As educators, students, and families enter year three of an unstable world due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are so many skills on top of what a traditional teacher already has that are necessary for this school year and many school years to come. The pandemic has placed so many stressors on educators and students whether it be financially, personally, or academically. Teachers need to be as prepared as possible for the unknowns that may suddenly change the way they teach or interact with their students.
Online Learning and Instruction
The spring of 2019 forced the hand of educators across the world to jump into the world of online teaching and learning even if they had zero experience. The challenges and barriers to education were immense on both sides of the computer. There were teachers who had never used an online teaching platform. There were hundreds of thousands of students who did not have access to a computer or high-speed internet.
Hence, teachers and administrators need to be given the time to learn more about online learning and instruction. Newer, better, more engaging technology has been developed over the past year. These resources will assist teachers in creating lessons online for all types of learners. School administrators should offer teachers professional development opportunities to learn about and implement these tools. The most challenging part of using new technology is learning how to use it and then actually implement it in the lesson.
Social and Emotional Learning
Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an amazing developmental framework for youth and adults alike. Teachers who are familiar with SEL and learn to implement it in the classroom will have students who are equipped with the skills to deal with challenges and will benefit academically.
SEL helps students to manage their emotions and set goals with a mindset of success. Social and emotional learning is a part of human development. Teachers who can guide their students in this process of developing skills will give them the tools to help develop self-awareness and self-control.
Oftentimes when children or adults run into a challenge, their emotions can get in the way of them overcoming these barriers. Children and adults who have social and emotional skills will be able to deal with their emotions and not let them stand in the way of success.
Trauma and Resilience
As sad as it may seem, teachers may find themselves as the first person to interact with a child after he/she has faced some sort of trauma outside of the school. Teachers who have skills in trauma and resilience will be able to identify students who have experienced trauma and most importantly, be able to assist them.
Teachers who are informed in trauma and resilience know the importance of having a safe and predictable learning environment for their students. This safety and predictability of a classroom and teacher is critical for a child who is experiencing chaotic situations outside of the school.
If an educator has gone through training in trauma and resilience, he/she will be able to give coping skills to the students and help them thrive even after a negative experience. Teachers who have these skills are invaluable and may be the reason why a child can overcome trauma and still be successful in school and life.
Universal Design of Learning
Universal Design of Learning (UDL) was once thought of as a way to design lessons with technology for students who had learning disabilities. This is no longer the case. UDL is a framework that guides our teaching to make sure that all of our students have equal access to content and ways to express their knowledge in the best way for them, as a learner.
The three principles of UDL are multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of expression. A teacher who understands these principles and actively creates lessons following them will ensure that every student is able to engage with the content in a meaningful way.
UDL can be especially beneficial when designing lessons in the online environment. Giving students multiple ways to show that they know something and increasing their motivation by tapping into their interests will almost guarantee success for all students.
This is certainly not a new skill for teachers. However, it is extremely important with the environment that we are all living in because of the pandemic. If ever there was a time for teachers to make that connection with the families of their students, it is now.
The pandemic has caused so many disruptions in our every day lives, especially in education. Increasing teacher to parent communication will help stabilize the feelings around the child’s educational experience. There are too many unknowns about whether or not a child’s school may close down because of too many COVID cases. Having a clear plan and communicating that to the families will help build relationships and, in turn, increase academic success.
No educator around the world ever expected that we would be dealing with a pandemic during a third school year. However, now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to fill those gaps and find the new skills that are needed in order to make the school year enjoyable and a success.