Friendships come in three levels, let’s talk…

Over the years, I have developed a working theory. Friendships come in three distinctive categories. I will call these categories “tiers,” More specifically, it looks like an upside-down triangle. All three tiers are essential to a certain extent. The first two are crucial to a well-rounded person. These add to or take away a person’s mental, physical, and social well-being.

Tier-three friends are the most common and the most uncomplicated friendships to form. These friends are referred to as “aquatints,” which I believe is incorrect. Acquaintances would be the fourth level if there were four, but in my mind, three is the correct number. Tier three are friends you work with, live close to (like a neighbor), or meet because of a tier two friend. These friends come and go due to life and work changes. If they were to call you, it would pertain to a specific need related to the connections, like work. Tier-three friends could appear to others as tier two, but when life changes, so do these friends.

Tier-two friends are the ones that do not come along too often, but when they do, you know it. Connections are made with little effort. It could be a common goal, sport, lifestyle, belief, or any combination. These friends could be close or far away, but when you can meet up, you make all efforts to accommodate. I have a group I ride bikes with every week. This connection supersedes all social levels. These individuals off the bike are all different, but on the bike, we are all the same. If one of them were to call or text me to meet up for a beer, I would go at the drop of a hat. If they needed me to help them move, build something, or work on their car, I would drop everything and help. Tier-two friends are the best! You can go months without seeing them, but when you do, you pick up exactly where you left off as if nothing had changed. They know everything about you and a few things you wish they did not :-). Tier two friends are the glue that keeps you going when time gets tough. I guarantee these friends have seen you ugly cry more than once. I do not have many tier two friends, but I would hate to lose the ones I have.

Tier one friends are the toughest to find, and most people may never find one. I will call this friend a soul mate. These friends know more about you than you even know. They have been with you from the beginning and have seen you grow into who you are. They have picked you and your tier-two friends up at places when you could not pick yourself up. They are your biggest advocates and critics. They only have one goal, for you to succeed. My tier one friend/soul mate has been with me for 36 years, 27 years as my wife. She has seen me at my worst and supported me at my best. You may not have this friendship level yet, but I believe everyone will at least once in their life.

Amber has been in all three levels of my frendship tier theory, but I am happy she is still my tier one/soul mate.

Your friend in education and parenting,
Douglas Greek EdD

Parenting is tough, but I’m glad. Kind of…

Parenting is the most challenging parkour I have ever attempted. Out of all of the races I have completed or even started, all wrestling matches I have competed in, track meets I have attended, or any Football field I have played on parenting takes the cake. Some days it is a breeze. My kids can be the kindest and most considerate humans on the planet. These days I genuinely believe I have this parenting thing figured out. On other days my kids are assassins. Able to slay me with a look or a snide remark that cuts me so deep I do not think I can recover. I lie there bleeding out as they laugh and point. I am the one who did not see it coming, blindsided by my spawn.

I try to use the education I have paid good money for to outfox my kids. I use all of the tricks of Cognitive Coaching, Love and Logic, Leader in Me, positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, and punishment to change the paradigm. My kids see right through all tricks, and my fear of what is to come is shown. I am defeated before I even start. My daughter is lethal with her words, and they cut deep. My son uses the newly found power of hormones to turn on and off emotions at the drop of a hat. They are more powerful than I am because I love them no matter what. That is why it hurts so bad when they attach.

The struggle is not felt alone. I have to believe all parents have these battles. Facebook and Instagram would make me think others have perfect families and no troubles with their kids, but I have to believe others are survivors like me. The ones who continue to live to support and love our kids.

All joking aside, parenting is harsh. I, like many parents, try daily to connect with our kids. We listen to hours of Fortnite content, watch Garfield cartoons, and drive to countless appointments to help our kids. We feel like this will never end, but we miss this current time when it does. I believe that no matter the feedback I receive for all of the time I spend supporting my kids, they will appreciate the effort. Maybe not now, maybe in the future, perhaps when they are in my current shoes as a parent. No matter what, I will be there for them because I am their parent.

