- Educators are hybrid heroes.
- Hybrid heroes are educators who will forever be ingrained in history as those front-line workers who changed the face of teaching and learning.
- Connections, customization, and configurations are what will matter the most when working to achieve balance in this new adaptation in education.
Whether you have just welcomed students back into the building or have been teaching in-person students in some type of way all school year, I want you to know that you are truly a superhero! Think about it. Regardless of whether you are a Marvel or DC Comics fan, the one thing that we can be sure of when watching the characters in these movies is that at the end of the day, the superhero will find an ingenious way to save the day.
It has been nothing short of amazing watching teachers shake off the nerves, adjust in real-time, and give it their all as we once again ask them to do the impossible. On top of this, each of you seamlessly made it look like we have been teaching this way for years. Now I know what you are thinking. This has been a difficult transition. After all, there is no playbook for embarking on the task of providing dual opportunities for students to experience teaching and learning. For many educators across the country, this marks the one-month anniversary of schools reopening.Each day educators roll up their sleeves, embrace challenges, elevate instruction, and emerge victorious as you encourage students, parents, and community stakeholders to believe that learning could take place at any time, space, and rate. Click To Tweet
Before I provide you with tips to take your hybrid instruction to new heights, I just want to let each person know who is reading this month’s blog…you are an awe-inspiring hybrid hero!!!
Hybrid heroes are educators who will forever be ingrained in history as those front-line workers who changed the face of teaching and learning as we emerged from a year-long journey of continuous change amid the Coronavirus pandemic.
Each day educators roll up their sleeves, embrace challenges, elevate instruction, and emerge victorious as you encourage students, parents, and community stakeholders to believe that learning could take place at any time, space, and rate.
Resilience relics who put their own personal trauma and trials to the side to ensure the social and emotional situations of their students don’t consume them and define their academic fate.
Over the past year, you have been the originators of the unimaginable.
When you finally thought you had gotten the hang of online teaching, the stakes have been raised once again. No worries! You’ve got this!
A year ago, you had these same thoughts when you realized that you would have to turn some space in your home into a classroom. You confronted this hurdle head-on. And with an open heart and mind, you overcame insurmountable obstacles. And you achieved optimal originations which captured the hearts and minds of students, parents, the community, and the world.
As you continue to seek happiness and balance the scales during hybrid learning, consider employing the C3 approach. At the end of the day, connections, customization, and configurations are what will matter the most when working to achieve balance in this new adaptation in education.
What exactly is the C3 approach?
Decide on the best pathway to assist educators with controlling their own fears about returning to schools, framing their routines for creating a safe instructional environment, and at the same time focus on what is most important—making sure students are learning.
I created the C3 approach to help shift the spotlight back to what students need right now. There have been so many traumatic circumstances over the past year. Although parents have attempted to shield kids from most of these events, trust me, children are more perceptive than we think. They know that life has changed tremendously. Many haven’t seen relatives, friends, and even their neighbors up close. They haven’t been to the park, birthday parties, taken vacations, or had meals in restaurants.
The impact of this type of isolation is unexplainable. When our kids returned to schools, for many, their teachers and school administrators were the first outside of their family bubble to be in close proximity to them in over a year.
I contemplated what I would want for my own child. I realized that connections, customization, and configurations are what students need to feel safe, find stability, and reemerge victoriously amid the shell shock of these past few months.
Hybrid Heroes: Connections
Before this pandemic, many of us doubted that relationships could be formed solely through online interactions. A year later, we have learned that this type of interaction has broadened our scope of what collaborations could and should look like.
Just as we worked to perfect these virtual interactions, we will have to work just as hard to help students learn to navigate the social constructs of creating socially distanced connections with us, their peers, and other people within the world. Students don’t naturally understand personal space, love to share everything from snacks to school supplies, and light up when you smile at them.
Educators will need to spend an abundance of time framing new ways for students to connect and collaborate. This type of environment is vital. We all need to feel connected. How will you work to cultivate this type of connection between your in-person and remote learners? One way is to use pre-set pods which are comprised of both in-person and remote learners. Intentionally planning mixed interactions amongst both types of learners will create a collaborative atmosphere for all of your students (Hudson, 2020).
Hybrid Heroes: Customization
Every student is at a different level socially, emotionally, and academically. With this in mind, educators should think about new ways to customize or personalize learning experiences for students. We have just discussed creating collaborative connections with students.
