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Teaching During COVID-19: Lessons Learned in the First Month of the 20-21 School Year

Author: Stephanie D. Jacobs


After the first month of an unprecedented school year for all, the members of SCASCD Emerging Leaders hosted a Twitter chat to check in with teachers and educators. The special guest moderators were: Pam Hubler, Instructional/EdTech Coach; Stephanie Jacobs, Instructional Technology Coach; and Steve Sokohl, Assistant Principal. This Twitter chat provided an inside look into the experiences of educators across the state as they reflected on the lessons learned---so far. One thing that I think we can all agree on is that this year is like no other we have known in our educational journey.

We’ll break down the chat here by taking a closer look at the questions. You can also see a curated overview in this Wakelet collection (Credit: Pam Hubler).

What’s keeping you going right now?

This question is HUGE! And many of us may not even know what is keeping us going. It's a lot to handle. It’s different. Overwhelmingly, many participants shared that the people around them keep them going. Your tribe could include colleagues, family members, and even students right now. One educator also pointed out that she is inspired by the creativity and flexibility at her school. People get their energy from the positivity in the atmosphere, the smiles of others, supporting and encouraging each other in this unique environment. What’s the bottom line? We cannot forget how important the social-emotional element is for all of us. Those connections that we make day-to-day become our energy.

What has gone well so far?

Now is the time to truly celebrate. We need to celebrate our accomplishments, celebrate our students, and even celebrate our parents who are taking on a brand new role in their child’s education. We know that the road is not easy, but hats off to doing your best to make it work.

Innovative teaching strategies stand out in the list of what is going well. If there is a tech tool that teachers have been wanting to try, right now is the time to test those waters. In the midst of the pandemic Bitmoji Classrooms are being created, telecommunication platforms (like Meet, Teams, and Zoom) are taking off, and the overall learning practices are becoming more personalized (choice boards* and virtual manipulatives). The addition of the virtual learning option has also encouraged more collaboration among teachers. Some teachers have smaller class sizes, which allows them to engage more with students and plan lessons that are more tailored to individual needs. These are components that will hopefully move forward with us post-COVID.

Has anything surprised you so far this month?

During the chat, many people shared their surprise with the adaptability of students to a new learning environment. One teacher shared that she was proud of her students for being able to toggle between tabs and follow multi-step directions. Let’s face it, school has changed. But, to their credit, students have jumped right in and risen to the challenge. Some teachers also shared how this platform of virtual learning has opened the door for students to showcase their technology skills. In addition to that, there are new procedures that must be followed with mask guidelines, social distancing, cleaning/sanitizing, and new routines in school buildings. Students have not missed a beat with adapting to these changes and doing their part. Other surprises mentioned were: veteran teachers becoming more tech savvy and embracing change, the speed at which the time has flown by, and the overall resilience and commitment shown by all stakeholders.

What tech tool has been a life-saver for you?

Can we get a drumroll, please? I wonder if your favorite tech tool made the chat. In the area of communication, Blackboard Connect i5 made the list. Keeping parents informed during this time is essential. Smore is mentioned for creating newsletters. Loom and Screencastify are used for professional development via video. It seems that Google Slides has become a staple for some in the areas of organization and presenting content to students. Of course, professional growth and development continue to be a focus for educators. Twitter and YouTube top the list for ways to improve professional connections and learn through blogs and video tutorials. This list continues to grow with Google Classroom, Google Forms, and Peardeck; all used to navigate eLearning plans that support student growth and achievement by delivering content in a variety of formats. ClassDojo receives a nod as a way to communicate with families who speak multiple or different languages. Rounding out the list is DyKnow, which is used to monitor student devices. DyKnow can also be used as an assessment tool to gauge how well students grasp concepts in the moment.

What strategies are you using to engage students and make learning stick?

In addition to tech tools, teachers also gave us some engagement strategies that can become a part of our toolkits as we work to move students forward in the learning process. Here are just a few:

*Plan ahead.

*Allow for collaborative projects/work.

*Provide timely and quality feedback.

*Present opportunities for student choice.

*Offer hands-on learning experiences, when possible.

*Encourage student talk. Student voice is important.

*Use “brain breaks” and reflection time to build student stamina.

*Lead small group instruction with an intentional focus.

What are you doing for self-care?

Self-care is important. Let me say that again. Self-care is important. So, set your watch, add it to your calendar, put it on the To Do List, tell a friend. Do whatever you need to do to make it a part of your routine. Teachers from the chat set goals for exercise, time outdoors, and sports. Many also pointed out the need for rest and relaxation. That could mean time to unwind at the end of the day, limited screen time, naps, or just enjoying time with special people (or yourself for all the introverts). So let’s end this section with an important message: It is okay to make time for YOU.

What one tip would you share with teachers to make the most of the current situation?

These tips were too great to summarize, so I will leave you with words of encouragement from a few of our chat participants.

“Learn to ask for help. It isn't a weakness, but a strength.” ~Pam Inabinett

“What you are doing is molding and shaping future generations now more than ever. Self care is so important, especially now. Spend time with those that matter most and remember, you make a difference!” ~Steven Sokohl

“Don't expect it to be perfect! Do the best you can to plan for what you need to do, but don't stress yourself out when things go wrong.” ~Pam Hubler

“Communicate and show grace.” ~Dr. Tiffany Turner Hall

“One day at a time. This too shall pass.” ~Anjosia B. Ellerbe

“Search for speakers! Using Google Meet, Skype & Zoom to record interviews to share experiences [with] our [students] as lessons.” ~Todd Shriver

“Take risks, try new things, and ask for feedback. Work together towards continuous improvement.” ~Dr. Deborah Bennett

“Relax. Google is going to go down, the link is going to break, a parent is going to be upset. We can handle it all. Reach out and take a breath.” ~Julie Marlowe

“Move on from mistakes; tomorrow will be better” ~Brandon Ross

“Embrace this moment because this is a historic time in education.” ~Coach Goodman


*Choice Boards Sample-(Credit: Jenna Humphries-Teacher, Madison Williams-Teacher)

Stephanie D. Jacobs

Instructional Technology Coach

SCASCD Emerging Leaders



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