“A relationship with the one you are trying to teach, lead, or love is where all the power lies” – Dr. Jody Carrington
This quote means so much to me as so often the best way to reach our students it by building those important relationships. This is something I have always been aware of but after attending a Dr. Jody Carrington presentation and then reading her book “Kids These Days” it all just became so clear. A connection with our students is so very important. This is where we develop the ability to communicate with them all in the individual ways that they need. This is where we learn about their struggles and their triumphs. This is where we make a difference. I find the majority of the students I work with have special needs or behavioural needs and when I am able to build a personal connection to them, I find way more success. I also notice that they pick up on the frustrations of their teacher and tend to respond in a more negative way. If only their classroom teacher would focus on building a connection to this student first, then teach next, they may find more success.
With this in mind, I feel it is incredibly important to have a way for students to communicate with the teacher through online learning. This can be in a group setting but also on a one on one basis. Miranda and I have discussed using multiple tools to allow for a lot of communication throughout the course. Google classroom is the main platform our course is based out of so we will be using all the features it has to offer. Students can comment on assignments, announcements and other posts that have been made. They can also use the private chat feature to ask the teacher for questions. I know in previous experiences, comments on assignments can be an issue as students just get silly and post random words or engage in conversations that do not need to be on the google classroom site. Flipgrid is another tool that will be used. It can be used in exit slip activities, inquiry questions posted by the teacher with students responses for everyone to see, a way to respond to others post or projects other than posting comments and so on. Jamboard has been one tool we had planned to use but after last class we may have to use whiteboard.chat to experience all it has to offer. It was a lot of fun and it gives the students an option to interact with one another. Our school division also uses zoom as a main form of communication through video chat. This allows for large group discussions or lessons to take place and it also allows for one-on-one teacher-student conversations to happen in real time and “face-to-face”. This brings back what Dr. Jody Connection says about the importance of connection. Having the ability to see the students face and their body language to the best of your ability is important. You might learn a lot more about where they are at with the lesson by being able to chat with them in that way. I do think my perspective has changed now that I am a student support teacher compared to a classroom teacher because a huge part of my job requires small group or one-on-one lessons. Also a lot of what I do in a day is very hard to do with a fully online program. The school I work in is a community school and we have a lot of high needs students. I really struggled with the change last spring when Covid hit and I am missing those students even more now that I have been away from the school for five months. I know that online learning can be amazing in so many ways but the students that I work with really struggled with it. They would rarely show up for any of their class zoom calls, they did not turn in assignments and were essentially MIA from all aspects of learning. The only thing they were consistently there for was our weekly zoom call with our little “conversation group”. When in the classroom
we had a period once a week that focused on social skills and was basically a way to connect together as a group outside of the classroom. All the students involved are diagnosed with low-cognitive abilities and require some type of support with their learning. However, the 45 minute zoom call that often turned into an hour or more, was the one thing they consistently showed up for and participated in. This really showed me how important connection was for them. I think that is the benefit to having a few options for communication but also not too many to be overwhelming.
With a course that is all online, authentic assessment can be challenging to attain. The interactions and candid conversations can provide some insight into a students understanding. Using nearpod, or edpuzzle and adding questions along the way will provided some feedback too. We also included a few flippity or goformative activities as exit slips in an attempt to gather some more information. The completion of these and assignments/projects will provide feedback but it also is hard to know if they used other supports to answer the questions or if they truly do understand the material. I would love to hear what others are using for assessment as it can be a challenging part of online learning.
Overall, I think with the right set up we can communicate with our students efficiently but in my opinion it is hard to replicate what we can accomplish in our classroom environment. But like my little conversation group, talking online can also become a safe place that students open up more than ever. Finding what works best for our students learning is what it is all about. Any other suggestions for communication? I would love to hear it.
P.S. If you haven’t watched TOP GUN… please please please… grab some popcorn and fire it up! My husband had never seen it when we first met and now he joins me and quotes it all the time. A classic!