"P is for Plan"
As you are thinking about how you are going to meet the demands of teaching and learning, let us think through some key routines and procedures that you are going to need to teach your students. First, you are probably going to have to teach classroom routines and procedures, as well as routines for remote/virtual learning for those who are implementing a hybrid model. So where to begin the planning process? I find that asking questions are a great way to drill down to the smallest detail of what you are trying to accomplish. Here are a few questions to ponder as you think through processes and procedures that your students need to be keenly aware of to make learning work within an evolving class culture.
What are my expectations for students interacting and responding in the learning culture (online/virtually)?
What lessons or learning experiences do I need to offer to enlist my students?
What instructional materials are needed to facilitate tasks, lessons, activities (books, writing journals, articles)?
What steps should I take to ensure students adhere to procedures and routines?
What tools/incentives are available to assist me with managing and acknowledging their efforts?
How do I prepare parents for assisting their child(ren) at home and help them to feel comfortable about supporting learning at home?
How will I respond when students are not successful with procedures and routines?
How will I respond to my parents who need additional support in learning all about virtual learning platforms/software?
Do I have resources or “show and tell” videos to share with my parents and students when resolving issues? If not, how can I acquire informational tools?
Do I need to create a “Question & Answer” document for parents and students to reference?
How will I educate students on practicing social distancing and wearing Personal Protective Equipment?
Brainstorming is a great way to problem solve or come up with alternative solutions. Using the questioning technique is a great way to overcome conditions of change, especially if you are working with your grade level team. Together is always better. I recommend charting out responses while brainstorming ideas. It can be done as a whole group or individually; furthermore, you can gain additional perspectives to help build a solid foundation for the development of a class culture. Through my personal and professional experiences, I have learned that culture is not a place. It is not abstract. It is a feeling, an emotion that can be expressed in a collection of words, actions, and/or visual attributes. Culture can promote or demote personal best, depending on the principles and values on which it was built.
"C is for Culture"
Students are creatures of habit. They thrive in environments where there is structure with flexibility within the framework. Making available specific instructions, while offering choice, create mutual harmony. Chose your battles. Indifference should be a welcomed attribute as it builds character, tolerance, and acceptance within the learning culture. I cannot express enough the importance of having the following hallmarks for developing learning culture:
Choice (ex. digital choice boards)
Engagement (high interest content, inquiry-based learning)
Teacher-student conferences (create a schedule of virtual meetings)
Growth-mindset (builds resiliency)
Praise for performance (powerful attribute for increasing personal accountability and self-efficacy)
Compassion (ex. read alouds, service projects)
Acknowledgement and Celebrations
This list can go on forever. Imagine creating a culture that is the opposite of the attributes listed above. I am sure it is not a pretty picture. One of the attributes I believe is important to a culture that embodies accountability is “praise for performance.” We do not spend enough time on making this a part of the culture. Specific praise is bite-sized feedback that communicates the degree to which students are winning. It is not always easy to do. As educators, we get extremely excited when students respond correctly and with great enthusiasm, we shout “great job!” To get students to demonstrate behavioral and academic expectations, we must take it a step further. Instead of offering generalized praise, provide specific statements that addresses the learning target. For example,
Wow! You used the “chunk it” strategy to uncover the meaning of the word. You did it!
Putting your items back in your cubby will keep them safe and off the floor. Thank you!
Carissa, I noticed you joined our virtual class meetings on time for three days in a row. Awesome!
Praise for performance is a key action within the learning culture that communicates the belief a teacher has within her students. When students know that you believe in their abilities, they try harder to accomplish and/or exceed all expectations. As a result, students begin to develop internal motivation to make a difference in their own learning.
"G is for Growth Mindset"
Establishing a growth mind-set is also an essential characteristic of the learning environment. Teachers who foster a growth mindset within their students are more likely to see students display a sense of resilience and commitment towards rigorous tasks. Enlisting and nurturing students' growth mindset requires us to demonstrate what it means to experience and accept challenges. More importantly, teachers should provide students with strategies for responding to difficult situations. Growing up as a learner I did not have the luxury of developing a growth mindset. The learning culture did not fully embrace the unique learning differences that existed among students. I believed that I was unable to make a difference in my own learning; therefore I did not put forth much effort in the face of adversity. There were many factors that shaped my perceptions of who I was as a learner. It was the words and actions, coupled with my teachers'visual cues, displayed in the learning environment. To describe the learning culture, it was a reflection of inflexibility, harsh reprimands, non-supportive language, along with misaligned tasks and activities. Holding everyone accountable for the use of supportive language and positive vibes inadvertently leads to the productivity of stronger work ethic. A teacher's belief in their students' ability widens their perceptions of themselves as being capable learners. In addition, "Students perform better in school when they and their teachers believe that intelligence is not fixed, but can be developed" (Dweck, 2010).
To sum it up all it, planning strategically for what you want to accomplish this school year and years to come, has the potential to yield amazing results. Just spend a little time thinking through expectations to develop your class's culture will benefit your students greatly. We only get one opportunity to make the right impression.
"It is better to plan ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret." Jackie Joyner-Kersee
Dweck, Carol. "Carol Dweck Revisits the Growth Mindset" Education Week. Edweek, 29, Sept. 2016.Web. 17 Nov. 2016. <http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/09/23/carol-dweck-revisits-the-growth-mindset.html>