I write this not as a solution or even a rant. I write this to say you are not alone. It is tough to raise kids, it is tough to keep them safe, it is tough to keep them entertained, and it is tough to allow them freedom. We want the very best for them all of the time. For this to happen, we can not forget about ourselves. Our mental health is key to their mental health. Take time for yourself; this will allow you to be the best for them.

Your partner in education and parenting,
Douglas Greek EdD

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!!!!!!!!!

This is what I have learned from my heated debates with my teenager.

I allow my kiddos to be online at home and after school as long as it does not hinder family activities. I also have full access to WIFI in my house, which means I can turn it off when I choose. In some cases, I shut off WIFI for my kids; this action causes mini-meltdowns. This is the background to why I had this question and why I researched this topic. I also believe this is something most parents ask and want answers to.

Humans do not like to be told what to do (NO WAY); we often argue with Humans do not like to be told what to do (NO WAY); we often argue with authority when asked or given a directive. There are many reasons that adolescents may become argumentative with their parents. We may want more independence, disagreeing about rules and values. Believing in something so much makes it is hard for us to take others’ perspectives into account. Trouble coping with emotions or immature thought processes regarding consequences of actions. Struggles working through conflicts with peers or adults. All or any of these situations could cause friction in your home. The following questions explore potential reasons teens may argue with their parents is the same for us when discussing our rights as adults.

Why is my child so argumentative?

How does your child’s behavior affect you? When your child becomes argumentative during an interaction, it affects you emotionally by triggering feelings of anxiety and annoyance. We also believe that they should do what we say without argument or question. In our mind, what we say is LAW! In their mind, it is an opportunity for debate. The power lies in the discussion and who can stay calmest.

Three triggers may cause your teen to argue with you:

  • The first is puberty, the second is hormones, and the third one is independence. Puberty brings hormonal changes, which will create mood swings, emotional outbursts, and feelings of vulnerability. 
  • Your teen wants to feel strong by asserting their own opinions rather than just agreeing with yours or others. 
  • They seek more independence during this time, so it becomes hard for parents to understand why they want their space even though you have given them plenty before.

What can I do about my teenagers’ constant arguing?

The most straightforward answer would be to change your perception of your child’s behavior as “arguing” and seek other methods to find a middle ground. This is a challenging concept to grasp.  If we cannot change our own views on what arguing is within our relationship with our teens, then all of this information will be useless.

There are many different reasons why the average teenager might argue with their parents. It could simply be that they feel like they know better than their parents because they are exposed to more things –  through school, sports, or even seeing it at home; I also fail at this daily. Teenagers often want more freedom and independence, which can cause them to rebel against parental figures for not giving them room to grow. They believe there is too much oversight by the “authorities” in their lives. This can create arguments between parent and child during this time where both parties think the other isn’t respecting them enough. Space is critical for me and may also help you. Relationships can both grow and die in this power struggle.

Suggestions for ending arguments with your child:

  • Try not to start an argument when you feel like you are already too upset.
  • When arguing, try to remain calm and level-headed at all costs. Sometimes taking a minute or two before joining the discussion can help control your emotions allowing for better interactions.
  • If you do lose your temper, take some time away from your child/teenager – separate yourself from them for a short while (a few minutes to an hour) as this may be triggering old memories of past arguments.

My point of view as a dad:

The reality is, I write this for my own headspace and wellbeing. I am not perfect and never will be. Even after all of my education and years as a classroom

The reality is, I write this for my own headspace and wellbeing. I am not perfect and never will be. After my years as a classroom educator, I find myself sliding into the “because I told you so”! Mindset. I commented a while back, “you get hard in the yard.” In this case, the “yard” interacts with tiny humans that we hope will become strong-minded adults. We want them to question, be assertive, and be headstrong, all with respect. If this is who we want them to be, who will be their role model? I try not to fail at this, but I do. Arguments become yelling matches. Feelings are hurt even if we do not want them to end like this. As parents, the most powerful thing is not to win; it is to show how we recover when we are wrong. We ALL fail. The key is how do we recover?

Your partner in education and parenting,

Douglas Greek EdD

Change is the Only Constant

Innovators, the time is now or later or never or whenever.

