Recently, Aubrey Sherman from Léman Manhattan Preparatory School wrote in with this excellent question:
Hi Dave! I so appreciate you sharing your thoughts, successes and challenges with distance learning. What do moments of genuine connection look like for you these days? I've been thinking a lot about connection recently (as I know we all are) and looking for simple ways to build in these individualized check-ins with students.
The quick answer is: super basic. As in, borderline embarrassing. And (as I'll explain at the end) intentionally so.
Moments of genuine connection almost exclusively look like brief attempts at personalized communication via Google Classroom comments. I'm going for brief notes that might make a student feel valued, known, and respected (as indeed they are).
Actual examples that I wrote yesterday:
- Good work keeping up on everything, Larissa 🙂 I hope you're doing well.
- Me too, Dylan! Miss you, man. Remember when you used to ask about snow days? Wow. Who would have thought?
- Reg! Miss you, dude. How's the guitar going? Email me a song if you don't mind.
- Hey, Anevay! I'd love to see some of that art when you get a chance. Send me a picture or two of your artwork if you wouldn't mind. Just email it to my school account.
- AC, your humor is lovely. Reading endless strings of Google Classroom comments isn't always a blast, but whenever I get to yours I know I'm going to laugh 🙂 Thanks for that.
Again: really basic and quite awkward. When I host my optional livestreamed office hours with students, I try to do similar things there. I'm still using a clipboard, but now it has the added purpose of giving me the data I need to input into each student's record at the end of each week.
I've heard of teachers doing individual Zoom sessions with students or small group Google Hangouts — things like this that allow much better opportunities for the deeper, more powerful MGCs that I'm normally after. At this point, I'm not choosing to allocate the time for engineering or carrying that kind of program out. It's as I said recently: I'm satisficing Phase 1 so that I can gear up for Phase 2. A big reason that's palatable to me is because of how little there is left of this school year — six weeks in my district — and how much there is of all the school years that will follow.
Now, if (Lord forbid) we end up doing remote teaching again during some or all of the 2020-2021 school year, then I will certainly invest in the development and execution of a more robust approach creating remote MGCs.
In the meantime, I'm just reading a lot about how teachers and schools can reduce opportunity gaps for all children. A group of us are going to do this together; feel free to join here.