Week 14 or 15… further thoughts on eLearning and end of the year.
May is the start of our 14th or 15th week of eLearning. To be honest it is so normal now that it has blended together and with the knowledge that we won’t go back to our campus this academic year, we now look with certainty at closing out the year in eLearning and starting our planning around what next academic year will bring and how we can prepare our teachers and students (and families) for this.
Beijing has allowed all schools to do some reopening. This has included Grade 8 and Grade 12 students, parents and staff on campus but only under strict protocols that have included taking your temperature for 14 days before coming on to campus; attending Government mandated training about new on campus rules and regulations and health checks (if you don’t go to the training, you cannot go on campus) and continuing to have temperatures monitored and a Green certificate of health (that is tied to your phone – if you break the rules and leave Beijing or someone else is infected with Covid and you were in that space, you will be notified and may possibly lose your Green check meaning further work for you as you do the necessary to get it back).
But, as China is not allowing non-Chinese citizens entry, my family and I will wait in Australia and so won’t be on campus at this time. This is the same for many colleagues who are outside of China at this time. And so more discussion and conversations are taking place about what the start of school may look like if we are in eLearning. It can be challenging to read this as the schools in Canberra debate whether to return to school (with their own rules and regulations about social distancing and hgygeine etc) having been shut down for such a short time compared to many of us who are into the third month of a new normal.
Feedback and thinking as we move into Week 14 or 15 at this time:
Continue to be kind to yourself. As the seasons change, maybe your routines or go-to’s will change too, and you may need to consider what you want to keep or change in your schedule. Make sure you are eating well, remaining hydrated and getting enough movement, socialisation from friends and family and getting enough sleep. A predictable routine is super important for your body and you may need to rethink your schedule so you can sleep well.
10,000 Steps – PE teachers tend to be able to get 10,000 steps without much trouble. We stand or walk or move with our students all day. Students may also get to 10,000 without thinking about it. But with more sedentary lifestyles we may find that students and adults are not moving as much and we might need to try and remind them to get up off their devices and move around more regularly – these scheduled breaks may be useful to remember and give some attention to as well as offering the Workouts/Activities etc to students. It maybe that we need to share these brain/body-break ideas with our colleagues too to make a very clear point about movement and taking a break. What sites or ideas might you share with colleagues and administration to keep movement in mind? How could you make this part of every subject? What might you bring back to PE that highlights something relevant that others are doing that could be movement easy too?
Student leadership and voice – I admit that most of my content is around direct instruction with some choice and room for student sharing or discussion but I have not been able to have student collaboration central to my work. It may be worth getting some feedback from students about what you are doing well and where there is room for improvement based on what they are seeing from a range of their teachers. This might mean you need to remember that not everyone will like what you do and this isn’t (necessarily) personal. But if you can invite some feedback and word your questions to allow honest discussion, you may find some nuggets that are worth investing the time in. I have tried to include more Zoom and face-to-face opportunities with my students and tried to be more succinct in instructions and include screencasts to help with understanding instructions based on feedback from my students. How might you collect this information? Could you do a poll or form? Could you then invite students to a focus group to discuss some aspects of your teaching online? What information are parents sharing with the school? How might you prepare yourself for information or feedback that isn’t what you hoped for? What solutions might you share as options (what do your colleagues already do that might work in your class too?) Has someone already prepared a form you could use as a department or division?
It is near the end of the year. What does the end of the school year bring for you usually? For us, we celebrate with some big MS events and we recognise that student are tired (and so are teachers) and that they can have a lot of assessment/ testing and possibly other things going on outside of school (moving schools, moving house, external exams etc) and so we need to recognise that some of these might be prevalent now and that there are other considerations that could be stopping our students being as involved in eLearning. Try to look at trends in your subject department, year level, division or school-wide to see whether what you are seeing is normal (are students dropping off? Doing more?) As restrictions change, will this provide more or less anxiety? Are students and families still in their temporary accommodation? Or back in their own homes? Are our loved ones healthy? Do they have their jobs? What are the focus points for your students and their families and how can we be more aware and offer support to meet people where they are?
Social Distancing and Mental Health are going to be big areas for conversation. Some of the students I spoke with last week admitted that they have had online chats but haven’t had an in-person chat with a friend for months. The same goes for my own children. We may need to work out how to help our students engage in being social and learning to not be so worried to be around others when we meet up again. Our units may need to be thoughtful around engagement and sharing of ourselves on FlipGrid or in other media forms. We may need to be having conversations about Mental Health and Technology, consider how to support families returning from social isolation or restrictions or who are staying out of their homes. We may need to find out whether students need support due to loss of income or health or being away from loved ones in other countries. Our counselling teams will be busy and we may need to be rewriting or spending more time with our mentoring classes to give students room and time to consider these changes and how to help them back on their feet.