What does this mean, Greek! Education does change a fair amount. This change is in pedagogical practices, data tracking methods, types of testing, technology resources, social practices, and classroom management methods along with everything in-between. The tasks/skills/curriculum that we cover as educators are endless and continue to grow. So, what is the purpose of this post?

Education does change, but the core of what we do does not. We are expected to perform at a high level no matter what happens. Personal life has no place at work. This is what I use to think until my mistake. A mistake that should not have happened, but it did. I started in education after 9/11/2001; on this day, I questioned everything I was doing in life. At the time of this life-altering event, I was working in a local factory, building fans on an assembly line. I did not like this job, but it paid well and included insurance.

My mind changed on 9/11, for the better. Your mortality and achievements come to light in moments like this. I started to wonder what I was doing to better society in my current profession as an assembly worker. I was providing for my family, which is noble on its own, but I was not nourishing my soul. Two days later, I quit my job and started a harsh journey to become an educator. For 13 years, I have worked to better society one classroom at a time, one day at a time, one month at a time, and year after year. I now see my students leave school, graduate, to start their journey in life. I love working with kids and our future, but I made a mistake.

Social Media is one of the “changes,” I started speaking of in the first section of this post. At its core, the connections that can be made surpass time and location. I can follow high school friends that have chosen lives to live all over the world. This connection is powerful! As Uncle Ben stated, “With great power comes great responsibility.” This power can build someone up or break them down with one post. We have to model responsible use of this power, but we are flawed humans. Posting with emotion can cause significant detriment to individuals, even if that was not your intent.

Teachers and parents change also. They become smarter with years of service. More intelligent in time management, relationship building, and their ability to walk into the classroom day in and day out no matter their current situation. Life can punch you in the gut and make you question why you do what you do; the students are the purpose and the focus. Mistakes happen, but education is based on grace. The key to this grace is that you do not expect it, you hope when errors occur, it will be granted.

I started this career with the hopes of making a change.  This change does not happen in a vacuum nor is this change a given, it takes a lot of work. In this line of work, it is hard not to take things personally, I know this first hand. The key to this change is, how do you recover from mistakes? That is the integrity of a teacher. Changes will happen even if you do not want it to, your ability to adjust to these changes is essential in your professional and personal lives.

I am grateful for your support and grace. I am thankful for the time and efforts that all teachers put forth for our students. I am thankful for the opportunities public education has given me. These opportunities come gift-wrapped sometimes and in brown paper bags at other times. These learning opportunities are not always wanted.

all my love and support

Douglas Greek EdD

OH, For The Love!

In our household, we have a newly crowned teenager. Before you applaud my extraordinary accomplishment, let’s talk about this further. Simon has gone from 100% dependent to 80% independent. As a parent, this is both relieving and stressful. I love seeing him become his own person, but I fear all of the mistakes I have made being made by him. As a parent, we want our kids to be safe and wrapped in bubble wrap their whole life. This practice is not a reality, and coming to grips with this reality is super tough. We will explore this topic further with relevant research and real-world accounts.

First, this phase of adolescents is not easy for anyone. The kiddo is going through so many mental and chemical changes that, in most cases, they do not know which way is up. I, as the parent, want to control or orchestrate every step of this process. Simon wants to do the same. This is where the struggle becomes a battle. Healthy Children website states, “Adolescence is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It includes some big changes physically, and to the way a young person relates to the world.” This world includes their family. In my opinion, the “I want to be free” aspect is the toughest. I want to be a part of everything he does, but he wants to be left alone.

Contemporary PEDS Journal wrote in July 2021, “Parents can be perplexed and worried about the behavior of their adolescent children. Real risks exacerbate the worries as adolescents venture into real-world demands.” As I look back over the things I did and somehow survived, I worry about this “behavior” aspect the most. I did some stupid things as a kid and rebelled against those who tried to help the most. As I reflect now, I can see some had great intentions. When I was told I would not or could not do something, I did it. I have counselors in high school who thought and voiced my inability to achieve anything more than jail time. I ended up with a Doctorate in Education and Leadership (EdD). I also had loved ones who tried to keep me safe, and I ended up making bad decisions. The key here is how they dealt with me. They did not say, “Told you so,” or boast. They listened and supported me. These individuals are who I hold most dear to this day.

