Updated: Jun 30, 2021
The greatest advice I could give teachers struggling to find sanity would be to flip their lessons and provide asynchronous instruction. This advice holds in all blended learning environments. That means all of us in a post-2020 world. Students aren’t going to lose access to technology. They might lose access to see us in person. 2020 reminded me that every time I say goodbye to my students in person could be the last time I see them in person. I provide lessons and teaching pre-recorded and available 100% virtually at all times. I look at any time in person with the student as an excellent opportunity to build relationships and bridge the learning gap. This means all content at all times- is pushed out through my learning management system. I use a structure known as a flipped classroom where time with me in person is to help bridge the learning gap, build relationships, and teach the whole child.
We call it a flipped classroom because we flip when instruction time and independent time. By no means do I mean students should do all the “learning” at home, but rather the teacher is active during guided practice, essentially making themselves their assistant. This means our actual instruction of us teaching is pre-recorded and available for students while they are interacting with the content. I was using flipped classrooms before the pandemic and I’m so thankful that I had that experience when my school went virtual. Personally, I can’t think of another solution that would cause less stress than having all content pre-made and ready. Then when factors we can’t control happen, we are less stressed because the content is still there, and students still have access to the learning.
Here’s the truth that not everyone believes- well done asynchronous teaching is less stressful.
I am not talking about throwing out a worksheet sheet online or giving a test or quiz and calling it an asynchronous lesson. I’m talking full videos start to finish of a teacher speaking to the computer as if it were a learning student. It is absolutely awkward, but it is not the end of the world and not something we can’t do.
The strangest phenomenon of all of this that I have found is my eighth graders genuinely don’t realize that I’m not talking to them in person. When I teach during my allotted Zoom time with my students, I greet them and just start playing videos my pre-recorded. I’ll watch the chat to see any questions, and I will pause to clarify along the way. This really makes me my own assistant. The weird thing is my students don’t always know which videos are live or pre-recorded. Perhaps this is also because I wear the same thing to work every single day-but as long as I am talking to them in the video, they feel as if they are connecting to me. I suppose this makes sense because, on some level, I feel connected to my favorite TV show characters or YouTubers that I enjoy. It really isn’t that different for students to feel connected as long as they are seeing us.
We, of course, still need to connect with students mindfully.
Teachers are sometimes reluctant to flip classrooms because it is a lot of work to set up and get started. However, it is worth it. There are also pre-made resources available on platforms such as Teachers Pay Teachers that might have done this already. It is awkward to record ourselves teaching without students in front of us, but it gets easier with time, and, just like in-person teaching, you find our rhythm. Your students expect authenticity, not perfect productions. When I record videos from my students, I often don’t even edit because I want them to know me and see the authentic person I am, and honestly, if we were in person, they would see the same flaws in me. This stuff is just about being comfortable with ourselves and the technology available to us. There are many platforms out there that make recordings of our lessons, such as Screencastify, Loom, or WeVideo. There are YouTube videos teaching us how to use each one of them.
We just have to be brave enough to try.
I once heard a teacher say that they don’t have the confidence to record videos. They didn’t want to “see themselves on camera.” My personal and admittedly snarky response is that we shouldn’t teach children if we aren’t comfortable enough to see ourselves on camera.
Students deserve to see adults model an established sense of self. I believe that confidence is an illusion. It is about authenticity. By modeling authenticity with flaws included we show students that we embrace ourselves as we are. Students deserve to see authenticity to learn how to accept themselves as exactly who they are, flaws included. Authenticity means showing up everyday as ourselves and whatever state that may be, and accepting ourselves without judgment.
Are we willing to be our authentic selves with our students?
Are we willing to challenge the negative self-talk that often lives in our minds?
That’s what makes or breaks great teaching.