Saturday 4 April 2020

Teaching in a Crazy Time

We don't want to be about 'how do we put schooling in the home;
The more interesting question is 'What kind of learning can we do in the home that provides a foundation so when students go back into school, we've prepared them in powerful ways and we've transformed schools’.
From Silver Lining for Learning

We are in an unusual time, and educators in our district and around the province are rising to the occasion to provide learning experiences for our children and support for our families.  It is so important to do that.  

Equally important is our own sense of well-being.  Where are we finding joy?  What are we doing to help keep us balanced?  How are we dealing with our own loss during this time?  These are stories we want to also be telling.  All of us have stories beyond the “working from home” … we have parents in care home, sickness, isolation, financial worries.  How are we finding joy and hope and support?
In SD67, Todd Manuel, our assistant superintendent laid out for us the guiding principles for planning how to best support learning opportunities for our students.  

The first principle of sustainability speaks about not burdening our families, but also speaks to not burdening ourselves.  Starting small, taking small steps, learning as we go, focusing on connecting and supporting rather than teaching and organizing.  

• is it sustainable and realistic?
• not a burden to families
• relevant and meaningful activities in a home environment

• Can all students access the activities?
• Do the students have devices we are asking them to use?
• Are there access points for all students?

• are we connecting with our students and families?
• Do we know how our students are doing?  And how the family is doing?  There are many stories we need to listen to and have empathy for - loss of jobs, financial difficulties, trauma, stress

• Do we have a collaborative approach within and across schools?  Shared expectations/understanding of how we are moving forward.

These guiding principles have been said in different ways by people throughout the province (teachers, principals, superintendents, parents, students, BCTF, and the Ministry of Education).  They are important to keep in mind as we begin on this exploration of how we support learning at home, and think about the kind of learning we can do in the home “that provides  a foundation so when students go back into school, we've prepared them in powerful ways and we've transformed schools"   (Silver Lining for Learning).

Teri Mooring, BCTF

Collaboration and Support:
One thing I have noticed this past week is how we all want to connect.  We want to collaborate.  Educators, businesses, people in general are all sharing!  Sharing products, ideas, and support.  It is an amazing thing to watch.  

This week many educators from different districts have shared their ideas and plans freely as they have been working to create “learning at home” activities that  fit with the guiding principles - meaningful and relevant, accessible for all, not too difficult or time consuming for kids and families, and beginning with well-being and relationships at the center.  They want others to feel free to use their ideas - they want to support and learn with others.   

Here are several examples from primary educators from SD 42 and 53:

Example 1:  The wonder:  What does Learning at home look like?
- this example could span over several weeks
- the instructions say "Choose what works for you and your family context.  You can do some or all or some more than once.  Have FUN!"
- this example could span over several weeks 
- the first column is about WELLNESS

Example 2:  The wonder:  Kindness
- the instructions: “you can do as many as you have time for”
- the activities are not on-line;  they are about drawing and writing and going outside
- they will connect on-line through padlet

3.  Example 3:  Materials and Choice boards
- all the materials sent home are to help the child ‘grow’ and express themselves in a creative way:  paints, sidewalk chalk, seeds, pencils, play dough
- this package highlights the guiding principle of equity - does every child have what they need to learn at home?

Here are several examples from middle school educators in SD67

Yesterday I had the privilege of meeting with a group of middle school teachers who were planning for next week.  Their main focus is on connecting with the students and families and making sure they are doing alright and asking for feedback as the days go on in terms of what is working and what is not.  The conversation was rich and many ideas were shared.  Here are a few examples and ideas that these educators are sharing with each other and their families.

Here is an introduction to one of the letters home:
Note: the connection this teacher is making, how personal the letter is, how flexible she is in connecting with her students, how she is making herself available, and also asking for feedback from the students and parents

This group of teachers decided to based their weekly plan on specific words or themes.  Courage, connection, optimism and hope were some of the words shared.

Courage, connections, optimism and hope

• The grade six group chose to focus on first on the word Courage.  Courage in a pandemic.  Some of the ideas shared were to look at: 
- what is courage
- what does it look like in a pandemic
- how does courage help?
- what examples of courage around us?  in our own homes, in our city, in the country
- what kind of courage does it take to stay home?  to learn at home? 
*Dr. Stan Kutcher, a Canadian Senator, but importantly well known in the area of SEL has put out a number of short video clip about the 3 things needed in a crisis like this:  leadership (government); knowledge of what to do (health authorities); and courage. You can find his clips on twitter @StanKutcher

One grade 6 teacher chose to set it up like this:

This week we will be getting used to learning at home.  That is a lot for one week.  These are the things I would like you to focus on this week.  All of them will take some kind of courage.

• The grade seven educators chose to focus on Connections first.  How to connect well in this unusual time?

Here is a sample from one grade 7 teachers letter home:

The second section  of the letter talks about connecting as a class and the third section really focuses on wellbeing.  What brings you joy? what are you grateful for? How are you connecting to nature?  

Thanks to all the educators who shared so willingly:  Melia, Melissa, Jeanette, Kelsey, Janice, Pam, Stacey, Anna, Natasha, Sydney, Nick, Julia, Melissa B., Janice B. and Carol.

Let's continue to share ideas on this blog.  




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