The student who is going through this change is also dealing with a lot. In this time of uncertainty, they struggle with acceptance, balance, stress, and changes in their body. On top of this, they are trying not to make their family mad. The last one may not appear as a priority, but they want to keep the peace. Mental health is a genuine concern for us as parents. CDC writes, “Adolescence is a time for young people to have a healthy start in life. The number of adolescents reporting poor mental health is increasing. Building strong bonds and connecting to youth can protect their mental health. Schools and parents can create these protective relationships with students and help them grow into healthy adulthood.” What does this look like, and what can we do as parents?

First, we are not all experts, and we are ALL still learning. Most experts say to listen to your kiddo from what I have read. As adults, we have mortgages, doctor bills, insurance payments, bills, taxes, and everything else adulting throws at us on the day-to-day grind. These things can make your kiddo’s issue appear less then. It is crucial to understand that their struggles are as big as ours. Who likes them or do not like them, where they fit or do not fit, teachers making them work too hard parents who give too many chores, and so many other things. These items are oversized and cause stress for them. When Simon talks to me, I try to listen, but I also fail to see him eye to eye. This is where I will work to improve my practice.

CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Data Summary & Trends Report: 2009-2019pdf icon

An article written for Parenting and Family by Jill Suttie identifies the risks of being a teen and gives good advice for keeping them safe. She interviews the author of Born to Be Wild, Dr. Shatkin. He writes that parents “Think their primary job is to remind teens over and over that they’re not invincible and to explain to them what terrible things can happen to them if they engage in risk.” He says that teens know they are not invisible; this is where their stress lies. They are full of fear and want to be included and accepted. He goes into how the brain works and how hormones are the attacking forces. I do remember the stress when I would try something, and it would fail. I did not worry about the failure; I worried about others’ thoughts. Was it cool, or was I just an idiot? Would I ever recover from this social detriment? This was the stress I dealt with, but I did not have to battle the social media giants.

Social media has amplified everything we thought we dealt with when we were their age. If I was recorded when I failed, I knew. Cameras were not small. Today, the recordings and uploads are happening ALL of the time! Everything is documented.

As peripécias da infância ficaram registradas graças a essa belezinha
VHS Recorder 1990 (Free to use image)

We as parents need to listen and validate our kid’s concerns and struggles. This is the most powerful tool we have. I strongly believe in counseling for ourselves and our kids. There are professionals available to help either in person or virtually. Seek help and support our most valuable resources, our children.

Your partner in education and parenting,

Douglas Greek EdD

Balance is critical in most situations.

Balance is key. In education, we try to find the fine line between frustration and learning. If you search this topic, you will find, “The zone of proximal development (sometimes abbreviated ZPD), is the difference between what a learner can do without help and what he or she can do with help. It is a concept developed by Soviet psychologist and social constructivist Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934).” If the ZPD is not found, a student can get to the point of frustration very quickly and shut down. In a perfect world, students would come to us with a “tag” that states what their ZPD is and the directions to follow in the quest for academic growth, not the case. So, what can we do to meet each student’s individual needs? Technology can be the answer (in some cases, not all).

Technology allows the time needed to assess each student then prescribe the needed resources to scaffold the student to their ZPD. Most programs that have Artificial Intelligence (AI) integration will adjust the difficulty of the questions based on how the student answers the delivered questions. An adaptive assessment may take 20 minutes to complete, but it can take that much time for each student in a classroom. This technology does NOT take the place of a well-informed and connected educator. Taking the data from the AI and comparing it with anecdotal notes and teacher observation is how we can support students best. I can already hear your thoughts! If the teacher has to do the work, why would they ever use technology to arrive at the same conclusion?! If you have ever evaluated 25+ students over a week, you will have to admit you get tired super quick, and the stories or math evaluations haunt you in your dreams. We are human; computer programs are not. This is why balance is essential. What does this look like in the classroom? In the next section, we will explore two resources of MANY. The two I have included here are, in my opinion, the best place to begin. I hope you find them helpful also. ReadingIQ is a fantastic resource that allows you to choose how the reading levels are reported and allows students to take a placement test. This is a FREE

This is a FREE digital resource in both fiction and nonfiction from Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic, and others that students will love to read. This is a great resource for teachers and meets all of the safety measures that are expected in our classrooms today (COPPA, CIPA, FERPA). Resources available in Reading IQ include all Disney products. 

