What Will Be Helpful and What Brings Joy: Slice of Life 30/31 #sol20

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As we shift to remote learning for the rest of the semester, I have so many questions about what that should mean for student teaching and learning in the middle of a global pandemic.

What does the best teaching and learning look like when we are doing this work remotely, without the spaces and presence and materials that enable and support our work?

What does that look like when students are confused, stressed, and dealing with a range of challenges that we can only imagine (from toilet paper shortages to food insecurity to parents’ losing their jobs to unsafe homes to separation from family to taking care of vulnerable relatives to being sick themselves to losing their loved ones to this virus)?

What does it look like when we ourselves are stressed and strained and trying to parent our children and teach our children and work from home and teach our students and care for our parents and keep our families safe?

We have a responsibility to think more deeply about our practices and to design learning in the way it should always be designed–to meet the needs of the learner using all that we know about how humans learn.

That means, first of all, prioritizing students’ psychological and safety needs and their needs for belonging and connection. That means defining literacies broadly and providing space for students to practice and develop their many literacies. That means play, choice, discovery, collaboration, exploration, making, creativity, reflection, autonomy, respect. That means streamlining learning objectives and standards and focusing on what is essential.

As I am planning remote learning for my college students, I find myself returning to two sets of priorities as filters for all of my teaching decisions. First, I am following fellow Slicer Tamara Jaimes at The Loyal Heretic wisdom in asking “what will be helpful and what brings joy to kids and families.” If I can’t make a case for its helpfulness or joyfulness, I am trying very hard to discard it as an expectation or assignment. I love how this simple formulation (helpful and joyful) can lead to such rich, complex thinking about teaching and learning.

Second, I am relying on the four priorities of trauma-informed practice that Alex Shevrin Venet identified in a webinar she offered last week: predictability, flexibility, connection, and empowerment.

What this looks like practically in my classes right now:

  • Streamlined communications and schedule. One email on Sunday sharing links to the following week’s assignments. That email posted as an announcement in the LMS. All assignments due the following Sunday.
  • Predictable assignments. One short resource to read or watch, one menu of options for self-directed learning, one reflection or response to learning due each week.
  • Flexible learning options. Each class has a Padlet with links to different activities, projects, and learning opportunities that they can choose to pursue each week in order to meet the course’s learning outcomes. Options include creative expression, self-care, and physical movement as well as more traditional academic assignments.
  • Connection with me through weekly check-ins using each student’s tool of choice (Zoom, email, text, phone call). I’m keeping a list of each student’s preferred method for checking in and using that method to connect with them each week.
  • Connection with each other through Flipgrid or discussion forum posts in the LMS (students can choose their method of connection, though I will admit to encouraging Flipgrid because it’s way more awesome to watch and respond to videos of each other than it is to read and comment on forum posts!)
  • Empowerment through the flexible learning options and through choice in completing assignments individually or in small groups

Every couple of weeks, I will also ask students to share with me what’s working and what’s not working so that I can make adjustments and do better.

How does prioritizing what will be helpful and what brings joy look like in your remote learning classroom?

9 thoughts on “What Will Be Helpful and What Brings Joy: Slice of Life 30/31 #sol20

  1. I think many teachers are rethinking their lessons these days. Thinking about whether a lesson is helpful and brings joy might change how some teachers do things when they get back to the classroom. sorry to say that I do know some teachers who do need to rethink their lessons.

  2. This was very helpful for me. Even though I am a second grade teacher, I am trying to put the community’s mental health first with a focus on joy and choice in learning.

  3. This is so helpful for moving forward. My district initially planned for teachers to come back today and students to return on Wednesday, which meant that they would have missed five days of school + spring break + 2 days this week. We were instructed not to teach, and the district provided resources to families for activities. Since the schools will remain closed until the end of April, we are now ramping up for online education. My 6 years in online education give me a leg up on the technology, but was all done with boring pre-packaged curriculum. I feel behind the curve on everything else, especially adjusting my curriculum in light of the trauma and ongoing stress and confusion. I am lucky to have so many people sharing excellent ideas and their own experiences in our month long shared writing experience.

  4. I love your ideas for your classes. These are helpful as we head into elearning next week. I’ve got a plan for the first week that is pretty low key, but I need to get the rest of the semester figured out. Thanks for sharing!

  5. As usual, this is such a smart post. I particularly liked this. “That means, first of all, prioritizing students’ psychological and safety needs and their needs for belonging and connection. That means defining literacies broadly and providing space for students to practice and develop their many literacies. That means play, choice, discovery, collaboration, exploration, making, creativity, reflection, autonomy, respect. That means streamlining learning objectives and standards and focusing on what is essential.”

    I wish that there were more teachers at the university level like you! Those lucky student teachers!

  6. This has been open on my computer for most of the day & I keep coming back to it. THANK YOU for articulating all of these ideas. I need time & space to write about these (note-taking, notebooking type writing) because I think so much of what you say is what I have been trying to put into words. Our district has not yet told us how we are going to proceed, so I’ve got at least a few more days to really think about my own philosophy. This post will help guide me. Thank you (again).

  7. Bringing joy to students is a priority Elisaberh, as you well know. I am a proponent of student choice and teacher creativity in providing options that lead to deeper meaning. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how you revision your trauma-informed practice.

  8. I have taken a similar approach. I have found that the weekly tasks post helps me figure out which assignments are necessary. Some were very useful in a f2f environment but don’t work right now. Others have to be adapted. For example, I was going to require peer reviews but then realized it would be more useful to just give an overview of their common errors. I was also thinking about eliminating their second book review but then I remembered how–even during a typical semester–students like when I force them to read. I think that’s more important now than ever.

    So, yes. I agree with a lot of your points here! And I’m so glad I required my children’s lit students to do IMWAYR posts this semester–it made the transition to the online space pretty seamless and is enough to finish out their semester. So thank you for that idea!

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