I believe it was Mister Rogers’ mother who advised we should look for the helpers in the midst of tough times. With current, devastating hits to the economy, education, small businesses, and our sewage systems (stop flushing your Clorox wipes, dummies), I certainly consider these times tough.
Heeding the advice of Mrs. Rogers, I asked myself how, if at all, I can help. With educators across the country making the involuntarily and swift transition from traditional to distance learning, I realized that’s it! I made the leap from classroom to computer more than a decade ago and can help them do the same. I KNOW STUFF!
I also know in tough times we need a bit of levity, some laughter, and perspective.
Thus, I give you: my non-tips* for successful distance learning.
*I accept no responsibility for anything that happens to your employment as a result of you actually following these non-tips
- Clothing: In short, it’s optional. Robes, “wife-beaters,” and thread-bare PJ shirts are perfectly acceptable as distance learning attire. No one’s going to pay attention to you anyway.
- Aesthetics: No need to swap those bedtime reading glasses for your socially acceptable pair or even contact lenses. Hair? Make-up? Accessories? Dry shampoo, probably not, LOL.
- Hygiene: Why, though?
Your Virtual Classroom
- Space: Desks and cleared surfaces are overrated. Roll over in the morning and turn on your computer. Welcome to class.
- Visual: Not important. Students are definitely not nosy or taking screen shots of you to post on Instagram later, so pay no mind to what they can see behind you. A pyramid of empty beer cans, a pile of dirty underwear, a grunting potty-training toddler all scream RESPECT ME. I AM A PROFESSIONAL.
- Pro-tip: Most of you are using laptops, take advantage of the mobility. Why stop class for a quick bathroom break?! Take your students with you!
- Audio: While some prefer a headset to minimize background noise, I personally enjoy the competition of barking dogs, rush hour traffic, or a blender. You’re a teacher–you’re used to yelling. You’ve got this.
- Lighting: I like the ominous educator filter. To easily achieve this look, position yourself in front of a large window or directly in front of the sun.
Your New School Day
- Working hours: Your administrators will try to trick you into believing distance learning will span the entire work day for which you are contractually paid. Fake news. Ten minutes of direct instruction per class is all you really need. If students have questions, they can ask Siri.
- Structure: True, in your previous school day, things like a bell schedule and the change of classes mattered. You’ll find the only real structure you need in a virtual environment is intermittent breaks. For the bathroom, for lunch, for snacks, for naps…
- Collaboration time: Some teachers will lie and say collaboration is effective. If you wanna waste time “learning from your colleagues” instead of watching Married at First Sight, you do you.
- Content: A week ago, you were ready to introduce unit 15 on quadratic equations. Scratch those plans. Now content is determined by the homeschooling mom who offers the most free printables on Pinterest.
- Assessments: Despite what all the research says, project-based learning is a scam. To really get a sense of whether or not a student has mastered a concept or skill, true or false tests are all you need. And you can even use a question generator to make it all up for you because knowing stuff is really underrated.
- Lesson development: Stop with all the fancy “student engagement strategies.” Nobody cares about your bell-ringer or interactive activity. Tell them what’s on the test and move on.
- Connection: Heed the experts’ advice and really hone in on your students’ emotional and social learning. Snapchat is the gateway to the soul of every tween and teenager. Follow your students on social media immediately and begin the eventual end of your career today!
- Availability: Unlike in the traditional school setting, you’re no longer just a few classrooms away. How will students ask questions you’ve already answered 78 times or request clarification on an assignment that was due last week? You should probably give them your cell phone number and home address. Remember to utilize social distancing when the senior class would-be valedictorian knocks on your door, sobbing, because you haven’t responded to the email she sent you twenty minutes ago.
- Lower standards: Do not expect students to show up, complete any work, or even realize they are supposed to be attending virtual classes. That’s really asking a lot and they’re very busy making TikToks.
- Parental involvement: Do not expect parents to support, oversee, or even realize their children are supposed to be attending virtual classes. That’s really asking a lot and they’re very busy catching up on episodes of This is Us.
- Logging in and/or off: At least twice during your Distance Learning experience, you will function under the false assumption that you are not visible or audible to your students. It is at this time you will:
- let a string of expletives fly
- stand up and forget you’re not wearing pants
- verbally admit you don’t know what the eff you’re doing in Google Classroom
- allow students to view you, head in hands, mumbling, “I am so sorry, taxpayers.”
- insult a student or parent by full name so there’s not a shadow of a doubt regarding your feelings about them
- wash down your Xanax with a shot of whiskey
Distance Learning Contract Language
- The Freak-out: Wherein a highly-qualified educator convinces several other highly-qualified educators that this isolated cyber school experience will be the demise of public education as we know it, resulting in The Freak-out.
- Conspiracy: For the duration of and for approximately six months post The Freak-out, many of these educators will speak with conviction of the Conspiracy: the belief that the coronavirus is a political ploy, not a health crisis. They are likely participants of the following:
- Forthe Restofus: There will be a very small percentage of educators who do not commit to the Distance Learning approach. They will ruin it Forthe Restofus.