No matter if you are a few weeks in or just starting to face the possibility of e-learning, here are some quick tips to keep you on the right track .
1. Set Boundaries
Teaching at home can set you up for burn-out quickly if you don’t set boundaries. Set ‘office’ hours just like you would at school, and work during those hours, not beyond them. Communicate with parents when you’ll be available and how quickly they should hear back from you if they contact you. My personal rule is that I’ll respond to email within 24 hours. Do what works for you. It’s unreasonable to be available 24/7. Your family and your downtime are important, and that means unplugging from school and e-learning in your off hours. Communicating up front will prevent possible frustration down the road between teachers and parents.
2. Focus On What You CAN Do
It’s so easy to get stuck focusing on the things you can’t do right now. I hear this all the time in comments from the teaching community, but especially right now. When ideas are shared, we are quick to think of all the reasons we can’t do them. Instead of focusing on what won’t work with an idea, focus on what will work. Focus on what you CAN do. That slight change of mindset will make a huge difference in your planning for your students. Instead of saying “I didn’t get to send packets with my students” try thinking of ways you can reach them. Be creative! Mail items, drop them off in mailboxes, set up a pick up time, email, send them via seesaw or in a google drive file. With a little creativity, you’ll find a solution. Instead of saying “I can’t get into school and get my materials” think of the things you do have access to (The Autism Helper’s Emergency Home School Kit!). There are always answers to problems, we just have to focus on what we have and what we can do. Besides, being creative may help you find a new way of doing something. This is a great opportunity to live outside of our comfort zone!
3. Continue Planning For IEP Goals
Don’t just send home or email worksheets that have nothing to do with student goals and objectives. Carefully choose what you are sending and make sure it’s appropriate for the child you are sending it to. Make sure you are individualizing what you are doing, meeting each child’s needs. Be creative in how you approach non-academic goals like social skills and independent functioning. With a little creativity, goals can be worked on while students are out of school. For example, I’ve been playing UNO online via Google Meet with a student working on turn-taking. While I’m not a peer, some practice is better than none! Get my e-learning student lesson plan template here for free (to access, click link, then click ‘file’, then click ‘make a copy’ and save as your own to modify how you wish!).
4. Meet Students (and Families) Where They Are
Grace upon grace, friends. We are asking for grace from our parents as we navigate e-learning, and we should extend grace, too. When we are at school, we have control over our classroom environment. That doesn’t happen when students are learning at home. I can’t control the environment students are learning in. Some parents/guardians may have great structure set up and will want every worksheet and activity you send and others may not know where to begin and can’t imagine doing work with their children. Meet your students and their parents where they are. Be a support and a coach. But most of all, be realistic in your expectations based on where parents and students are. I knew that paper/pencil was going to be tough for some of my students. Many of my families work in healthcare, and parents are putting in long hours. Time with their kiddos is precious and fighting over paper/pencil work wasn’t ideal. To overcome this problem I put together fun games for students to play using Easter Eggs. I dropped the baskets and eggs off at their houses along with some fun things like bubbles and chalk. I gave parents tools to help their children learn and gave my students a fun surprise. It just took a little thinking outside the box.
5. Be Kind to Yourself & Think Ahead
This entire e-learning situation may have you feeling like a rubber band already, but I want to encourage you to remain flexible and go easy on yourself. This is an adjustment period for you, too. It’s ok to have hiccups along the way. It’s ok to feel like you don’t know what you are doing. We are all in this together! Reach out and talk to other teachers for support. For some, we left classrooms not knowing if we’d see our students again this school year. I often find myself wondering if I hugged them and told them I loved them enough. It’s easy to get caught up in what we wish we could do or what we wish we would have done. In the end, know that you are did enough and you are doing enough. Living in constant limbo not knowing what the future holds is hard on teachers, too. Be kind to yourself. This too shall pass. Think beyond just today, think into the future. Now is a great time to start brainstorming for next school year! Knowing what you know about e-learning now, what can you do in the future to make a situation like this easier? Make plans for the future and don’t be afraid to dream about next year a bit!
No matter where in e-learning you are, remember to make yourself and your health a priority. We can only help our students learn when we take care of ourselves. Stay healthy, friends!