The Most Important Thing

Remote, distance, online – whatever you call what many teachers are doing this fall – is new for most of us. Your school likely implemented some form of distance learning last spring. Perhaps you were asked to spend that time reviewing previously taught concepts. If you are an EL specialist, you may or may not have had the support needed to effectively reach your students.

Regardless of how your spring semester ended, this fall is different. The “extended learning opportunity” categorization that some districts used last year to legitimize a lack of new content and support for ELs isn’t going to work now. Students need access to content – the content they missed last spring and the content of their new grade or subject area classes. The stakes feel so much higher right now.

Getting it right is imperative. 

I felt the pressure from this statement as we started our semester last week. My students and I are all remote, and even though I taught that way for a summer class, it felt harder last week. Will my students understand how to connect to our virtual class? Will they participate? How do I design relevant activities? How do I effectively multi-task to monitor their videos, the chat, and their reactions, all while talking coherently about the content? 

Hearing what colleagues are doing in their classes makes me feel both more confident and more inept. Am I doing enough? Am I using technology as effectively as possible in order to meet my students’ needs?

I am guessing you may have some of these same feelings, because we all want to do what’s best for our students. However, feelings like these may cause us to lose focus on the most important thing – our students.

Whether you’re a high-tech expert who’s rocking Zoom, Google Classroom, Nearpod, and podcasting simultaneously – or a low-tech user successfully navigating one tech piece at a time – or a no-tech teacher creating effective written, printed work – your students must remain your focus. 

Don’t get so distracted by all of the technology possibilities that you forget to connect with your students. As I said back in April, the most important thing you can give your students is you. Think of ways to connect with them. Get to know them and let them get to know you. You would do that every other fall, so do it this year, too. 

I think students can be pretty forgiving of technology failures or the lack of technology usage if they know their teacher knows them and cares about them personally. All of the flashiest technology cannot replace the benefits of a strong relationship between teacher and students. The ELs in your classes may need these connections the most. 

So, log off that new tech piece your colleague is using. Let go of the expectations you must do everything perfectly and focus on those individual human beings looking at you from across the classroom or across the computer screen. 

Focus on them and do what’s best.

Share in the comments below…

How you plan to develop relationships with your students this year? Are you adapting what you’ve done before, or do you have some new ideas to share?

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