- Distance learning helped us connect.
- Rather than going “back to normal,” educators can take all of the things learned during COVID to make positive changes going forward.
Why I’ll Never Go Back to “Normal”
I won’t lie to you. There were days last year that I taught in pajama pants, shoes-off, with a cat in my lap. Days where I interrupted a phonics lesson to open my daughter’s water bottle, toss my husband his keys, or shush a barking dog. But not once, on any of those days, did I set foot in the same room as my students. I taught 100% from a little corner of my bedroom via Zoom. And if you’d have told me last August that I’d have the strongest relationships with families of my entire teaching career, I would never have believed you.
But that’s exactly what happened.
I’ve had strong partnerships with caretakers in the past, but nothing that compares to the class-wide family involvement I had last year. It wasn’t just a handful—it was the whole class.
Because I learned and used strategies that improved accessibility for all of my families, not just the ones that could adhere to the school schedule for visits, conferences, and parent nights. As my approach to parent involvement changed and evolved, so did our classroom community.
I’m excited to go back to in-person teaching this year, but I’m never going back to “normal.” The things I’ve learned through teaching digitally will stick with me forever, and I can’t wait to implement what I’ve learned. I know these strategies will improve accessibility and involvement for years to come.I’ll continue to create both in-person and virtual options to provide the most inclusive, accessible experience possible for my students and their families. Click To Tweet
Options for Virtual Orientation/Open House
Many families miss out on these events simply because can’t make it to the campus at the scheduled time. That doesn’t mean that their student’s education is any less of a priority to them. By offering an additional virtual session, caretakers can join from home or on a break from work. They can receive the same information and have the same opportunities to ask questions. These sessions can also be recorded and posted to the class website to be viewed at each family’s convenience. Note: In order to protect the privacy of your families, only record and post the informational portion in which you are the sole person on camera speaking.
Options for Virtual Conferences
I have always offered phone conferences for caretakers that are unable to make it to campus. However, I’ve found virtual conferences to be more personal and effective. With virtual conferences, I am able to better share student work, data, and resources. Last year, I reached 100% participation for caretaker/teacher conferences, and I believe this is due to increased accessibility.
Virtual Tutoring Options
Offering additional tutoring sessions is a wonderful way to build relationships and give students a needed boost. But what happens when the student is unable to come early or stay late? In the past, that would mean they went without. Now, through the use of Zoom and other virtual meeting software, students have increased access to tutoring. They can log in early before leaving for school or after they get home, and I can provide a more equitable enrichment experience.[scroll down to keep reading]
Virtual Read-Alouds/Book Talks
My students LOVE when a family member comes in and shares a favorite book. The whole class snaps to attention and the chosen book is always in high demand. However, not everyone’s schedule allows for this. So, what if I gave the parents the opportunity to record and send in a read-aloud? They can choose to be on camera, send an audio file, or even Zoom in with the class live. That gives all of my families equal opportunity to share books that are special to them and gives all students a sense of pride and recognition.
Sadly, with the rising COVID cases in my community, we are still working on a strictly virtual model for orientation and conferences. But even when/if things do go back to “normal,” I won’t. I’ll continue to create both in-person and virtual options to provide the most inclusive, accessible experience possible for my students and their families.
We are better together.
And I want to make sure that we means all.
About Jaime Formato
Jaime Formato is a first-grade teacher and writer from North Florida. She has eighteen years of teaching under her belt, serves as a Beginning Teacher Mentor, and will always be doing her best to be doing better. While her days are spent hanging with kids and reading, her nights are reserved for musicals, hockey, writing, and the fam. She lives in a little house by the woods with her husband, their four beautiful children, two cats that don’t love her enough, two dogs that love her a little too much, and a whole lotta nature.