If you’re facing a school shut down

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If you or your school is preparing for a potential shut down

  • Schools and teachers need to be aware of their strengths and weaknesses. Have skills been developed to support distance learning? Do your classes have any sort of educational portal for sharing content? Do student’s have school provided emails? Do students have tablets or laptops?  Schools which have trained teachers for flipped classrooms may be in a great position for an online learning. This is not the occasion to expect teachers to pick up new skills. Hopefully this unprecedented countrywide school closure will prompt educators to develop and test procedures for school closings in the way we now do for active shooter scenarios.
  • Does your school know what resources are available to students and families? Many schools are taking surveys if time allows. The reality may be a parent and multiple children all trying to work remotely and juggling internet speed, devices, and printers for some. Yet, there are still families without these resources. I have been shocked over the years that not all families have a lot of art supplies in their homes. I have had affluent students who have admitted to not having glue at home. How can this be? I do not know how you raise children if there is no glue in your house!
  • Learning packets are an option some schools are selecting. Regardless of how learning is expected to occur, schools should address not only the methods but allow professionals time to ready materials. It also provides art teachers with the opportunity to send art supplies home. I was amused online to see a Ceramic teacher who was sending her students home with clay. Of course, not all teachers have enough supplies but for some well stocked art programs it may be a possibility.
  • Find out what support is available for teachers and students who are expected to carry on teaching and learning once schools are closed.
  • Students and families are going to be stressed. You may find some students really appreciate the opportunity to create. Students may be lacking in their usual activities and be looking for new outlets. Embrace that while anticipating that others may have a hard time latching on to creating without help and guidance.
  • Make sure you have access to everything you need from home in case you are not able to return to school or bring home your school computer. This also includes any art supplies you may need for creating samples.Depending on your situation and school approval other items might textbooks, document camera, small white board and marker (if you are doing on line learning), faculty phone numbers, chargers, tripod, microphone headset, and printer paper.

Advice for those schools doing live or prerecorded learning (or a mix)

  • Prerecorded video sessions require a lot preparation and editing. Consider keeping it simple and say it live and repost the recording as is. Resist the desire to execute slick professional looking videos. Keep in mind you’re not always perfectly polished and articulate in the classroom, are you? Those little foibles make your recordings authentic. Live or synchronous sessions also allow interaction which can benefit learners who watch it later, or the asynchronous learners.  You should anticipate not having your whole class available at once. Even as I write this, my husband’s high tech company has mandated a work from home situation and despite the high skill set of these professionals, there were still technical issues that kept some from participating in a meeting he held today.
  • YouTube can be your friend. There is no reason why you should not curate from YouTube for your online resources. Why reinvent the wheel?  All you need to do is provide context. Like anything your provide your students, watch it fully in advance.
  • Remember, less is more. Absorbing content through a screen is different. Plan for no more than 30 minutes of presentation and then allow for interaction such and Q&A, discussions. run polls (Doodle poll for example), etc.
  • Don’t be surprised if the students you can’t get to quiet down in school turn deadly quiet digitally. Wait out those silent periods. Students just need someone to be brave and start it off. It’s a different format and you won’t have the same energy you feel in a classroom.
  • Use resources that were designed for online teaching such as forums, wiki’s and chatrooms. As a teacher, be a participant. Responses and discussion can also look like PowerPoint presentations, YouTube videos and concept maps, sketches, in addition to written text.

Your sanity

This wide spread school closure has really exposed a weakness in our education system that will need to be addressed. It also creates opportunities. While we are all aware of both SARS, MERS or the Swine influenza those didn’t have the world wide impact that we are facing with the Coronavirus. The 1918 Spanish flu however did and it is generally agreed that closing schools saved lives. However, the internet didn’t exist then and students, while at home, weren’t able to do much learning, and neither was that the expectation. Today’s technology makes it possible to try to march forward with education and educators are under a lot of pressure. Teachers in some situations are trying to teach virtually while also manage their own children and their home learning attempts. Art, of all topics, is difficult with the issues of how to manage content and materials to provide authentic learning experiences. Some of you may have new technologies hoisted on you. The boundaries of work-life are eroding. And we all have the same concerns as the rest of the world with the virus.

Suggestions:

  • Set up a place to work with everything you need. If you can, close the door.
  • Set up boundaries with your family. I knew a working single mom who used signs like “In meeting, don’t interrupt.” My own husband worked from home and then I was off from work after having our second child. Take it from me, you need to set up rules.
  • Again, let go of perfection. Your cat walks in front of the computer during a live lesson? That may be the highlight of the lesson. Laugh.
  • Have a schedule. Set an alarm and keep some structure if it’s a workday.
  • Eat. Take breaks.
  • Connect with your colleagues.
  • Sound canceling headphones if you need help concentrating.
  • Don’t exhaust yourself or overwork yourself.
  • Don’t  expect kids to achieve as much as other years, we all need to make allowances.