What I’m Learning About Teaching Online

I used to think that online school was a terrible idea. Now I know that the right combination of patience and the ability to be flexible in the moment can make it work for the teacher and students.

But you know what? Being patient and flexible with situations gone amok is not any different from being in a f2f environment. It’s just that used to be my normal and now it’s not.

We need to invent something new by getting rid of what doesn’t work, reclaiming the good stuff, and creating alternative views of what it means “to go” to school.

Here’s my short list of what still matters in teaching and learning, no matter what form of school you’re in right now.

Small group instruction and student collaboration on projects matter.

Conversations and one-on-one conferences matter.

Independent writing and reading matter.

Read alouds and making connections to people, characters and real events in the world matter.

Being able to read and write together and sharing a laugh or two still matters.

Developing and nurturing kids’ “rough draft thinking” still matters.

Giving kids choice still matters.

The teacher listening more than talking, still matters.

Laughter still matters.

Meaningful assessment still matters.

What matters hasn’t changed. Only the ways we are inventing the space for what matters, online or otherwise, is what is changing.

Today, during one of the three drop-in times I offer students throughout the day, two girls stayed on just to chat. They didn’t have any questions about assignments or the big ideas we are studying. No. Instead, after everyone else had logged off they got to chatting about their Leggo creations.

During reading workshop we talked about how we can celebrate when we finish reading. Most of the ideas were doable and then there were two that didn’t sit well with me for different reasons: (1) eating and (2) watching a movie after reading 10 books. My first reaction was, “Nope. We ain’t doing that.” The first for obvious reasons and the second one for even more obvious reasons.

Then, I thought. Well, eating is what people do; they break bread. What if a student wants to celebrate with food? What if we everyone brings something to eat during reading workshop? I can live with that!

I am not about external motivation, especially for reading. I never had pizza parties in my classroom to reward students for reading 100 books in the year. I think we can do better than that to encourage a life-long love of reading in our students.

So, watching a movie after reading 10 books just doesn’t sit well with me. Yet, I want to make sure my students feel heard and respected. So, I suggested watching a movie, either commercial or one a student creates, as something we can do during a drop-in time.

Connections matter.

Patience is key.

Being flexible while remembering what matters is essential.

If you are teaching online, what is working for you? I’d love to hear your ideas.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

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