Reflection: Lessons from Week 2 of Remote Teaching

What have I learned from another week of remote teaching? Some quick thoughts to share, in case they help others – we’re using a VLE to set the heavy lifting, and Microsoft Teams to set up and share interactive lessons as much as possible.

What am I enjoying?

Teaching still feels a bit like teaching. It’s not the same, I know, but I’m learning to adapt the technology to do what I’d normally do. This week, I’ve been really impressed by how easy it’s been to share screens and do interesting stuff – Google Earth case study KMZ, and a visualizer in different lessons have been able to bring the topic to life a bit more than a straight PPT.

I’m not sure where it’s come from, but students are being really polite – somehow, it’s very noticeable when they say thanks, or ask questions specifically, in a way that perhaps would become background noise on their way out of a classroom door, as I started to mentally transition to the incoming class. I must remember to acknowledge and thank them for humanity, when we’re back in a classroom setting.

The lack of commute, and the ability to share lunch and more time with my wife is really positive. I’ve seen more of my home, my cats, my garden, my wife.

Teaching in a linen shirt – casual dress-down Fridays! How will I put a suit on again? Will I even fit in to it?

What has worked for me this week?

Quick votes for hands up – typing more than one statement in a chat window, and allowing students to like/vote for the one they agree with. Quick & easy check of understanding – you can quickly identify who’s liked what.

Standing up! I work on a Teams meeting platform – talking to the students, but showing them a PowerPoint. I don’t need them to see me – they don’t need it either! – so I can stand and deliver. It’s like being the star of your own personal TED talk. Actual TED talkers don’t need to comment, thank you. I know. I know.

Sharing resources in advance means that they load on the platform quickly and easily. Students can work out of sheets and booklets.

Making the decision to teach A Levels with booklets. An absolute nightmare earlier in the week, frantically trying to prepare the whole booklet for the term in advance – when normally I do a sub-unit at a time – but my goodness, the confidence in output, what they have in front, and what they can do – makes such a difference to my thought processes for teaching it.

Things to reflect & work on.

One of the worst possible things that exists is the concept of “Stream” recording the videos of my lessons in Teams. As much as it’s very powerful learning, professional development, I cannot stand my own voice being played back to me ☹

Feels a lot more ‘intensive’ – higher sense of ‘performance’ and responsibility on me, versus my created and more collaborative classroom environment normally. Very aware of higher levels of adrenaline/heart rate & background sensitivity… but also, I feel like I have to “fill the unforgiving minute”. This means that…

I’ve lost my voice – or suffered with a lot of sore throats. I’ve had to drink so much hot drinks to cope with talking so much!

Next week, I need to focus on limiting teacher talk – personal decision, rather than theory and pedagogical – getting myself more comfortable with “do this now, and come back in ten minutes” in the same way as I would normally. Online lessons are still lessons – they need to consolidate, they need to practice in the same Rosenshine-esque ways – and I don’t need to talk for 45 minutes straight!

Similarly, and particularly with lower years, I need to think about how much information I convey – streamlining instructions and dual coding a bit better, so that it’s crystal clear. Picking up uncertainty and misconceptions is *hard* remotely – I was 30 mins in to one Y7 lesson when a student cheerfully announced that she “didn’t get it”. When asked ‘which bit?’ – hoping it’d just be the last task or concept – she sorrowfully returned “any of it”.

Lesson learned.

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