This blog series is aimed at helping educators in a time of uncertainty and challenge.
Staying Connected in the Midst of COVID-19 Closures
2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year Leila Kubesch recently shared some of the ways she is staying connected with her students during the current school closures.
For my students, the joy of having extra weeks added to their spring break dissipated as quickly as it began. “Oh wait, how are we going to learn in this class?”
In teaching foreign language classes, I use many activities for speaking and listening and include playing games that incorporate both, so initially I was not sure how I would continue these activities in a remote classroom format. The first few days of online teaching was not easy; students texted frequently to express confusion and asked similar questions to one another, giving us all an appreciation for the face-to-face interactive learning we previously had. However, I was determined to make this work well and easily for everyone and one way to do that is by staying connected.
I began to create videos to engage students in learning complex content. The video format has been particularly helpful because I can modify them to suit the various needs of different students. This was also a useful tool to teach students how to pronounce new vocabulary. By showing the words, I can include the meaning and how it is pronounced. They then demonstrate their learning by calling me or by recording their voice and sending me a link.
We shared our phone numbers so they could ask questions or just talk if they needed. Teachers can opt to create a Google phone number solely for their classes if they choose to safeguard their personal number. My students have been respectful with mine and use it mainly to text questions or when they need me to reset a program called Apex, as they can’t move forward in the online program until a reset is done by a teacher.
My 7th graders set me up to use Snapchat as their preferred way of communicating with me. I use this as a tool to let them know when new assignments are posted on Google Classroom and to send reminders of due dates. In return they respond with questions and suggestions as needed.
Using various methods of connecting to students remotely can ensure that they have easy access to the help they need to continue learning. They can ask questions, make suggestions, and even take their speaking test if they wish. The goal is to give them options in order to maintain a regular daily study habit. When some students didn’t turn in their work, I called and they were redirected to complete missed work. Parents are also great allies so it is essential to keep them informed of what needs to be completed.
Depending on the duration of the closure, we have planned a live video yoga to help them reconnect. Sending uplifting e-mails and messages of hope ensures that everyone knows they are on my mind and that I am available daily as they progress through new lessons.
My colleagues and I have had frequent opportunities to connect as well by using various virtual meetings. These turned into opportunities to exchange resources and challenges too as we help each other share ideas and solutions. More than these resources we found the dialogue to be a great way to know that we are not alone in feeling confined and we can rise above it with support.
By Leila Kubesch, Teacher, Spanish and English as a Second Language, Norwood Middle School, Norwood, OH
2020 Ohio Teacher of the Year
2020 National Teacher of the Year Finalist