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Classroom Q&A

With Larry Ferlazzo

In this EdWeek blog, an experiment in knowledge-gathering, Ferlazzo will address readers’ questions on classroom management, ELL instruction, lesson planning, and other issues facing teachers. Send your questions to lferlazzo@epe.org. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Opinion

‘Making Connections Is My Number One Priority': Teachers Share Their Plans for This Year

By Larry Ferlazzo — August 28, 2021 13 min read
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(This is the second post in a three-part series. You can see Part One here.)

The new question-of-the-week is:

How will your lessons, teaching, and classes look different this year and in the post-COVID 19 era from how they did in previous years?

In Part One, Sarah Cooper, Sheila Wilson, Keisha Rembert, and Tara Bogozan shared their ideas. All four were also guests on my 10-minute BAM! Radio Show. You can also find a list of, and links to, previous shows here.

Today, Amber Chandler, Cristiane Galvão, Taylor M. Jacobson, Sean Ruday, and Luiza Mureseanu provide their responses.

Social Emotional Learning

Amber Chandler is the author of The Flexible SEL Classroom and a contributor to many education blogs. She teaches 8th grade ELA in Hamburg, N.Y. Amber is the president of her union of 400 teachers. Follow her @MsAmberChandler and check out her website:

One of the lessons of this pandemic is that isolation is detrimental to mental health. It isn’t that I didn’t understand this on an intellectual level, but when forced to experience it myself, with my own children, and with my students, I’m more convinced than ever that the impact of the forced isolation is going to linger. Many of us noticed this as kiddos came back to buildings. They weren’t talking. Interactions were limited. They clung to their phones like a security blanket, and in a way they were acting exactly as should have been expected. With limited interactions other than by devices, who wouldn’t feel the need to hold onto all that kept them going for months?

As I think about how my classroom should look, feel, and operate, making connections is my number one priority. Some of the most important moments we are going to have with our students are going to be in the time-in-between interactions. My goal is to speak to students by name, with eye contact, and personalized conversations. Again, it isn’t that I didn’t do these things before, but post-pandemic it is going to be intentional, not incidental.

Additionally, I’m going to put my “Good Calls Home” plan that I do every year into hyperdrive. Usually, I call or email five families a day until I have cycled through my roster, and then I do it a second time before Thanksgiving. This year, I’m moving that up to a deadline before Halloween. Families have been isolated from the school community too, too often staring at Google Classroom notifications instead of interacting with educators. I plan to host an in-person (I hope) back-to-school potluck as well.

In previous years, I’ve cared greatly about building relationships with students and families, but due to the pandemic, this task is going to be greater. There’s simply too much at stake to let anyone slip through the cracks. It comes naturally to me, but with 125- plus students and families, it is easy to take the path of least resistance, and I think that there is going to be resistance. The isolation and constant screen time has made the easiest of interactions seem momentous, further heightening the anxiety around social interaction.

The primary formalized way I’ll address this socialization deficit is to build opportunities for structured conversation via our project based learning classroom. As I build resource groups (groups that are formed based on students’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as their interest), I’ll make sure to do relationship-building activities. I like to use conversation cards that I create, laminate, and keep on a key ring. When we have a few down moments, I’ll have students “do a card” together and observe which students need support and make sure to connect.

We’ve known the importance of social-emotional learning, but post pandemic, classroom communities are going to be more important than ever. Perhaps, if there is a silver lining, we can look at this time ahead as a chance to establish best practices around social-emotional learning that include intentional community-building.

theimpactchandler

Using Online Tools

Cristiane Galvão holds a master’s degree in applied linguistics from the University of Taubaté, Brazil, and a doctorate in higher education leeadership from California Lutheran University. She has taught ESL for 20 years and has offered professional development to language teachers from around the world:

Teaching in the post COVID-19 era will certainly look different than previous to the pandemic. My lessons, teaching, and classes will differ not only in the planning aspect but in the social aspect as well. Teaching remotely through the pandemic certainly made my lessons look different than they would have been in the classroom. Not teaching my students in person changed the dynamic. Warm-up activities that required movement and interaction among the students were no longer possible. I am glad I could at least play some games through websites that I shared on my screen with my students.

Working exclusively remotely, I had to create a lot of new material for my classes. It was a year for search and research, learning how to integrate new tools in my lesson plans and classes. That knowledge cannot be ignored, and I like the fact that I can apply some online tools to my in-person classes as well. I will continue to take advantage of some platforms and websites. I believe that the use of technology will be more present in my classes, but I will make sure that my students have quality time for discussions without the pressure of looking at a screen.

I have always valued the personal connection in my classes, but many times this connection was not possible because of the unfamiliar technology or unstable internet connection. As we return to in-person teaching, among the many things that I will change is making sure that my students have space and time not only to connect with their classmates, but also to the school community through cultural events. In addition, I will add to my lessons topics that will emphasize the importance of friendship and how good relationships can support us in moments like the ones we have experienced during the pandemic.

I will include hands-on activities that require group work and discussion more than I did before. The lack of the physical space and contact was a challenge for educators and students. The cognitive and emotional effects of the lock-down and remote learning was undeniable. . The fact is that classrooms are not the only space where people can learn. Educators should take more advantage of the open space on their campus. I want my students to do activities outside the classroom as well. A walk around campus and sitting in a big circle under a tree playing a vocabulary game will certainly benefit my students.

Thinking about the practical side and being prepared for future changes, I will always rely on my Google docs and save as much of my previous remote work as possible. One strategy that I have adopted is keeping my bookmarks organized into topics. This will facilitate my reach to a useful technique, website, or lesson plan that I have successfully used previously.