Moving forward, teachers will need to embed systems that help students understand and express their feelings. Increasing students’ emotional intelligence will assist them in regulating their impulses and actions as well as reflecting on how their actions impact others around them. With all that is going on in the world, teaching students to express themselves with words, through art, and other media will equip students with the stamina they persevere through the many challenges that are ahead of them.
These challenges will include overcoming the seemingly large gap between learning and retaining academic knowledge, what many have coined learning loss.
I like to think of it as impermanent learning. I don’t believe students can lose knowledge. If students are not able to continuously show mastery over skills then their learning was not permanent—solidified or properly connected to their long-term memory.
In order to reduce this type of academic gap, educators will need to find time to individually follow-up with both remote and in-person students. Each student will have different cracks in their academic foundation. A key way to identify these cracks is through conversations that are routinely conducted within each teacher’s feedback loop (Fowler-White, 2020).
Are you still holding office hours for your at-home learners or building in asynchronous time so that you can pull both in-person and remote students into a break-out room to provide them with customized feedback to help them move forward in their academic progress?
If not, consider working to finetune and customize how you approach each student’s social, emotional, and academic well-being. All are essential to reaching a sense of equilibrium in the hybrid learning environment. Ultimately, these tailor-made systems will help all students connect with the topics, each other, and us.[scroll down to keep reading]
Hybrid Heroes: Configurations
It doesn’t matter if students come to school every day or a couple of times a week, configurations or the structures and organization of students’ days are critical. Students need strong systems and routines. Knowing and understanding what to expect throughout the day or class period helps to reduce anxiety, puts students at ease, and invites them to engage in the learning for the day.
Classroom routines are the backbone of teaching and learning.
Small things like clarifying the tasks for the day can make a huge difference, especially when a visual depiction of the day is placed in the online learning platform via a screenshot in the chatbox or as an announcement.
Visual configurations can assist students with staying connected and on track in cases where the platform doesn’t function as expected or Internet outages occur. Clarifying learning routines are essential for helping students develop the executive functioning skills needed to optimize learning. Executive functioning is a “set of skills that comprise working memory, organization, flexible thinking, and self-control” (Welby, 2021).
Executive functioning skills such as remembering what to do and when, paying attention, and staying on track are all aided when teachers simply clearly outline classroom routines and frame the day. Routines breed creativity and help students create a sense of flow needed to stretch their thinking and build connections which will mend the gaps in learning.
I wanted to remind you just how amazing you are and provide a few strategies to help you stabilize the scale as you keep working to find a sense of balance between providing support for both your in-person and remote learners.
Cultivating belonging, clarifying learning routines, creating predictable pathways for engagement, and following up with feedback are just a few strategies that will help to tip the academic scale in our favor and increase the likelihood of students achieving academic success.
The C3 approach is not meant to be an all-encompassing method for finding a happy equilibrium as we continue to move forward in the hybrid teaching and learning environment. I hope that these strategies help you to begin to trust your Hybrid Hero instincts about what you know your students need and the things you understand they need to learn to help you remember that “balance is not something you find, it’s something you create” (Kingsford, 2016) .
Fowler-White, J. (2020). Educator Reflection Tips, Volume I: How often do you reflect on your practice?
Hudson, E. (2020). 16 Hybrid Learning Tips by and for Teachers
Welby, K. (2021). How to help students improve executive functioning during hybrid learning.
About Jami Fowler-White
Jami Fowler-White is the CEO of Digital PD 4 You, LLC. Over the past two decades, she has served in many capacities in education which include ten years as a classroom teacher, an Instructional Coach, and a Core Advocate with Achieve the Core. She currently mentors First-time and Renewal candidates for the National Board and is a charter member of the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators and Black Women Education Leaders, Incorporated.
Additionally, Mrs. Fowler-White is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and currently serves as an assistant principal in Shelby County Schools (TN). Fowler-White also provides professional development under the umbrella of the National Board and Digital PD 4 You for schools and districts.
She is the author/coauthor of several books including, Educator Reflection Tips, Volume #1, EduMatch’s Snapshots in Education 2020: Remote Learning Edition, The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community, 2nd Edition, and Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining our Practice.
Jami blogs at DigitalPD4You.com , has a bi-monthly leadership blog on Insight Advance, and writes a monthly blog entitled the Better Mindset on TeachBetter.com She can be contacted via email at: email@example.com and invites you to connect with her on Twitter via @JjJj821