This article was written by Kerry Gallagher and appears on her blog Start with a Question.
As we near the end of the school year, teachers are working harder than ever to keep their students engaged and to maximize every single day they have left with them in the classroom. Teachers are the superheroes of education and there is nothing more important in a teacher’s day than the face-to-face connections they make with their students. According to renowned education researchers Robert and Jana Marzano, “Teacher-student relationships provide an essential foundation for effective classroom management—and classroom management is a key to high student achievement.” To ensure that limited face to face time in the classroom can be as meaningful is possible, teachers are using digital tools to bring learning and sharing beyond the classroom. And, when everything teachers do every day is listed, it is truly amazing to imagine how they juggle it all. So, what does a typical digital day look like for a teacher who is doing this well?
Before the School Day Begins
- Check and respond to messages from students, parents, and colleagues. Share any learning data about students with parents who have requested it and answer any student questions that were sent last night.
- Be sure that all resources and activities are curated and posted online so students can access them as needed during the school day.
- If students had homework, review the online results of student assignments completed last night. Were students messaging back and forth about anything in particular? Do their scores/results indicate that there are aspects of the content many of them are struggling with? These topics might deserve a second look during class today.
During Class Times
- Greet students at the door and have bell-ringer/activator instructions projected in the classroom. Be sure the digital tools and resources students need are easy to access and are free from pop-ups or other distractions so learners are ready to engage appropriately with technology as soon as they enter the classroom.
- During class discussions and small group activities, provide students with an online message board where they can post their questions or ideas. While extroverts have no problem speaking up out loud, introverts will appreciate the opportunity to share their ideas this way.
- Spend some of class time chatting one-on-one with students who need interventions that day. This can be necessary due to academic or social-emotional needs. Be sure the rest of the students are engaged in meaningful learning endeavors throughout these chats.
- Close class time by reviewing the questions and ideas posted on the digital message board and pointing out where students can find their homework, if they have any, that night.
During the Prep Period
- Check in with colleagues both in person and online to share resources and ask for feedback on upcoming lessons and projects.
- Use social media to connect with the professional learning network. This allows teachers to create collegial relationships and get additional feedback from professionals beyond their school or state.
- Examine student work and learning data created during class time and use it to refine lesson plans for tomorrow and the rest of the week.
- Conduct research to find high quality OERs like online readings, videos, simulations, and activities. Curate those online resources so they are easy to find and share later with students, colleagues, and parents.
When the School Day is Over
- Meet with students and parents who have requested conferences to help them reach their academic and social-emotional goals. Share any resources and data that can help everyone craft a plan in the best interest of the student. Providing online secure access to this information is usually most efficient.
- If it isn’t a student or parent conference day, teachers likely have department, faculty, or committee meetings to attend and participate in. This means reviewing resources and preparing and sharing a working agenda for the meeting so that precious time can be productive.
- Most teachers also advise clubs or coach teams. It is important to communicate with students involved in those extracurriculars via some digital means to keep everyone informed about scheduling meeting/practice/competition times.
- Later in the evenings, teachers often finish up reviewing student data, fine tuning lesson plans, and answering any student or parent messages that have come through during the afternoon and evening hours.
Some teachers are seemingly superheroes and are able to juggle all of these tasks daily so those precious face-to-face minutes are as impactful as possible, but many struggle because finding the right combination of online communication tools, activities, and resources is a challenge. Schools must be sure to provide the right learning management system, such as itslearning, so that everything teachers, students, and parents need is available through one intuitive platform. Then every teacher can feel like a superhero of the classroom. All of this digital communication, preparation, and engagement makes it possible for precious in-class and extracurricular face-to-face time to be dedicated to building those relationships that are the “essential foundation” for classroom management and student achievement.