Five Reflection Points about Two Months with Remote Emergency Teaching for High School

“If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way,” ― Mark Twain

Emergency Remote Teaching has been challenging for these last two months, but there are some important takeaways for teaching during crisis and non-crisis times:

  1. Introverts need community too. 
  2. Extroverts need introverted skills.
  3. Existing online tech tools can be helpful if used with discernment. 
  4. Distance planning is good for non-emergency course planning too.
  5. We’re way over-scheduled during “normal” non-emergency times. 

1. Introverts need community too: I heard something like this from a highly introverted senior student about halfway through our stay-at-home emergency remote teaching situation. Since I already had so much coursework online, I rightly assumed that most of my students could handle the work well in our emergency format. What I didn’t realize is how much students needed a little check-in time to talk about learning and life as we would often do during a regular school day. When I finally got to that routine, I realized how much I was missing it too. 

2. Extroverts need introverted skills. Extroverted students of various ability levels had to find new ways to motivate themselves once the social motivators were removed, mostly in terms of sports and activities. Some students tend to become overly dependent on asking their peers how to do things, and the absence of those peers in close proximity pressured my extroverted students to do more self-directed work. 

3. Existing online tech tools can be helpful if used with discernment. The flood of offers for free access to online educational technology overwhelmed me at times, but I found it most useful to focus on what I have found through experience, research, evidence, and reflection to be the core focus for good teaching and learning. That work of discernment coincided with additional readings from authors such as David Didau and Daniel T. Willingham who invite knowledge-rich thinking about knowledge-rich teaching and learning. These authors helped me think through what the hard-core horses of teaching and learning look like before thinking too much about what sort of technological carts I should hook up to them.

4. Distance planning is good for non-emergency course planning too. The discernment work for technology fits well with thinking about course planning during crisis and non-crisis times. I wrote last week about HyFlex Course Planning Strategies. Upon review, I see that a main planning takeaway is to focus on how I can plan every course for high-quality distance, asynchronous learning as much as possible. Then, I can plan synchronous interactions and return to face-to-face instructions as the conditions warrant. Likewise, some of the benefits of designing distance instruction might come from focusing on how to remediate and supplement knowledge-building for students using distance learning strategies. 

5. We’re way over-scheduled during non-emergency times. The most challenging insight from our stay-at-home situation is the realization of how unhelpfully and inhumanely over-scheduled high school is for both students and adults. It’s hard to tell how much of the problem is self-inflicted, culture-induced, or otherwise caused. I think it took me a month to just detox from the manic habits of high school emails, meetings, seven-period days, absentee follow-up, make-up assignments, district initiatives, and a host of items I’m happily forgetting for the moment. There is the possibility of changing some scheduling in the future, but my concern is that when we move back to non-crisis conditions, we’ll ramp up the over-scheduled lifestyles. How do we promote wisdom and prudence about this for the future?

Invitation to Reflect and Consider: 

1. Did you find some features of stay-at-home teaching or learning actually better than face-to-face? Is this because of fewer interactions with people, reduced workload, less busyness, or some other factor? 

2. What do you most miss from face-to-face learning and teaching? How is that important? 

3. What should guide our scheduling of work, school, and home-life? 

For Further Reading and Reflection: 

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain

Making Kids Cleverer: A manifesto for closing the advantage gap, by David Didau

Why Don’t Students Like School?: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, by  Daniel T. Willingham

The HyFlex Option for Instruction if Campuses Open This Fall,” by Doug Lederman 

First Things First, by Stephen Covey

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Richard Swenson

Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids, by Denise Pope, Maureen Brown, and Sarah Miles

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