It is safe to assume that few K-12 teachers had taught virtual classes before the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to do so nearly overnight in 2020. Nora Stanley, a current University of Phoenix student and kindergarten student teacher on the Navajo Indian Reservation, experienced this firsthand. Stanley took away several valuable lessons from her time of exclusive virtual teaching that she recently shared with other University of Phoenix students and alumni. These lessons can also apply to parents supervising virtual lessons for their own children.
Communication is Key
Although everyone’s stress level was high during the sudden change in learning format, Stanley stressed the importance of clear communication between teachers, parents and students. Students tend to be more successful in this learning environment when their parents are engaged in their education and when teachers and parents treat one another with respect.
Stanley recommended that teachers introduce themselves to each student’s parents individually at the start of the school year, regardless of the classroom format. The introduction gives parents a chance to ask questions and affords teachers a chance to share how parents can best support their student’s success. The earlier in the school year the communication begins, the easier it is to speak up whenever a need arises.
Parents must set a good example for their children by approaching teachers with a spirit of cooperation, even when they strongly disagree with the teacher’s choices or curriculum. Stanley also recommended that parents stay up to date on what their kids are learning in school and when assignments are due. As children move on to higher grades, parents should transition responsibility for assignments to their children and allow them to face consequences if they fail to turn in projects on time.
Make Sure Each School Day Has Structure
Although children will push limits, they feel the most secure and confident with a structured routine. This is even more important with the uncertainty created by the pandemic. One way to foster this expectation is for teachers to start each day with the same kind of activity, such as reading aloud to younger students. Not only does hearing spoken words encourage pre-reading skills, but students will also take comfort in knowing that every day begins with a similar approach.
Building upon previously learned skills is also important. Advancing to a new topic gives students confidence and helps to reinforce what they have already learned. One of the most important tasks teachers undertake is showing students how to recognize patterns that build on their learning rather than pointing out the patterns themselves.
While all teachers are human and will have difficult days, remaining positive and having a consistent demeanor will help students even in the most stressful times.
Be as Fun and Engaging as Possible
If anyone knows a challenge, it is Nora Stanley. With little warning, she had to adjust to keeping five and six-year-old children who were just becoming accustomed to the routine of school engaged all day through a computer screen. When her student teacher duties suddenly switched to an online format, Stanley decided to start each school day with a motivation video based on topics she had most recently taught.
Physical activity is important for school children, especially when learning in an online format. Stanley advocates for introducing music and activity into the school day to break up lessons and give students the chance to release some energy.
Stanley found that giving her students moments to have fun while learning can help them pick up new skills faster and retain them longer. For this reason, she likes to incorporate games and activities into lessons as often as she can. Another benefit of taking this approach is that it allows students to just be kids and forget about the stress of the pandemic that is beyond their ability to comprehend.
Creativity and willingness to serve students are also important. Stanley pointed to one of her colleagues, a high school chemistry teacher, who turned his own kitchen into a place to conduct science experiments while teaching virtually. Combining imagination and technology can make any school lesson an exciting one.
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