With audiobooks and graphic novels, students of all ages can benefit from this excellent resource, and it is FREE. I know there are a bunch of other resources like GetEpic, Tumblebooks, and many many more. This resource has built-in differentiation through the assessment and different reading levels. Finding one resource to meet all of your students’ needs can be difficult, but with this one and your small group reading practice, and written material, you will give your students options that are engaging for them and you. In math, I like Prodigy Math, and before you start yelling at the computer that all students do is play games, read me out on this one. If you assign practice to your students based on what you know about your students, this is the program for you. First off, it is 100% free and easily navigatable for most. In the planner area of the program, you can assign activities to individual students or the whole class. When assigning activities, you mitigate the loss of time while using the program. There is no placement test, but in this instance, your knowledge as the teacher is more valuable than a placement test. 

If you are not assigning activities to your students in Prodigy, you SHOULD NOT be using this program. It is a waste of time if you do not spend some time. This is a powerful program, and with great power comes great responsibility (Uncle Ben, Spiderman). 

Final Thoughts

The vital aspect of any technology usage is a balance. Without balance, we will either not use technology at all, which is not an option for our students, or we will lose the personal connection that is also something our students need to be successful. Don’t place a student in front of a program and expect them to learn in the absents of the teacher and a personal connection. Students need to learn in their ZPD, and technology can only help. You, as the teacher/parent, need to use your professional judgment in choosing the right tool, digital and non-digital. 

Your partner in education and parenting,

Douglas Greek 

Parenting is Tough

Who am I and what knowledge do I have?

My name is Doug Greek and I am a parent with an Education Doctorate. My Doctorate is in the area of leadership and curriculum and I have been a teacher for 15 years (as of 2021). I believe I am both book-educated and life-educated when it comes to child development. I am a first-generation college graduate as well as a first-generation educator. I have had all of the “classes” of theory and practicality in the area of child development and education BUT this all went out the window when my wife and I had our first child. We were married for 14 years before having kids, so I thought we were ready. Even after 26 years of marriage, we are still learning. 

*I fail on a daily as a parent. The goal is to learn every day and in the famous words of the Arendelle scholar, “Let it go.” 

What to expect from this Blog? 

Definitely not answers, I am not that kind of a doctor. I do have practical situations that you may relate to or identify. I believe people post all of the “great and sweet” things too much. Where is the struggle that we all feel when raising kids and trying to make a living in this world? Mental health is a real thing we should all acknowledge and I feel being real is a great place to start. That is what you will see here, real-life stories with possible support and links to sources that are way smarter than I am. 

Now, let’s get going!

Being a parent is not easy. There’s no doubt about it. It’s the toughest job on this planet, and you spend your days juggling kid-related responsibilities with work and life in general. If you’re like most parents out there, then you want to do everything that you can for your kids but don’t always know what to do or where to turn for help. This blog post will provide some tips on how to make parenting easier by sharing struggles and solutions from real parents just like yourself! Being a parent is rough. But, it’s also beautiful.

I’ll start by mentioning that parenting is the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life. I love being a father but it can be extremely frustrating at times. Having kids means you are trying to do two full-time jobs at once while never getting enough sleep or exercise. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  1. Take Care Of Yourself First! You cannot take care of anyone else if you don’t first take care of yourself! Eat well, get exercise, get adequate rest and carve out some time for yourself each day even if only temporarily where you can recharge your energy levels. This is especially important when your child gets sick or has an accident which can always happen. I jokingly say, “my sick days are for my kids.” It’s a constant struggle to balance convenience and self-care.
  2. Learn as much as you can about what your kids like. If you are not in the know then they will run the house. If your kid is into Fortnite you should also know Fortnite. This is a major struggle for me because I do not see value in the “thing” but I do see value in the connection it forms with my kids.
  3. Learn how to use a schedule. I have a weekly schedule that lists out what is going on in our lives for the upcoming week so I can plan ahead. This helps me prepare for any inevitable meltdowns which always happen when you least expect it especially when you are taking care of others! If dad has a meltdown, everyone else does too.
  4. Don’t feel guilty about saying “No.” This is something my life as an educator has taught me from day one and even to this day. You DO NOT have to do it all and the world will not implode if your kids miss a practice or play date. You
  5. Get ready for the spotlight to be on your parenting. Everything is a “moment” in time and we will analyze that over and over. Don’t get me wrong, I have learned how truly special my children are, but even the simplest everyday things could cause a meltdown. Give them time markers, “we will leave in..” or “internet will be off in x minutes” these are all reasonable.
  6. Dig deep down inside yourself and find the energy to go out in public with these little people who take up all your time, patience, and sanity. When you look at others you might see dirty messy hair, clothes that don’t match, torn pants because their sister stepped on them, etc., but trust everyone deals with the same struggles.

