Hi all! As I am currently writing this we are in the middle of a pandemic, you may have heard about it! Kidding – I know it’s on everyone’s mind right now. Since many (or all) of our schools are closed right now, you are probably wondering how you, a resource teacher, can connect with your students during this strange time of “distance learning.” I have a few ideas to share that could help!
At the time I am writing this, my state is awaiting our education department to make an announcement any minute now. To our knowledge we are to return on April 6th, but I have a sneaky suspicion that will change when we hear from him this afternoon. If/when we do not return to school on April 6th, we will be moving to online learning via Google Classrooms. Special Educators will also then be informed of our requirements regarding IEP timelines. So anything I share will be based off of this experience and what would be doable for me, and those of you in my boat, at this time. Things are ever-changing!
1. Happy Mail
If you have stamps and mailbox access, sending some snail mail would be an awesome way to connect with your kids that would make them smile ear-to-ear. Alternatively, you could easily send an email to their student e-mail address or one that belongs to parents. Anything that lets your students know you are thinking of them and can’t wait to see them again would be a light in this darkness.
2. Online Classrooms
This may be a given for many of you, or even a requirement like it is for me. I will be honest, I am skeptical about an online classroom for our students who usually learn best with direct, hands-on instruction among other reasons – but I’m willing to give it a try (not that I have a choice.) Whenever setting up an online classroom I believe it is best to focus on skills students have already been taught and need to refine, along with skills that directly relate to their IEP goals. I chose to upload a plethora of resources to my Google Classroom for students to complete weekly. They are ungraded and do not have a due date. They are strictly for ongoing practice and taking informal data on IEP goals.
If Google Classrooms is not your thing, I would also recommend Seesaw. Seesaw actually may even be better for our students because they are able to write directly on worksheets, manipulate pages, and record themselves talking and reading to you! There are a lot of very interactive components on Seesaw that would be beneficial for students with learning disabilities.
3. “Office Hours”
I am having a hard time grasping the fact that I won’t be seeing or talking to my students for the foreseeable future, one because I just stinkin’ love them, but two because as I mentioned they really thrive off of direct instruction. Because of this, I plan to offer “office hours” for my students (or parents) to sign up for so that we can have discussions and they can ask questions about their assignments.
Posting a link to a Sign-Up genius calendar can be an easy way for students to request office hours, or they could simply send an email or message you via your online classroom. I am looking into Zoom and other FaceTime apps to facilitate these conversations.
This could also be our new normal for holding IEP meetings, so I am keeping that in mind!
4. Collaboration with General Education Teachers
Don’t forget that you are still an important part of your students’ education in their general education environment. Request to be a co-teacher in your students’ general education teachers’ online classrooms and be available to provide them with advice on differentiating assignments. Even if you are not involved in their online classrooms, still keep an open line of communication with them as they are still responsible for IEP implementation and will need to be involved in any meetings you may have. Not to mention, your co-workers are part of your mental and emotional support group!
5. Communication with Parents
Staying in touch with parents is crucial right now, as they will be responsible for ensuring your students are completing school work if they are being assigned anything during this time. They also may appreciate ideas for working with their children at home, websites and games you use in your classroom, or just a word of encouragement. Other than emails or sending real, paper letters, you could also explore using Class Dojo, Remind, or creating a Facebook group. If you prefer phone calls and texts, but aren’t keen on handing out your phone number, consider looking into Google Voice.
Bonus: TEACHER SELF-CARE
At the end of the day, you truly cannot be the best version of your teacher self if you are not taking care of yourself. Being away from school, out of our normal routines, learning how to navigate “distance learning,” and worrying about the health of ourselves and everyone we’re close to is HARD. Give yourself grace, and lots of it! You don’t have to be perfect (heck, we don’t even know what perfect is in this uncharted situation), but as long as you’re trying you’re doing great! Take a break from the computer, and then watch your favorite show, read a book, put together a puzzle, play with your pets or children, take a walk. Do what makes you happy, and then go back to the computer and get back to work.