Even the most experienced educators feel like first-year teachers this year.
While there’s no teacher’s manual for today’s blended/hybrid learning environment, hundreds of educators from around the state shared practical tips and support during a series of free online webinars sponsored by NYSUT’s Education & Learning Trust.
“Some days are more about survival than academic achievement,” said Kurt Hassenpflug, an ELA/ENL teacher and North Colonie Teachers Association member who served as one of the panelists. “I feel more like Sisyphus than Hercules.” Hassenpflug was one of three teachers on the ELT panel who offered a wide range of helpful tips during the sessions in November and December.
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Presenter Kira Martelli, a sixthgrade teacher and Massapequa Federation of Teachers member, offered helpful tips on staying mobile for teachers traveling from classroom to classroom, such as using an apron, a backpack and a cart. Stick-on big chart paper is also invaluable.
“Always have a lesson plan in your back pocket,” Martelli said. “We’re in a blended model and we always have to be ready to go (fully) remote with less than 12 hours notice.” Newburgh TA’s Kathleen Young, a physical education teacher, said it’s important to keep social-emotional needs front and center — for both educators and students.
If you missed NYSUT’s two-part webinar series “Teaching in Blended & Hybrid Models,” video recordings and resources are posted at nysut.org/hybrid. You’ll find tech tips and a collection of recommended online apps, from gamified quizzes to actors reading stories.
“Turn off emails at the end of the day. Set alarms for start and finish times,” Young said. “Be patient with yourself and the students.”
The sessions were divided into two parts. In the first session, panelists discussed how to weave structure and routines into a chaotic day.
The second session offered suggestions for engaging assignments and purposeful formative assessments, trouble shooting technology and modifying instruction for different learners.
To get out in front of that “Wait, what are we doing?” constant question during instruction, Hassenpflug suggested a multi-modal approach, including subtitles, images and multiple screens. If you are doing breakout rooms, give clear instructions on what’s expected.
Hassenpflug also urged participants to work through their union to advocate for training and raise concerns.
“Know your contract,” he said.
During question-and-answer periods, participants talked about the importance of informing parents if students aren’t working, keeping grades up to date and ensuring school counselors are in the loop.
Participants shared dozens of online tools and resources such as the Teachers Pay Teachers website, Book Creator and Class Dojo. A group of Long Island science teachers have created an online collection of lesson materials for middle school and high school courses.
Throughout the sessions, participants used the online chat to share more suggestions and thank presenters for their recommendations.
“Thank you for that See-Think- Wonder graphic organizer!” said Coxsackie TA’s Joshua Pray.
Kenmore TA’s Mary Lynn Bieron, said teaching remotely can be very isolating.
“Sometimes it’s just nice to see/ hear that across the state we are all in this together!” NYSUT Executive Vice President Jolene DiBrango said the union offered the free webinars at the request of members, who said they needed practical training they could use immediately. “These sessions really filled a critical need,” DiBrango said.
“They’ve also served as a powerful support system. It’s essential for us to lean on each other and share resources to make the daily instructional load a little less challenging.”
- When in doubt, restart devices.
- Is it charged? Even if it is, try plugging it in anyway.
- Hold down the power button longer than you think you need to.
- Try switching the device into airplane mode; leave it for a minute, then switch it out. This resets the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios built into most devices.
- Have a pre-established plan for what students will work on when WiFi goes down or there are tech troubles.