Life is not easy when balancing kids, marriage, and career. The best advice I can give is to love each other and yourself. Life will be a struggle but whatever you do, don’t forget the reason why you both work so hard. It’s for those two little humans who make your life worth living and fighting to improve daily.

Vertual Learning, Still Learning

 Readers,

What do I know about 2020? Not much, to be honest. I think I know how I was able to prioritize my learning. I think I know how I was able to support teachers through this uncertain time in education. The reality is that we all did our best at what we felt the priorities were and are at these uncertain times. The question I would pose to you would be based on the why. Why did you choose your focus? Was it based on student needs, community needs, personal needs, OR did you just do what you always do and keep moving? I feel this is where I fell in my pandemic survival methodology. I just kept on doing what I always do, support.

 The world of education is never the same from quarter to quarter, semester to semester, or year to year. Our students, no matter the age, are always evolving. John Hattie, a researcher, well known in the education world, states any effort made in educating a student will see growth. The growth rate can change based on the strategy used and the action placed. The ultimate goal is to hit that .40 Effect Rate, which means one year of teaching equals one year of growth, but more is even better.

 How does this equate to adult learning (andragogy)? For me, adults are my students/learners who I am always trying to reach. The idea of supporting individuals that are in all areas of the learning curve can be challenging. This is mostly due to where they are in their technology understanding, pedagogy understanding, and content knowledge. This is referred to as TPACK. TPACK stands for Technology, Pedagogy, AND Content Knowledge. Balance is critical here, even in virtual learning.

 In most cases, this balance is more evident in a virtual setting. Most teachers know their content and even how to deliver that content (pedagogy), but the technology aspect is foreign when it becomes the only way to provide the learning. This is where the keep on keeping on concept for me comes into the mix. I have been in this position for eight years (EdTech.) From the very beginning, I have preached that technology is NOT the lesson, nor should it be the focus. Technology is an enhancer, both for good and the bad.

 Technology is a great enhancer. If you know your content and know your students, and somewhat understand tech, you will do fine. Issues happen when technology is forced into a lesson when it is not needed. If the lesson can stand alone without tech, there is a possibility that tech could enhance the validity of the learning opportunities for students. I have seen tech used in a “because I have to use it” manner and it becomes a distraction to the learning process. Tech has to be purposeful in its usage, and it should be in the planning, not just thrown in at the last minute.

 My shift happened when teachers learned about technology to apply that knowledge in a real-world application. Virtual teaching became just TEACHING, and with the switch came all of the “what ifs” associated with the virtual learning/teaching environment. Not all aspects of the change we’re trying, and we even were able to see some remarkable growth. The reality is, acceptable teaching practices are good no matter the modality that is used. There were clear front runners in virtual teaching. Teachers who had a “with it” quality in the classroom could transfer that practice into a virtual platform. I will focus on what they did to be successful with the hopes you can learn from their examples.

 Training your teachers should always be the first step in the process of a new venture. This would be the same for a new technology resource or new pedagogical practice. Once you have the “product” identified, you need to follow a few steps.

Education, as a whole, is different. Each person sees this change in a different light, positive or negative. The ones who see this change as unfavorable or in a negative light typically change their minds after they have all of the tools needed to be successful. Professional development is the #1 way to support and change the outcome of any new venture. I know this is not something you can just snap your fingers and have to happen overnight. Teachers need to know they are supported, period. Meeting your teachers where they are at is the goal, but you also need to know where they need to be at the end of the prescribed training.

