How are things going in your state and district? In North Carolina, we’ve been waiting–waiting to hear what the governor would say and then waiting to hear how districts would respond. Anticipating a need, the Friday Institute developed a course called “Teaching Remotely: A Practical Guide.” It is self-paced and full of great information. I’m hoping they’ll offer it again soon for people who didn’t know about it in the summer of 2020.
I’m not an expert
Oh man, I want to be an expert! I thrive on honing my craft and sharing that information. But right now, I don’t have enough remote teaching experience to be an expert. As a matter of fact, I’m much closer to the novice end of the spectrum. It doesn’t matter that I’m completing a quarter century of teaching. This moment in time is the real beginning of my remote teaching journey, because now, I’ve had some time to reflect, think at a deeper level, and plan based on some experience. That stuff that happened in the spring was messy! I learned some things about myself as a teacher, and I learned some things about teaching itself. But it was like a 101 entry-level course from beginning to end.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some graduate-level skill building. I want to build a powerhouse and leave the house of cards behind! Right now, I’m just choosing my lumber to start on that powerhouse, so I’d like to share some of my takeaways from the course that I think will help me in this project.
We know this as educators. Teaching and learning only work well when we make connections with our students. And in our roles as librarians, we see a lot of people in the course of a week–likely every single person in the school. We depend on relationships that span years. But those relationships have been interrupted. New students enter the mix. Bonds have been broken by distance. What can we do to start to rebuild?
Some things I’m thinking about using:
- Interest surveys for students and families. I use these most years, but this year, I’ll include some more generalized questions in them. There are some good items on these questionnaires from Understood.org that could be embedded into traditional interest surveys.
- Student involvement in setting norms. When I taught algebra and geometry, I always did this at the beginning of the year. When I moved to the library, this long-held habit lapsed. I know why it disappeared. Thirty classes a week setting their own norms! Yowzers! That’s just too much work! But why would we deprive students of this type of connection with us and each other? Library is the class that most equips students to think, create, share, and grow! It only makes sense to figure out how to involve them in norm development.
- Meetings. This plan from Responsive Classroom is written for middle school advisory, but it could easily be adapted for older and younger students to develop other classroom ideas and issues. Responsive Classroom is a great site to spend some time reading.
- Office hours. This is one thing I did last year that I really want to keep. Office hours during traditional school hours worked great, but office hours in the late afternoon and evening were even better! Not only did more students come, but they were we were able to focus on connections!
- Figure out which apps and approaches work for you and use them as mainstays. Last year, I used Google Slides and Google Forms and taught students how to use them. Each week, after reflecting on areas in which students and parents struggled, I made how-to videos and prominently linked them. They became second nature to everyone.
- Content always comes first. I jumped on the bitmoji bandwagon with everyone else. I’ve enjoyed being creative with them, but now that school starts in just a week, I really need engaging lessons. Some of the fancy things we do not only zap our time, but they also distract students from developing their own creativity.
- Develop checklists and time tables for check points and due dates.
- Use the Single Point Rubric. I love rubrics, but kids rarely fall into one column. This simple rubric allows for quicker and higher-quality feedback.
Don’t teach to the average
Todd Rose has a great TEDx talk about the Myth of Average. This speaks deeply to my librarian heart! The library is the one place where students truly have choices that fit their needs and interests. Students get to choose what they want to read and how they want to share what they’ve read. Those jagged learning profiles are naturally taken into account on many levels!
I intend to make the concept of jagged learning profiles my new gauge for lesson planning. I know that the library meets many students’ learning needs, but I also know that teaching to average is deep-rooted in education, and it’s an easy default. My goal is to make library like the adjustable seat in the cockpit of a plane. Adjustments that will meet the extremes of student needs. What will those adjustments look like in the library in authentic situations? I don’t know. But I intend to learn.
Author: Bitsy Griffin
Bitsy Griffin is the school librarian for Chatham Grove ES in Chapel Hill NC. She has 25+ years experience in elementary, middle, and high schools as a math teacher and librarian. She is active in AASL and the North Carolina School Library Media Association. Find her blog at http://www.bitsygriffin.com .