June 26th, 2020 by Marianna Chade

Keep calm, and lose (some) control. What have we learned from the need for remote teaching

In March the whole world had to face a great interruption to our everyday lives. It’s been an intense time for all of us, and technology has proven to be our greatest asset but at the same time — a great challenge.  How have teachers and students survived the time, and what have we all learnt from it? Were we able to keep it together, what with social distancing and all the sudden changes to our frame of work?

Meet Simona Baciu and Susan Shapiro – authors of “The teacher within: A Mindful Journey Toward Well-Being For Teachers In The 21st Century”, who are both educators and consultants. We invited them, together with Reshan Richards – Director of Studies at New Canaan Country School, to join Bart Gonczarek on our most recent live webinar. We wanted to not only summarize the end of the school year and how the pandemic influenced it, but also to ask specialists how technology can help or affect us and how we can deal with it better. 

Also, we wanted to show how Explain Everything has managed to help teachers and students around the world, struggling with the new reality of education. We’re happy to see that regardless of the great challenge and all of the difficulties the educational system has faced, teaching and learning went on. No matter the distance.

Take a look at the results:

Why is technology helpful and how can we transform with it?

“We’re all here thanks to the technology!” Simona

Even though adapting to the new reality of teaching that is entirely dependent on technology is hard, we shall be thankful — technology is what made this possible at all. This transformation was sudden, and it’s only the beginning, but none of this could ever have been possible if there was no technology involved. It allows us to connect, and this is the greatest chance. Thanks to technology we can stay connected, learn from each other, we can publish our newfound knowledge and share it — it’s all so simple, yet so unimaginable just a few years ago.

See how Simona explains the transformation:

How can we manage the difficulties of this digital transformation? How should we deal with lack of control?

Technology is helpful, there’s no doubt about that, but it can also be intimidating. Is there a way to build a sort of scaffolding to feel more confident in remote teaching

Simona advises us to be more open to change and stay consistent on our path towards it. Try to not control things you can’t control, and instead focus on yourself — your attitude and feelings. This you can change. 

Also, look for ways to stay connected — with your students or colleagues, but also with yourself. Knowing yourself best gives you the right tools to deal with tricky situations.

“You can only control yourself, so rather focus on it than trying to control the class. Look for connection.” Simona

Reshan adds to this a comment from an instructional design practice point of view. Don’t be afraid to take a step backwards, and always try to look for the best solution. Different doesn’t mean impossible, so this change can also give you great life experience. Don’t worry if you seem to be lost sometimes, just keep testing and trying to find tools that work in most scenarios, not all of them. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find one ideal solution that will always feel right.

“The mindset of the educator must be both clear on what needs to be done and willing to recognize that you might go deep down one path only to learn it wasn’t right. But that’s ok because you’ve learned a lot by investigating the wrong solution.” Reshan

Listen more of good Reshan’s advices:

What does the technology really expect from you?

Susan Shapiro likes to ask: think not only of what you expect from teaching, but what teaching expects from you. We can ask the same about technology. What Susan wanted to convey most in her answer is that technology wants nothing from us. It’s there FOR us. It won’t judge you, and you shouldn’t be afraid to be vulnerable in front of it. You should become friends!

Susan points out that there are some academic approaches, but they won’t fully guide you on how to be successful in teaching remotely. We have to be our authentic selves and see that others are vulnerable, too. That our students are in the same situation as we are. We should be more gentle and compassionate, both towards ourselves and our students. Learn that you are allowed to make mistakes or to ask for help. Messing up sometimes doesn’t take away any of our value.

“We can learn many lessons from it and become better teachers because of remote learning”. Susan

Find out more of what Susan had to say:

How can we fight stress?

“As a teacher, you will face stress, no matter if you’re in a classroom or remotely, but right now it’s more intense because we have been challenged to change overnight.” Simona

According to Simona’s research, teaching is one of the most stressful professions. The necessity of giving lessons from home has made this worse. Is there any solution? We have to take care of ourselves better. Teaching is a serving job, and that means that you give a lot of yourself, and this means you have to have some reservoir of energy. As Simona’s studies show, when you lose your motivation and enthusiasm, it affects the success of your students, too.

When you don’t feel comfortable or are fighting fear, you should take a breath, don’t push yourself, just let go. Simona says that connecting to yourself is the key. Listen to yourself and be good to yourself, and you will be able to overcome any hard situation.

Keeping a positive attitude also can help you to fight on bad days. Focus on good things, on your strength, and consistency. Build your emotional resilience every day, as we’re not born with it. These things will be your shield. 

As clichéd as it sounds, laughter is very important as well. As kids, we laugh about 400 times a day, but we lose this almost completely buyt the time we’re adults (laughing as little as under 15 times a day). Being happy lets you connect easier with others.

“Bring your humor back into a class, bring your happiness and the kids will remember this, they will join your team” Simona

Find out more of what Simona has got to say about the stress of teaching.

Can remote teaching bring any new opportunities? How can online teaching change traditional teaching?

We all know how hard the need for digital transformation is, but is there any silver lining? Reshan says that it can positively impact the school system and eliminate bad habits. It can redesign and redefine the purposes of teaching certain things and pinpoint ways that no longer work. In the end, we will build modern connections that are more relevant.

“The change needs to be made regardless and the circumstances can actually make some of these hard switches more and quicker possible. This is more of a responsibility than opportunity really. The change in system education has to be processed.” Reshan

Susan adds that it’s a great opportunity to understand each other better, to find emotional and social connections and to better communicate ourselves. She believes that we really can make a change now and that we can make teaching better than ever.

“The virus has given us the opportunity worldwide to have a unique time when we’re all experiencing the same thing” Susan

See more of what Reshan and Susan had to say about this:

Let’s teach on

The technology was always present in and outside the classroom. We only tend to rely on it more now. This trend seems to continue in the future and that’s why we care for maintaining human connection despite using less direct forms of teaching. In the future — will we keep the teacher-lead classroom, or will it be a classroom that is student-led with the teacher being just a facilitator? We don’t yet know, but we’ll definitely continue to work consciously to deliver the tool to help you structure learning to be the way you need it to be — in or out of the classroom. 

We’ll soon resume our webinars to build on what we’ve shared over the past few months. Stay tuned for ideas and practices to build connections remotely with students, especially those that will commence their school year in a remote setting.

Take a look at the visual note that Reshan was making at the meeting:

Click here to see the image in full size

Wan to to read more about remote teaching and learning? Hop on!

Learn more about collaboration in distance teaching. Sign up for the webinar