We're in a situation where staff are overwhelmed. Teachers are feeling under water all the time, trying to make materials to support online learning. I'm in the position to provide those supports, but we're looking for two different things.
Money solves problems, but we can't buy a thing to get out of this. There is no app. There is no platform. There is no "if we just..." solution.
The things that will improve online teaching are changes in practice. Pedagogy needs to be adjusted. How we present, assess, and follow up on information needs to be adjusted. Some of these things are small tweaks (ie, recording simple videos) and others require deeper discussion, reflection, and processing.
It Sort of Worked...
In the spring, we were "all in this together." We focused on making the best of a bad situation. We made sure there was a significant allotment of time each week for development, discussion, and support at the department, school, and district levels. Development was prioritized and we made huge gains.
Consistency, predictability, and availability were all critical components of making sure we made it through the semester. At the start, all of our hopes were high that the fall would bring some resolution.
As the semester went on, it became more obvious that an online fall semester was going to be likely. Instead of carrying the support system forward, we reduced the time available for staff to receive help or discuss strategy in small groups.
Losing dedicated support time has left us in a rut. This is long term, like it or not. Instead of making progress, I feel like we're spinning wheels and flinging mud to try and get some traction. Evidence shows that PLC-based support, marrying tech, practice, and content, provides significant benefit to staff development which isn't surprising. We had a modicum of that in the spring when we focused on department growth around specific goals.
Since losing focus, reaching staff at any level has become even more challenging. There's no simple solution and the options I'm trying to provide aren't winning any converts.
I work with a great partner who has brought some great ideas. Some things that seem to gain a little bit more traction seem to be:
- Themed activity collections. Resources for special events, lately. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day and Inauguration Day packs have helped provide staff with ready-to-use materials that promote good online instruction.
- On-demand PD. We've started creating 20-30 minute YouTube PD videos which dive into instructional best practice in our LMS or using other district tools. They're interactive in the live chat during the stream, but are archived for later if people can't carve out the time to watch live.
- Social media presence. I'm not a facebook person, but it's where our teachers are. She's taken steps to be more proactive about getting materials in front of people where they are.
We can't force engagement. I cannot mandate growth. But we do need to help drive a desire to improve now. We're online and probably will be for some time. Moving out of emergency mode isn't an option. Hopefully we can get things moving in a direction where, despite fatigue, we can get people to engage and move with us.