Teachers have served as essential workers and resident heroes in 2020, creating a sense of stability and normalcy for children across the United States. While 2020 has been anything but normal, teachers have spent the year learning new technologies, living in constant flux and flexibility, and ultimately succeeding in teaching and loving our children. As the first semester comes to a close, teachers are reflecting on all that has been accomplished- celebrating what we did right, and looking toward what could use some improvement. In this blog, teachers from a large Urban school district in the Mid-South will share their successes from the Fall and what they are looking forward to when finally leaving 2020 behind. These teachers have experienced both face to face and fully remote teaching this Fall. They offer you a renewed sense of hope and strategies for finishing the school year strong. Here are some tips to remember as you get ready for the next semester. 

 

Quality over quantity: You do not have to try out every tech tool offered to you. Choose 2 that you love and become a master at using that tool. Practice using it both virtually and in the classroom face-to-face. Use it across subjects and throughout the week. Once you have it down, it is now your job to share this awesome tool with someone else, whether that be face-to-face, electronically, in a school or grade level newsletter, or on social media. Remember, we are all in this together. Check out Google Jamboard as an easy-to-learn tech tool that can be used for a variety of purposes with all ages. This free interactive whiteboard can be used for groups of students to participate in collaborative discussions or can be used for individual practice as seen in the photo below. 

 

 

Relationships are key: As humans, we thrive on personal connection. Start your time together with 5 minutes to chat. Allow students to show their favorite stuffed animal or tell about their day. Time to talk is not wasted time! On the same note, be open and vulnerable with your students and their caretakers, taking the time to acknowledge the importance of the triangular support system of caretakers, teachers, and students. Affirm their hard work, recognize the struggle, and connect on a personal level. Use the Zoom chat box as a place to get students talking! 

 

Clear communication: Streamline communication by having school and grade level conversations about uniform communication tactics. For families with multiple children, it makes things so much easier if the sharing of schedules, news, and due dates are pushed out or posted in similar ways. Eliminate frustrating miscommunications by implementing a daily visual schedule. On this schedule for the day, use visual images, including the face of the teacher and the logo of the application or platform the student should be on. (see example below)

 

 

Believe in children: Children are the true heroes of 2020. They have shown that they are resilient, adaptable, and curious. As Gen Zers, our K-12 students are the first true digital natives, making them the most capable generation in terms of handling multiple tech platforms and tools. We can feel confident in setting high expectations for students and ourselves. Despite the incredibly stressful circumstances, students are learning. They are wearing masks, logging on to multiple apps independently, moving in and out of different modes of learning, and ultimately showing everyone why kids are the best. They inspire us to do the same! 

 

You can do hard things. We are capable of much more than we realize! We can do hard things. Take the time to reflect on all you have learned this school year. Have you mastered a new technology that you will use for teaching beyond the pandemic? Have you surprised yourself with all you could do? Celebrate your accomplishments and don’t be shy about sharing them with others. 

 

From one teacher to another. Rest over the break. Lay your head down at night knowing you were on the front lines for children in 2020. And then, let’s THRIVE in the Spring of 2021, showing everyone how amazing teachers really are.

 

Contributing Editors: Brandi Nunnery, Kathleen Gant, Elizabeth Farrar, Nate Miley, Katie Preston, & Molly Roark