At our Fall Meetings this year, this question was considered by our members:
In considering the 2020-21 school year, what did you learn that you want to embed in your practice?
Justin Jacobek, Social Science Teacher, J. Sterling Morton West High School (2017):
"I learned a lot about the pacing of my classes and was more conscious to take time to slow down. With that, I mean to take more time to check in on the students individually. As teachers, we can sometimes become consumed by our content and covering material without regard to our students. E-learning helped expose some of my shortcomings in this regard. The platforms I learned during virtual instruction (Parlay, GoFormative, etc) have made it easier to identify those struggling students. Virtual instruction forced our hand in learning the technology, and we’re all better off for it."
Becky Walters, Social Studies Teacher, Oswego East High School (2015) (offering composite response from group members: Carla Hilgert (Alton High School, 2016), Melinda Wilson (Curie High School, 2016), Molly McNally (Glenbard West High School, 2012), Maribel Ouielle-Silva (John Hancock High School, 2013):
"When asked this question, the overall theme was more compassion. Many teachers have stories about how they have seen students struggling to juggle everything going on, and it was especially hard on students to learn remotely. Now that we are back into a somewhat normal environment, teachers are finding that they need to meet students where they are and to be very flexible with them. Teachers have learned that our students will be ok and that we can modify and change our curriculum, so we don't worry about teaching every little detail of the content.... Educators have also learned the importance of health and wellness with our students. We need to encourage students to focus on their physical health now that we have spent so much time sitting in front of a computer. We also need to offer more brain breaks during class, especially for 90-minute class periods. Overall, from teaching remotely, educators have learned to be more flexible and compassionate with our students."
Sue Gahagan Mueller, Social Studies Department Chair, Maine West High School (2009):
"The shutdown and then hybrid teaching and learning really pushed faculty and administration to maximize learning through a wide variety of tech platforms and tools. District 207 did a great job providing the tools and necessary training and support to help teachers. Additionally, the district saw the need and benefit of consistency as well. We now all have to use Google Classroom for all classes. This was a great move as it is very user friendly and much easier for students to navigate through the same platform in all classes."
Vince Willaredt, Social Studies Department Chair, Granite City High School (2015):
"What I learned from last year is that anything is possible now if you are a classroom teacher. If I can teach how a bill becomes a law while essentially tied to a desk with camera focused on me, teaching both the in-person and remote students simultaneously, with perspiration pooling up inside of my N95 mask and an air purifier, two box fans and the room AC drowning out the conversation, I can do anything. Really puts into perspective the previous hassle of adjusting my lessons for that last hour pep rally. I really felt bad for the new teachers. I don't know how I would have managed without almost 25 years of experience behind me. Teaching is maybe the only profession where novice workers are expected to be excellent."
Dr. Teresa Kruger, Social Studies Teacher, Belvidere North High School (2017):
"Two of the most important lessons I learned from last year are the importance of developing relationships with students and flexibility. Teaching in a remote setting last year, it became very apparent that students had a lot going on outside of school. I realized quickly that I had to reach out to each student to develop a trusting relationship and learn more about his/her situation. In addition, I realized I had to be flexible with students and accommodate many of their needs more so than I had previously with in-person instruction. I continue to build on these aspects now that we are back to a somewhat normal routine."