2020, the year classrooms went virtual, asynchronous and synchronous became daily used terms, and pedagogy practices were tested in a digital world. Through this shift in education, educators have been thrown into a ring and despite being knocked down (and nearly knocked out), we get back up and throw another punch.
Despite having a Masters of Science in Educational Technology, there is no amount of education that can prepare the transition from my lively classroom filled with laughter and childhood to sitting in my guest bedroom in front of my computer and having to reassure my students that this too shall pass.
Nearly nine months in the ring, my stance is getting a little firmer, my jab a little quicker, and my upper cut a little stronger. However, as I meet the moments of deciding whether to throw in the towel or go in for another round, there are several things I want instructional coaches to know in order to support us through this match.
In the world of distance learning, there are an insane amount of tools, resources, and programs. “Log into Zackle, track data on Zoodle, sign your students up for Zittle, and do not forget to connect each app in Zangle!” I have watched as feelings of anxiety, decrease in confidence, and debilitating levels of stress, completely overwhelm even the most tech-savvy teachers each time an email from their instructional coach popped in. Before overwhelming your teachers with an overabundance of resources and tools, listen to the needs of the teachers you are working with and narrow your list down to best practices. Suggest resources that can bring growth in teaching and support learning.
Additionally, encourage educators to share best practices and resources with one another. Great examples of teaching and learning are happening across campus, however, teachers are often teaching at the same time and are limited in collaboration time. During distance learning, teachers have been even more isolated from one another and opportunities to learn from and share ideas are restrictive due to COVID-19 guidelines. Instructional coaches can bridge the gap and connect teachers across the grade levels to collaborate by connecting educators through video tools. This not only allows educators to connect beyond work hours, but nurtures collaboration, even from a distance.
With this in mind, teachers know the students within their classroom and their needs. Often it is encouraged that grade-level teams be aligned to one another’s lessons and pacing. In a distance learning classroom, learning environments vary and students’ needs are across the spectrum--especially within school sites that have cluster grouping that differentiates GATE, RSP, and ELD students.
Expecting educators to be doing the exact same pacing and projects is not only impractical for teachers, but inequitable for students. Instructional coaches can support teachers by providing feedback and suggestions for differentiation within the individual classrooms...without adding stress or worry to stay paced with their grade-level.
Instructional coaches, please keep in mind, not only is equitability and accessibility vital for students, it is vital for our educators. Skill levels and background knowledge in distance learning vastly vary from teacher to teacher. Like any trained, professional educator knows, differentiation, small groups, and one-on-one support can do wonders for diverse learners. Support your teachers by providing personal learning that supports teachers’ goals and offer assistance in lesson planning and co-teaching. Through video tools, instructional coaches can record tutorial and lesson videos to support educators and students. Additionally, they can support educators in small groups through live video instruction.
Lastly, distance learning has increased the need for social-emotional learning for students and educators. As previously mentioned, this is a fight like any other and we are all doing what we can to adapt to the ever-evolving changes that are occurring daily in education. Sometimes the support we need the most is to be checked on without worry of evaluation. Instructional coaches can be a listening ear and support teachers through building relationships.
While our instructional coaches are standing in the corner of our rings and offering endless amounts of support in between rounds, we need to remember they are also adapting to distance learning. I want them to know how much they are appreciated and that their incredible work does not go unnoticed. We are all experiencing 2020 together. We have to remember that no matter the role we have, we need to support one another, build each other up, and learn together through every round. In the end, if we can find moments of laughter and gratitude...we will come out of the ring as Titleholders. Hold your Champion Pose, we’ve got this.