from work that afternoon when the news broke. The Florida Department of Education was extending Spring Break for Central Florida students by one week to slow the spread of the virus in Florida. “Hmm… okay. I’ll manage,” I said to myself as I walked over to my refrigerator to check my work week schedule. You see, I had just graduated from Daytona State College’s School of Education that past spring with my Bachelors in Elementary Education. Unfortunately, there weren’t any full-time positions available. I was substitute teaching for the time being.

Then, as time went on, the virus continued to spread. “Social distance,” we were told. Then, the DOE told everyone that two weeks would be turned into four and then eight, and that the full-time teachers would start to plan for computer-based “distance learning.” “Oh, no!” I said, as the panic started to set in. A lump started to form in my throat. “I guess online learning doesn’t leave districts with the need for substitute teachers,” since Florida teachers would be working from home. I would be left jobless.

I took the easiest first step I could think of and I started looking for jobs teaching virtual school through Florida Virtual School. They weren’t hiring elementary teachers, either. I jumped on my computer and started reaching out to people at my district, letting them know that I was free, certified, endorsed, and willing and able to work anywhere they needed me. Then, I emailed the principals and assistant principals of the county’s five elementary schools and relayed the same message. Everyone reached back out to me, thanking me for my willingness to help, and told me that they’d reach out to me if they needed me. I’ve done all that I can for the time being. Now, my responsibility is to keep myself busy while keeping myself and my family safe.

I reached out to a couple of working moms that I know and let them know that I was free and available to help their kids with any online learning that they needed help with. It’s important to stick together during these times of uncertainty. I might not know what’s next as far as my career goes, but what I do know for sure is that we will eventually be back in classrooms in front of students at some point. Just because I don’t have any work doesn’t mean I want to be away from kids. If I can help a couple of local families during this time of uncertainty, I’d be glad to.
I wasn’t planning to be starting my career as a teacher during a global pandemic, much less as a substitute teacher without job security.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about viruses, it’s that they don’t care what your plans are for the year. They do not take into consideration jobs, after-school activities, substitute teachers and others being left without jobs, or the thousands of students around the nation who would be left without a classroom to go to for an undetermined amount of time.

Learning will still happen. Together, we can get through this.

As for me, for now I will continue supporting my fellow teachers while daydreaming about a future classroom and class of my own next school year.

COVID-19: A Professor’s Perspective

Cosco-TaraTara Cosco, Ed.D. is an Associate Professor of Education at Milligan College. She has been a KDP member for more than 20 years and serves as the Counselor of the Alpha Iota Iota Chapter.

 

 

Initially, when we heard about the Coronavirus, the college was on spring break, so to be honest I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. I was enjoying my time off.

Then, the college announced we had an extra week of spring break.

Naturally, I reacted joyfully. I took long walks in the park with my co-worker and enjoyed the extra time off from work.

Then, the college announced we needed to transition to online teaching for the rest of the semester.

What? I better look into what this is truly all about. The college is one of the last places to close. When public schools close, we tend to stay open if at all possible, so this must be serious, I thought.

I wasn’t too worried about the transition to teaching online. One of my classes was already online, and most of my materials are housed online anyway.

The first week of online teaching was okay. I added assignments to make up for the in-class work I would have typically given them. I wasn’t feeling the stress I assumed some of my other colleagues were, because I love technology and use it often anyway.

Then, we had an area meeting, and the realities of what others were facing became apparent.

My chair talked about the students’ fears about graduation and how they would finish the hours needed in the schools as a student teacher and intern. We were told many of the mentor teachers were now having to homeschool their own children and at the same time teach their students. Spouses were out of work and tensions were high. My heart started to ache for the students who dreamed of their senior year with friends and their graduation celebration. The moment they had all worked so hard for was now something that we feared would not happen.

The second week of class in quarantine, I decided to hold a Zoom meeting and allow students to gather together virtually if they could. I allowed those who were unable to attend the virtual class to watch the replay later.

I was thrilled to see my students’ faces again! I had missed them terribly!

This pandemic had taught me that there was a lot in this world I took for granted. I took for granted the everyday conversations, interactions with colleagues, students, friends, and family. We held class as usual, only through a screen instead of in person. It worked well! I was pleased with the technology, the ability to share my screen, and interact as if we were in an actual classroom.

It is now early April, and we are starting a month-long lockdown.

I am missing my colleagues, students, friends, and loved ones terribly!

I miss eating out, social gatherings, a friendly hug. The news tells of projected deaths and times are scary.

I hope everyone stays safe and we return to normal soon with an attitude of gratitude.

For e-learning resources and a community of peers, visit KDP’s website at http://www.kdp.org.