Curriculum. Odds are we won’t have covered the current scope and sequence and that is okay. Some people may have shared it with students but it is likely that not all students have covered all of the work and that we will see our classes with holes in the current work, skills, knowledge and engagement. This is okay too. But we may need to discuss how we are going to support students as they transition and what we are prioritizing – this might be within the same school or it could be from Feeder schools in your region to your school. Maybe these conversations could start now as we consider what we are planning for next year and what gaps could be apparent and how we might assist students with this. We arent going to be able to just start with what we have planned. How will we pre-assess what our students arrive with? How will we differentiate for what we are likely to see? Will this be vastly different from any other time? Who might we consult with? Which teachers are leaving? When will we chat with them about what they are seeing before that institutional and class/student knowledge is lost from our system? Which students are we identifying as potential higher needs students? How are we referring or monitoring this and how are we sharing this confidential information within our teaching communities? If new students begin, how will we transition them and their families in if we aren’t back at school?
Grading and reporting – End of year grades and reports may still be shared at your school. It may be that these decisions are made without your input but it is worth asking how this is going to be addressed so that your final weeks of school allow you time for collection of data and to talk to your students. Assessment policies may change. Reporting expectations may change. Who is making these decisions and how are you using that to make decisions about what you are teaching and assessing at this time? Is this clear to you, students and parents? Are you consistent as a school? division? department? Will this work for all students and their families? Do emails or communications need to go home prior to reports that explain this new information to parents? Are you department grading expectations clear? Have you seen what that report looks like from a parent perspective? If you haven’t, please ask to see a full report, it may surprise you.
Expectations – I still have high expectations for my students. I am not asking more of them in terms of time, but I am expecting that they will complete work and offering them opportunities to re-take assessments, to re-edit work to include more thoughtful information (with me prompting, asking questions, giving feedback) so they can see that their work and time is valued. I am clear from the beginning of the unit what is expected and email students who are on it (well done!) who are not quite on it (this is a good start but…) and who are not on it (what do you need here?) to try and better understand how to support the learning and to celebrate with them. But I have had a drop off in participation as time has marched on. I am hoping that post our school 4-day weekend break we might see more students return. I am trying not to take their absence or lack of work personally, but to try and reach out and offer them a chance to let me know what I can do to support them. We can only try. I worry that if I only give them busy-work and not a chance to learn through Education over Activity that they will not be gaining anything from me per se, but will just have an activity choice that isn’t connected to a bigger Focus point. And it will be lost in the Activities that the students could find online. One of my units has been about critically evaluating fitness workouts or training plans as part of the learning and choosing of workouts that should be appropriate to them as young people. I am keen to continue in this learning as I feel it is very valuable to them, particularly at this time.
Goal Setting / Reflection Time – At this time of year we are asked by our school to reflect on our Professional goals and consider the focus for the next academic year. I am not entirely sure what this might look like yet, but it is something I am invested in as I want to be a better teacher, communicator and advocate for my students and colleagues. I do think that it is worth having some reflections as individuals, departments and schools about what we have felt were awesome/ what was good but could be better and what was a failure so we can celebrate our wins and acknowledge areas for growth. We might also like to discuss this with trusted mentors from school or our PLN for support in our work and vision and we might reach out to some of our students for thinking and feedback if that works for you. What questions have been raised for you? What would you like to consider as you move into next year (eLearning or other)? Who might you talk to or include in your vision? What questions do you want to discuss? Does your school have a template you use? Who might you talk to for goals moving forward? What will PD likely look like next year (probably no travel…)? Are there book groups or PD groups that you might like to set up? Do you have time to invest in that?
Challenge yourself. What have you wished you had done differently or in more depth? For me, I have taken the time to recertify some of my PD certificates that were up for expiry, I have tried to write more and reflect and read more about some of the PD readings that have interested me. I have tried to add different strength training to my routine (haven’t succeeded here yet!) and to eat different foods. I have tried to teach my children about housework and being more community-minded and to be more active with them. I am trying to read non-PE texts at night to increase my reading repertoire which is great fun and I am trying to set up a PD group (like a book group) where we might find a different article or reading each month around a theme of our choosing – this is still in its infancy but I am keen to get it up and running. My husband and I are also looking into MasterClass memberships to see what that might look like too. There is time for Challenge outside of our usual spheres – I wonder what yours might look like.
Gratefulness. I want to thank everyone who has shared amazing content that they have created and given away in the hope that it will bring joy and learning to another student. Some of the creative ways in which we are bringing movement ideas to our students are so much fun and it is lovely to see all the incredible ideas and selfless sharing. Remember to please to credit other people’s work and to ask them if you are sharing away from the medium they were originally shared in. Please let that person know that you loved their work! I would also urge you to take time to email, send a tweet, message or note to those who have been supportive to you or who deserve some recognition and thank you – this time is hard. For everyone. Remember to show some love, you may be thinking about it, but now action it.