Education | Distance Learning
Let’s help students go from “being behind” to managing what they need to do for not only the curriculum, but for everyone’s wellness
In Ontario there are only four more weeks left in the 2019–2020 school year. For my theatre courses, I have approached the last two months of distance learning with units that allow the students flexibility and choice in content and assessment. As a secondary teacher, many of my students need this flexibility as we no longer have our protected, daily 75 minutes together. Plus, many of my students are balancing jobs and family commitments during the pandemic.
One of my roles as a distance learning teacher is to engage students to embrace curriculum strands digital learning platforms. Another role is to figure out how I can support the student’s learning when online engagement stops. Through conferencing, parent/student phone calls, and working with my school’s student success team, individualized plans for helping students engage with online learning are developed. Because everyone is in a completely different situation, each plan is individually tailored to the urgent learning needs of the student.
As I’m conferencing and developing learning plans with students, we often talk about the “being behind” feeling. From a wellness perspective, this cycle of trying to catch-up while new material is being posted can’t be good in the long run, especially if students are not able to “get on track” with the posting cycle.
As educators, it’s important for us to reframe this conversation.
Instead of students feeling behind, how can we use time management strategies to plan together? To involve the student in the plan for their success in distance learning?
Highlighting priorities and providing content options for students will help them navigate what they need to do. It is our department’s practice to lead the students through a time management calendar at the beginning of the week so we can co-construct what’s manageable within the scope of the task of their individual learning situations. This allows the student to look at the bigger picture of the academic week while being mindful of their wellness.
How can feedback and check-ins help with student engagement? This links to teacher planning of distance learning tasks. Check-ins, answering questions, Google Meets, online community circles and providing multiple opportunities to give immediate feedback are necessary to be proactive about student engagement. However, as an educator you have to structure opportunities in your long term planning in order to develop sustainable practices for your own personal wellness.
Although everything is new with distance learning, the cornerstones of educational philosophies stay the same. Knowledge of student’s urgent learning needs, planning out supports, and being mindful of how feedback influences progress are still paramount for student success and wellness. Being proactive and reframing the conversation, helping students acquire the strategies they need for success, will allow them to navigate their educational experiences while balancing their new normals.