 Beyond the training, you need to have follow-ups.  From my own experiences, if the training is a full-day effort, you need something for the teachers to complete on their own. Teachers want to work time along with the training. Building in processing time helps the learners practice the skill. Not all learners learn in the same way. Some learners need time for “hands-on” learning, while others can learn from listening to lectures. Mixing these two learning modalities help solidify the learning objectives.

 Lastly, movement is critical. Donal Blaney stated, “The mind can only absorb no more than the seat can endure.” Make sure movement is also a part of the effort in learning. Even a short “processing” time where learners get out of their seats and discuss critical aspects with other attendees is essential. Cooperative Learning techniques allow for interaction within a controlled, goal-oriented conversation. Sentence stems like:

1)    What was one thing you took away from…?

2)    Tell your partner two things you believe will be problematic when implementing…?

  1. How can you troubleshoot the solution to these problems?
  2. What suggestions would you have in troubleshooting these problems?

After staff has an opportunity to share, ask them to summarize the conversation back at their table. This is a simple processing skill that can be used throughout the day. Movement helps along with the processing from the learning goals of the day.

 After the training, it is vital to have your teachers build. Teachers who did very well in this shift from seated to virtual learning had a plan. This plan included a clear and constant schedule. This allowed parents and students to be prepared each day at the right time. If the meeting started at 8:30 a.m., the teacher was present 5-10 minutes before so students could join. This would happen 3-4 times throughout the day for direct instruction. This schedule was shared out with parents and students alike, so all were informed. Students could use various methods to keep this schedule in Infront of them, but the key is that they knew when and where they needed to be daily.

 Second, organize your resources, students, and teacher. If the teacher indicated, the students would need a whiteboard and marker for session “X,” the students and teacher would have that within arm’s reach. This includes all materials which were clearly outlined in the schedule mentioned in the first step. Resources also provide problem-solving the “what ifs.” What happens if you get kicked off of the video meeting? If the connection is the issue, try to turn off the device and restart. Other aspects would be added as the learning continues.

 The third would be support, support, and more support. Offer office hours for smaller group support. Make sure this time is also scheduled and focused. If your plans call for direct instruction of a newer concept, then you would follow that up with “open” time where students can join and ask questions as needed. If students don’t join, it is okay; just be available for the entire time if they chose to join after the start time. Also, stick to the time allotted. If you set the time to 30 minutes, then close the virtual room at 30 minutes. Consistency is key and allows for procedures to be set and expected.

 Other notable considerations would be in the area of rules/expectations. Outlining how a student should act when in a virtual meeting is key to seeing what you expect. It is tough to hit a target when you can’t see the target. Modeling the expectation is a great practice. Once the expectations are set, you should cover the consequences if those expectations are not met and how the student(s) can redeem themselves. This is a fairly open process and should be tailored to what is needed to mitigate distractions in your virtual classroom. Community building is key in seated and virtual education.

 Lastly, which should be first is/are relationships. Relationships will make or break the learning environment that you build. Relationships are the bedrock that anchors all aspects of your classroom. Students and parents need to believe you are a team with the same goals in mind for your students. Supporting the virtual classroom with curriculum, digital resources, and pedagogy is only the beginning of the process. Building the community within your classroom should always be job one.

 The pandemic has caused some areas of the “norm” to change, but not all change is bad. I have seen teachers who do okay with technology become experts in virtual learning. They may not recognize this, but I have. The pandemic has allowed teachers who have been somewhat reluctant to use tech a chance to become better. These changes have not been easy, and the shift may not have been ideal, but we worked through the struggle.

 Resilience is a virtue we as educators preach to our students. It is a lesson we have all learned. Being able to keep moving when times get rough. Being able to find the “good” in all. These traits make us humans and better teachers. I am constantly amazed at what I see. Teaching is and always has been a profession that changes, as it should. Our students are ever-evolving, and their needs change at the same time. As educators, we meet this need daily. This is the way.

Douglas Greek EdD

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