April 15th, 2020
It can be difficult enough to keep dozens of students engaged in a classroom; imagine doing it from your kitchen-turned office when your students are scattered across the city, dialing in from their homes.
Educators are doing their best to take care of students who are learning remotely, but we also need to take care of educators themselves. Mette Jakobsen, Digital Learning Program Manager for schools in Aarhus, Denmark, and Stu Blackmore, Director of IT and Digital Learning at the British International School of Stockholm, have been leading their schools’ efforts to support the well-being of their educators as they juggle distance learning, and we’ve asked them to share the ideas that they’ve put in practice at their schools.
Educators are adapting their teaching to help students adjust to distance learning. How can we help educators adjust to this new world?
Mette:We need to encourage educators to reframe their expectations for themselves and their work. In Arhaus, the head of our schools has reassured educators by saying, “You don’t have to give students a thousand lessons right now. Just try to find your way… and think about the kids at home, as well as their parents.” This is an important message for educators—to be patient with themselves and make smart decisions about when and how to scale back on classwork, like avoiding assigning too much homework to students.
Now that homes are workplaces, it’s challenging for educators to know when to stop working. How can educators set boundaries?
Stu:To maintain my own sanity, I don’t work on weekends. And my school day is structured: I work a long, full-day, and then I’m done. We need to say to educators, “Decide when you’ll work, and when you won’t work—and create that separation.” It’s important that they have the downtime they deserve, whether it’s making time for a virtual coffee break with a fellow peer or just blocking off personal time on their calendars to recharge.
How are you supporting educators who are new to distance learning?
Mette:Typically, educators in Arhaus receive technology training through professional development workshops, or simply by visiting each other’s classrooms. Though these options are no longer available, this type of support is still important, and we are encouraging educators to create spaces online to continue sharing and learning. In Aarhus, we set up an educator-led daily Google Meet session, where anyone can drop in and ask for tech help. Our digital learning team also created awebsite (Danish only) with Google Sites for sharing tips about distance learning—such as advice for running a lesson on Google Meet.
How are educators at your school staying connected these days?
Stu:My natural inclination is to laugh in the face of adversity—it relieves the pressure of what is a very stressful time. Our librarian has started a blog where educators can submit funny stories about their experiences with distance learning, or memes and GIFs that can put smiles on faces—and ultimately remind each other that they are not alone. The librarian is even thinking of asking educators to create short “day in the life” videos for posting on the blog—with friendly competition for the best one.
If you’re looking for more ideas to support educators during this time, check out Teach from Home, a central hub of information, tips, training and tools from across Google for Education to help educators keep teaching, even when they aren’t in the classroom.