In my district, emergency remote teaching officially began just this week, but I've had half a dozen or so class video meetings since we closed back in mid-March, and I'm still not sure I've gotten the knack for these things. There are parts of these experiences that I find lovely — seeing their faces, hearing them speak — and then parts of them that are just…awkward.
Recently, Stacey Jackson, a high school social studies teacher from Chippewa Falls, WI, shared the following with some colleagues and me, and I found it helpful. I'm posting it in case it helps you, too.
I am not a funny person. I warn my students every semester to keep the bar low so they won’t be disappointed. However, it makes SUCH A DIFFERENCE to share humor with students.
How this looks in my weekly homeroom hangout is that each week has a “theme” – this week was a comical meme. Next week will be pets (actual or ideal – real or fictional).
In AP, I start every lesson with a historically linked meme as both an ice breaker and a review. (There was one going around joking about the 20’s that we used to review the stock market crash and prohibition.) I also have started having students create our review games. So far I had one student who created a Kahoot out of history memes and another created the world’s hardest Gimkit. Due to low attendance today they had to bring in their siblings so we had enough for teams. It was hilarious and awful.
My first class gathering with my on-level is tomorrow and Wednesday, and I honestly have no idea if anyone is going to show, but when they do, I will be ready to start with a dumb song parody about Nixon, because why not.
Quick interruption: I really love that line, “hilarious and awful.” Now back to Stacey:
I think breaking the ice with video calls really comes down to showing each other our human-ness, whether that be through humor, a “tour” of your home office, or a random “would you rather” discussion (ex: have an extra ear or an extra eye?). In person, it’s much easier to see and feel each other’s humanity. From a distance, we might need to work harder and be a bit more vulnerable as their leaders. I’m grateful for a couple weeks to figure this out. I am not by nature an open person and have always maintained very strict definitions of professionalism and distance from students. I think I’ve (finally) come to the point of realizing that there is a time for everything, and now is the time to loosen some of my rules of “Good teachers never . . .” And “Good teachers always . . . .”
That last paragraph really brings it home for me:
- Showing our humanity: Upon this foundation we can build a high-impact learning community.
- Demonstrating vulnerability: I think that, when properly apportioned, moments of vulnerability build our credibility and the kinds of class cultures we need (more on vulnerability and culture-building in this post).
- A time for everything: For sure, some of the guidelines we followed pre-closures must be followed now more rigorously than ever, and yet some of them must be altered. Our beliefs about what “good teachers never” and “good teachers always” need to be evaluated anew. And this reevaluation will make them better.
I hope this helps.