I believe that remote learning contributed to the students’ ability to research online more purposefully and critically. Assigning an online task will also be easier since the students are already familiar with so many platforms available to them.

iwillmakesurecristine

Being ‘Anti-Racist and Anti-Biased’

Taylor Jacobson is a 5th grade teacher in Virginia Beach, Va. You can follow her on Twitter at @mstjacobson.

Sean Ruday is an associate professor and the program coordinator of English education at Longwood University in Virginia and a former classroom teacher. Sean and Taylor are co-authors of Remote Teaching and Learning in the Elementary ELA Classroom. You can follow him on Twitter at @SeanRuday:

“Teachers are superheroes.” It was the resounding hum from parents, students, and politicians around the country when teachers were able to become Zoom experts with virtual lesson plans over the weekend of March 13, 2020. In the past year and a half, opinions may have changed, but the hard work and dedication of educators around the country have only gotten stronger.

With the mask mandates beginning to let up, vaccines being available for a large group of the population, and with many parents looking forward to sending their students on the bus to their first day of school, it’s now time for us to reflect on what we have learned since March 2020. In this piece, we will discuss three ways our classes and teaching will change based on what we’ve learned about the importance of rapport and relationships, the need to focus on equity and justice within education, and the necessity to use technology meaningfully.

Relationships

Our classrooms are intentionally set up to develop and foster relationships. We both find rapport an incredibly strong and important part of our classroom management. When we had to teach students virtually, we learned just how important that relationship building is. As we transition to post-COVID 19 teaching, we want to continue to be purposeful about the relationships we facilitate in our classrooms. No matter the instructional modality, we feel that it is essential that teachers work to construct communities that facilitate teacher-to-student and student-to-student relationships. We have to ensure that our students feel happy, loved, and appreciated. Beyond the strong relationships we will build through our rapport, for students to feel that way in our classroom, they must know that they are valued, represented, and safe.

Equity

Shortly after the nation was put into shock by the COVID-19 pandemic, George Floyd was murdered and people across the nation took to protesting the abhorrent treatment of Black men and women in America. Teachers realized that they could not be silent about this and many teachers decided that they needed to educate themselves on how to have these conversations in the classroom. People like Liz Kleinrock, Ibram X. Kendi, and Paul Gorski continue to share their deep knowledge about anti-racist and anti-bias education. From here on out, we have to be intentional and direct about our inclusion and work towards justice. Teachers have a powerful position in the classroom to help students see that all people are deserving of justice and allow students to find out what they feel they can do about the inequities of the world.

Technology

In order to allow students to figure out what they find most important to learn about, we must begin to look critically at the technology we have in the classroom . One of the best ways to allow students to use technology beyond online “worksheets” and programs is to allow students to use inquiry to learn on their own. We can use technology to help students engage in authentic inquiries and apply knowledge in meaningful, student-centered ways. For example, we can help students identify concepts and essential questions they want to further understand and support them as they use technological resources to learn more about those concepts and questions and then ultimately convey their knowledge. Remote instruction has emphasized for us that technological resources be used in authentic, inquiry-based instruction and assessment.

Conclusion

The pandemic has exposed a lot of issues in the way that things have always been done. We have the unique and exceptional opportunity to take this as a learning moment and a fresh start.. By focusing on intentional relationships, working consistently to be anti-racist and anti-biased, and using technology meaningfully, we can ensure that we have a new and wonderful beginning.

wehavetoruday

Technology

Luiza Mureseanu is a secondary school teacher currently working as Instructional Resource Teacher, K-12, for ESL/ELD Programs in the Peel District School Board, Ontario. With over 18 years of teaching in Canada and Romania, she believes that all English-learners will be successful in schools that cultivate culturally and linguistically responsive practices and promote an asset-based teaching approach:

COVID19 significantly changed the world of education in ways that could not be anticipated before. Although the negative impact was strong, some positive outcomes came out of this global pandemic, too.

Educators around the world painstakingly explored and implemented new and functional delivery models, effective programs, various supports for students, and they continuously diversified instruction. A lot of “know-how” was built in a short amount of time, and this will serve education in the years to come. In particular, the use of technology will have a long-lasting impact in teaching and learning. The crisis required all teachers to become proficient, even if not always comfortable, with technology tools. Those who used these to augment and enhance instruction often found success with their learners.

The biggest lesson to take away from this crisis is the importance of using technology to improve teaching. Moving forward, I hope that teaching instruction in the post-COVID era will always include differentiating tools and help teachers constantly adapt as needed to spark engagement and facilitate learning.

The complexity that various technologies bring is both a gift and a curse at times. It is an asset for teachers if used to support independent work and student communication, and it allows for more diverse outcomes in the learning process. It is a deficit if technologies are used to minimize the time for classroom instruction or student interaction. Our students are savvy technology users. We must engage them in complex instruction demonstrating that teachers are not, simply put, a human “search engine.”

thebiggestlessonluiza

Thanks to Amber, Cristiane, Taylor, Sean and Luiza for contributing their reflections.

Please feel free to leave a comment with your reactions to the topic or directly to anything that has been said in this post.

Consider contributing a question to be answered in a future post. You can send one to me at lferlazzo@epe.org. When you send it in, let me know if I can use your real name if it’s selected or if you’d prefer remaining anonymous and have a pseudonym in mind.

You can also contact me on Twitter at @Larryferlazzo.

Education Week has published a collection of posts from this blog, along with new material, in an e-book form. It’s titled Classroom Management Q&As: Expert Strategies for Teaching.

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