Shape the Narrative/Culture Remotely

Community Participant

Below is a letter I very recently sent out to our 160 faculty members after COVID-19 closed down our schools. Very little info had been directed to us from the administration except that we were to be doing OPTIONAL remote learning starting Wednesday March 18th and that under no circumstances could we teach new material or assign points of any kind. The concept of it being "optional" (in bold nonetheless) took the wind out of some our HS teachers sails. 

What I realized is that without being near each other the culture can really become (in)/affected and fast! I felt compelled to try and change the narrative and hopefully inspire some hope in a time of uncertainty and ambiguity. Here was how I responded as a fellow colleague/part time Tech Coach.

Good evening,

It has been an honor to be able to serve full time as an instructional coach with you over the past week as we try to figure out how to navigate these uncharted waters together. And going off of Mr. Napaver and Dr. Lloyd's lead, I think we all know that education must continue in some fashion; our kids deserve it and they thrive off of structure/normalcy.

So perhaps we can try our best to give them some sense of normalcy (however that looks in your class); that could mean reteaching your last unit through enrichment videos, starting from the beginning of the term and work your way to the present unit playing review games, or perhaps through an open ended project. It will be a good starting place until we all find a rhythm with remote learning and just how short term it will be. Whatever you choose to do with your classes, be upfront and transparent with your students...start a daily blog or announcement to let them know what your class plan is (even if it changes each day or each week) or have them help you create that plan together. But mainly stay in touch with them; some will need you more than others.

Remember as much as we know Bart Simpson won’t do the work...don’t forget about Lisa and Milhouse...heck, even Bart may surprise you every once in a while if given the right opportunity! Equity while having grace and flexibility needs to be our mantra.

Those of you planning on engaging in video chats with students please have some ground rules. 

  • Cameras for students should be off unless they are in a public place and dressed appropriately as if they were at school. 
    • I say use a system that allows you to lock cameras for participants and leave yours on if you wish to humanize the experience as much as possible.

Also have a backup plan/platform...with the high traffic and free accounts sometimes platforms can struggle. 

  • Set up a backup in Google ‘Meet’ or Zoom meeting or Conference tool in Canvas that way you can redirect quickly and salvage the session.

As always, I’m here so please use me to: brainstorm ideas, make sure something is “okay” or even just to help you with your vision for what the next two weeks can be for your students/classes given the constraints and ambiguities. 

You are enough. You are a content expert and may (not) be a tech expert and that's ok (neither are all our students).

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As far as the impact, we shall see, but I have already received amazing feedback from staff.

Here was my favorite response:

Thank you so much for all of your unfailing support and enthusiasm. You continue to remain positive, and focused on people over platform. Your passion for using technology to enhance and redesign instruction in a content-driven way has always been evident, but the way you've stepped up over the last few weeks has given everyone a sense of comfort and confidence. Please know how much it is appreciated.

The interesting part of that comment is that the person who wrote it is someone I really have not interacted with much before, which reminds me that our students feel the same way about us as teachers; we inspire them all at one point or another even if they don't show/say it.

Teaching and learning are a lot like baseball. We may not win 100% of the time, but when its our turn, we step in the box and do our best...over time we will have highs and lows, but it's the day to day hope that makes all of the above worth our time. I hope this offers you inspiration! Be present. Stay Well!