Teacher and IT Director, Sherwood Christian Academy (Albany, Ga.)
There’s no doubt 2020 has been a stressful time for educators, but Cool Cat Teacher blogger Vicki Davis says teachers can still provide an engaging and individualized learning experience.
“We are in face-to-face school,” explained Davis, a popular speaker, podcast host and director of instructional technology at Sherwood Christian Academy in Albany, Georgia. “We were in remote learning in the spring. Our goal has been that, whatever we’re dealing with, to have zero instructional time lost. Our procedures have changed but we’re moving ahead.”
Located in a hot spot with limited options due to COVID-19 during the spring, Davis and her colleagues used Zoom, Wizer, Quizizz, Edpuzzle, IXL, and other tools to help students progress. Instructors also took part in professional development and a Google Level I certified course to help them better prepare.
Appreciate the situation
Davis, a former teacher who’s spoken at more than 100 conferences across the globe, says that in order to be effective during remote learning, teachers need to have a small tool kit, work through it slowly, and make sure students know how to use the tools provided.
“The philosophy I teach teachers is to ‘innovate like a turtle,’” she said. “We must also remember that kids are going through a lot of stress and parents want teachers to help their children, and they want it to be simple and easy.”
Create new opportunities
Davis believes educators must redefine how they teach in distance learning, and create reasons to come to class, such as playing games.
“If you lecture the whole time on Zoom, you’ve lost them,” said Davis, who encourages instructors to have some fun with their students. “Start class five or 10 minutes early and do different activities.”
Whether it’s having a Disney or superheroes day, or hosting a silly hat event, it’s important to mix things up a bit.
This spring, graduating seniors at Davis’ school each received an award during their final zoom assembly with their class, “Like Most Likely to Come to Class with Bed Head,” laughed Davis. “They had fun.”
An opportunity to inspire
Davis believes hopelessness can also be a pandemic, so teachers must be there for their students.
“Kids need to have a purpose, not just playing video games and watching TV. We have to engage them. You have to relate before you can educate. That’s what teaching is all about,” Davis said. “What’s happened at our school has been the best it could be, but it’s not the same. Going to school with masks isn’t ideal, but we’re sending kids a message that education is important and we’re in this together.”
Davis recognizes that times are hard, and says everyone must pull together.
“We need to have a lot of grace and love for each other,” she said. “It’s pretty much my hardest year of teaching, but it’s also the most important year of teaching for everyone I know, because kids need us so much.”