After being thrust into an online teaching environment by the Covid pandemic, I responded to the challenge in a fairly predictable way: trying to replicate much of my traditional classroom instructional techniques to an online platform. I did manage to pick up some virtual teaching skills during our five-month online initiation by fire; but I found it hard to shed old standbys, like direct instruction, that simply don’t work well in real-time online. I think part of my resistance to adopting new techniques was fear of failure – fear of getting it wrong and not really feeling like I had the time to recover if things didn’t go right.
So my focus moving forward will be to experiment with new technology – not just Zoom and PowerPoint – and to experiment more with breakout rooms and student-centered learning. I learned a lot from Caitlin Tucker’s explanation of “station rotation” in larger classes. This will allow more peer-to-peer learning, with me taking more of a backseat and checking in when needed. Along these lines, I plan to do more pre-recorded instructional videos (no more than 10-minutes or so at a time) to introduce new concepts and theories, and then check in with students during our live sessions to formatively assess understanding.
Some successes of my online teaching experience I’d like to build on include: students posting of questions and answers of new material (this is helpful because I can quickly identify various levels of understanding across the class); pairing students for formal IB assessments (I had always encouraged paired or group projects but never on actual IB exams – by pairing students on proper IB exams, albeit formative, this allowed students to thoroughly review their understanding of the subject, the assessment itself and review rubric requirements before turning it in – students enjoyed this)
The main “C” I need to work on is Care. I had a number of students in Grade 11 and 12 who drifted out of reach in the Feb.-June period. While I don’t blame myself, I do think I could have done more to make myself more approachable. I feel that I give the impression I don’t want to be bothered by students’ emotional problems, and I need to work on that in this environment. One thing I made an effort to do during the Zooms was making small connections with students as each one joined the meeting. Sometimes it takes a minute or two to get everyone online to start the class, and a lot of connecting can be done in 120 seconds. Another great opportunity to connect with students for IB teachers is one-to-one meetings for IA commentaries, TOK presentations and essays, and the Extended Essay. There simply isn’t enough time to schedule separate meetings to deal with “care,” unless there is an obvious problem. So trying to incorporate more “care” into every interaction with students, especially in the one-to-one meetings, will be a main focus this year.