Reading your students from day to day and giving feedback on their learning is the basics of teaching and guiding students through curriculum in high school. Great teachers have the innate ability to look at a student and see where they are by reading body language and facial expressions. I like to think of us as FBI agents, only we are not trying to interrogate, we are trying to teach.
In the pandemic, reading of students has become tricky. Great teachers don’t have the ability to read students like they used to. Most of the students are sitting behind a screen. Most will not put their cameras on. I can’t blame them. The learning environment has now invaded their homes. Many don’t want to show the outside world into theirs. I have found this is for a variety of reasons.
As teachers, we have been challenged to read students differently.
I took that challenge this year. Here is what I have found so far. Listening to tone, pace, background noise, and if a student even answers a question has become the norm of reading the virtual room.
Some days we talk, some days we type.
Some days, the virtual classroom is energetic. There is a lot of conversation. The students are all participating. You can feel it as a teacher. It feels good. We are used to this type of interaction. It feels somewhat “normal.”
Some days are completely quiet. No matter what you put out there as the virtual teacher, there is little verbal response. I usually move to the chat when this happens. I will pose a question in the chat room and see if I get a response. It usually works. When a response comes in, I praise the effort. Thanking the student for their thoughts is first. Then I strategize to branch out the discussion with a “what other things do you think about this… anyone can chime in.” The typing usually starts to build. There is still complete silence in the virtual space however the typing is fast and furious.
The most important thing is to be humble, genuine, and honest about what needs to be learned that day. Students know when you are getting frustrated or disheveled in the lesson, even when they are virtual. When I hit a high level of frustration because I can no longer read the virtual room, I ask students what are some cool things other teachers have done to make their lessons fun or engaging. I learn with the students how to keep moving forward.
Teaching in a pandemic has taught me so much more as an educator. I have learned to embrace that learning virtually or in person. I feel ready to take on anything in education going forward!
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