2020

"Classroom" Culture During COVID-19

Classroom and school culture are massive components of our jobs as educators. It’s integral that we cultivate an environment where our students and staff feel comfortable and supported. Because then they are able to learn and work most effectively.

We’ve each spent a lot of time this school year building these wonderful classroom and school cultures. And now that many of us are prohibited from being in our school buildings and in that environment, we’ve got to find new ways to connect with our students.

Maintaining our relationships with students is more important now than ever before. Many of our students rely on the loving, vibrant environments we create. We do too. Probably more than we’ve ever realized.

During this time of uncertainty, it’s important to remember that our students and their families are also experiencing it. Our kids are used to seeing and talking to us, their teachers, daily. This rapid change impacts their schedules in a big way, too.

To maintain some ‘normalcy’ (or as much of it as we can), I’ve been trying to check in regularly. I’ve been posting daily questions, quizzes, or challenges on Google classroom, just to stay in contact. It’s nothing major or content-related, because honestly, I don’t know that any of my students (or myself) is ready for that right now. All I want to do is keep the lines of communication open and make sure they have a space to ‘talk’ to each other.

I’ve also started using videos a lot more frequently. It’s really awkward to record yourself, but it’s worth it. For students especially, you are a huge part of their lives. They are used to seeing you every single day.

I posted a video of myself and emailed it out to my students and their families. The number of responses I got was astounding. You may not think it’ll make a huge difference, but I can assure you. It does. I cannot tell you how many messages I got from students and families, simply thanking me for checking in. Truly, I did not think much of it at the time, but it was clear that it meant something. Hearing from them meant a lot to me, too.

It’s also important that we tell our students and families that we are there for them. Explicitly and often.

Many of us do this already during the school day. We create a culture where students, families, and our faculty know that we are available if they need us. We ensure they know to come talk with us if they need something. Open door policies, being a trusted adult, advocating for our kids… we do this all the time at school. But now that we aren’t at school, it’s vital that we continue this kind of support while we’re at home.

One of the hardest things to lose for me is our ‘family circle time’ on Fridays. Our restorative circle is vital to our supportive classroom culture, and my students LOVE it. They remind me every single Friday that it’s family circle time day. Each week, we all share our high of the week, low of the week, and one student-generated question. We haven’t missed a single one, unless we didn’t have school.

Until it was taken away from us, I didn’t fully realize how important it was. For all of us. Myself included. It’s this moment in time where we talk to each other, not about school, not about content… about life.

Our circle is a place of support and community, which we need right now more than ever.

So I got creative. We obviously cannot all be together right now and sit in our circle (#socialdistancing), but we do have access to video technology.

Enter Flipgrid.

I created a special Flipgrid for my class where students can go in and record their response for our Friday circle time. They can record themselves sharing their high and low, as well as their response to the question. Flipgrid also allows for video replies, so we can still have the conversation and community sense we normally do. It’ll just look a little different.

We all know how important it is to feel supported, especially during difficult times. The unknown can be hard on us all. I know personally, my anxiety has been much more difficult to manage with all of the uncertainty, the lack of my normal routines and coping mechanisms, and the lack of time doing what I love the most.

But this will end, eventually. We will come out the other side.

Keep showing up for your kids. And know that you are not alone.

Together, we got this.

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