A CRAZY YEAR!
Welp! I don’t know about you, but the 2020-2021 school year was definitely one for the books! It had been perhaps the most challenging year of teaching for me as I’m sure it had been for many of you. Hybrid teaching had forced many of us to adapt in ways we never imagined possible. As I reflect back on the past school year of hybrid teaching, I have learned a WHOLE lot! In this blog post I want to focus on some of my biggest takeaways that will hopefully help with any hybrid learning models that will be continuing this year!
STRATEGIES FOR HYBRID TEACHING
1. Positive Relationships
Building rapport with the students has always been at the forefront of my teaching philosophy both in class and now online. When we take the time to connect with our students, it really makes a world of difference. I never start a year off without taking time to get to know each of my students. This past year presented a new challenge of getting to know my online learners! I find that sharing about myself and my life always helps to start build that rapport. Get to know you games both in person and online can be another great way to start off the year in a fun way.
I also always did a daily check in for both my in person and online students. I usually asked questions to help me learn a little bit more about them each day. Regardless of how you choose to do it, rapport always thrives on mutual respect. Allow your students to have a say in the classroom where you can. This can be especially effective for your online students to help them feel a part of your classroom community.
2. Create a Clear Routine
Setting up clear routines is another best practice that really shines with hybrid learning. Our students need to know what to expect even more now than ever. Online students should also have a clear routine as it is much easier for them to get off task or distracted. I started our day out with a morning meeting to check in on my middles and how they are feeling and then go went over the schedule for the day. For my online students I created daily agenda slides which you can get here . These slides were super helpful for my online students to keep track of their day and what you will be going over.
It was also really important to set clear routines and expectations for in person students with the school protocols and guidelines. It had been tricky reminding students to wash and sanitize, social distance, and wear their masks among other things. These are hard principles for our littles to remember, so in true teacher fashion, I added some social distance posters around the room to help remind my students. If you would like these posters, you can grab them here.
3. Choose Online Tools Wisely
When it comes to online tools, we live in a time when there has never been more. This can be an amazing blessing! It can also feel overwhelming. What do we use? How do we teach our middles to use them? While online tools are extremely beneficial in the classroom and in your online classroom, not all online tools are created equal. Some tools are much more beneficial and user friendly for you, students, and parents. When you are choosing online tools, remember to think about the amount of time it will take you and your students to learn the platform. Think about the purpose of the tool and if there is a simpler way to accomplish it. Lastly, is there another online tool that can do what you need better?
It is also really helpful to choose only a few online tools. While many of them are great and may meet our needs and purposes we can quickly exhaust and confuse ourselves and our middles with too many different tools. I chose three resources and learned them really well; Google Classroom, Jamboard, and digital resources that are available in print also for my in class learners. These all work really well together and I was able to accomplish as best I could all that I needed for my students with just these three resources. Pick a few that make the most sense for you and your classroom and get good at those! It will save you a ton of time with planning and preparing.
4. Classroom Environment
With all of the guidelines I needed to follow in class, it was essential more than ever to create a safe environment in the classroom as much as possible. While every classroom is different here are a few tricks that will work anywhere. When spacing your desks, put tape around where they need to be. I don’t know what it is but my students’ desks are always moving! This gives them a clear idea of where they need to be and when their desks move, they know exactly where to move it back. I purchased a colorful vibrant masking tape from Michaels to help add some cheer to the new classroom set up. You can check out the tape I used here.
Make sure you have several bottles of sanitizer around the room, especially near common touch points like the door, sink, staplers, passes, etc. Put up posters to remind students about sanitizing and hand washing. My last trick is to assign one or two middles the classroom jobs to sanitize. They can sanitize high touch point areas which helps keep the classroom safe and clean, and helps them develop responsibility within our classroom space!
5. Self Paced Environment
It is really important when doing hybrid teaching that you allow for self-paced learning activities. Start with a platform like Google Classroom and make sure that everything is organized for both you and students. I usually had topics for all of the subjects and grade levels with really clear titles. Use your daily schedule so middles know what to do and set expected time limits like “This should take 20 minutes.” or “Spend 40 minutes reading this book.” These time limits will help students to self-pace. When you assign activities, try to ensure that you give clear instructions. Students need to know exactly what they need to do for activities. Making sure that your directions are explicit will take out the extra time of students trying to figure out what they need to do.
6. Slow Down and Forgive Yourself
The 2020-2021 school year had been crazy stressful! Like many of you I was trying to do it all! Be the amazing wife, mom, classroom teacher and meet the needs of my family as well as my online students. I was in stress overload and it was impacting my family and I. I burnt out fast and it was a HARD lesson. As much as we want to do it all, we just can’t. All we can do is our best each day and remember that it’s ENOUGH. Just like we forgive our students and extend them patience we must also do this with ourselves.
Self-care as a teacher is vital for our well being as well as that of our students! Make sure you take time away from work each day, try to get enough rest, eat well, and ask for help. We are approaching a new school year with so many unknowns yet, I am confident that if we can teach this past year, we can teach any year! You’ve got this!