Pandemic teaching caused this school year to be anything but typical! Whether in-person, hybrid, or virtual, students have had a year like no one could have predicted. Even so, I am tired of hearing about how students are falling behind, losing ground, and will need to catch up during pandemic teaching. While I might not be in the same place in the curriculum that I usually would be, it is unfair to say that students are behind. It’s true, there are certainly some concepts that are more difficult to teach, practice, and assess in our current teaching state. I also know that inequality within education has been exaggerated in the current setting and for some of our most at-risk students are having more difficulty accessing an equal education. Even so, I believe that my students are learning and growing. In fact, current students have grown in areas previously not taught or expected. They are developing skills that will help prepare them for whatever comes next. Here are my top 3 ways that students are growing during pandemic teaching.
Our students have had to be flexible this year. It is not easy to adapt to the drastic changes that happened within education this year. My students switched from remote to an in-person hybrid model and back to remote learning with little warning. Many schools around the country had similar and abrupt changes. Even when in person, students had to adapt to new rules like mask wearing and adhering to social distancing. These changes required students to change how they were learning, where they were learning, and what they were learning.
We know that students need consistency and thrive in a predictable environment. However, pandemic teaching made consistency almost impossible this year. While changes might have still been challenging for students; they have risen to the occasion. Teachers have gone above and beyond to help support students and continue to teach even as what schooling looks like continually changed. Teachers helped students through it. And overall, they did it well.
Why does flexibility matter? Whether during pandemic teaching or during a “normal” school year, changes happen. Students need to learn coping strategies for when they are faced with the unexpected. Flexibility allows students to continue with their learning regardless of their environment. This will also help prepare students for real life changes that occur within their everyday lives both now and as they get older.
Use of Technology
At my school, students usually get laptops in third grade. Therefore, I have taught many students the “how-tos” of computers many times. Usually, the first day was dedicated to how to turn the computer on and off and how to use the most basic functions. I would circle the room and provide support for students as needed. Throughout the year, I would slowly add additional technology skills. We worked on typing, but the vast majority of work was usually completed with paper and pencil.
This year, however, students needed to be able to turn on their computer, open the Internet, and navigate to our video call before they even met me! While many of our students are quite familiar with technology, they often don’t have academic technology skills. Thank goodness for screen sharing and videos that include the computer screen.
My class has astonished me with what they have learned, what they can regularly do on the computer, and what they have taught me! Together, we have improved our technology skills in ways I wouldn’t have even attempted in previous years. Students are typing non-stop, sharing virtual presentations, and working together on virtual projects.
Why do technology skills matter? We know that our world is infused with technology and students are being able to use it to further their education. They are learning to find digital resources for research and in ways to communicate. Technology will continue to play a big role in our students’ lives and having these skills will help students continue to grow and adapt as the technology around us does, too.
All teachers want their students to ask for help when they need it. When we are in person, we can see all of our students and their work, so we have a good idea of who is on the right track and who might need some extra help. However, virtually, we can’t see students work as they are completing a problem or assignment.
In this setting, students have had to learn to ask for help when they need it. For my class, I have looked for ways to teach students how to self-advocate and check in. A few strategies I use are:
- I give students specific times to check in as we are learning. They send me a chat with a number 1-5 to show their understanding.
- They turn in work in smaller chunks so I can see it as they are going
- I have students work in their own breakout rooms so I can check on them, and they can ask for help if they get stuck.
- Students fill out end of the day surveys asking what they learned, what they understood, and what was most difficult during the day.
- I encourage students to message me if they need help with an assignment.
As our school year is continuing, I have noticed that students are getting better at this. I receive more messages now than I did at the beginning of the school year. Students have also improved how they ask for help identifying specific areas they need additional support. I have been so impressed with the self-reflection my students are doing and the personal responsibility they are taking for their own learning.
Why does self-advocacy matter? As students learn to advocate for themselves they are taking control of their learning. They are searching out the resources and assistance needed to help them grow. This will help them even as we return to “normal” school. With practice, they are able to better determine what specific areas they need assistance.
Next time you hear someone complain about all our students are missing out on, be sure to tell them what they have gained! What else would you add to this list? Did your students experience growth in these areas?
Why not ask your students? Follow the link to the freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store that gives students a chance to reflect on virtual or hybrid teaching.
Julie from Llama with Class