As learners head back to school this year, interest in virtual learning opportunities from the global community remains strong. Families are choosing to supplement traditional schooling that may still be disrupted by the pandemic, and as an Outschool educator you can play a key role in easing the transition back into “school mode” for your learners. Keeping in mind that life is not totally “back to normal” for many families around the world, here are a few ways you can help your learners find success and follow their passions this season.
1. Get to Know Your Learners
By getting to know more about your learners – their likes, strengths, challenges, and backgrounds – you can set yourself up for success right from the beginning. While some learners may be excited and happy to be in class again, others may feel anxious, angry, or overwhelmed. Some may also be further behind others in their learning journey. The more you know, the better you can adapt your classes to accommodate learners’ needs and create a more inclusive learning environment for all.
Ask learners early in the course how they are feeling and what they need, or use surveys to gain a better understanding of your classroom. Keep checking in with them throughout the course, and start to build those personal connections that will help you provide the best instruction possible.
2. Create Routines and Structure
Human beings are creatures of habit, and you can help set learners up for success by establishing clear expectations for your class. Even transitioning to academic-style classes from programs like in-person summer camps or playgroups can be an adjustment, so remember to have compassion for your learners as they get back into the swing of things.
Regardless of whether your classes focus on academic, active, artistic, or extracurricular interests, help bring out learners’ enthusiasm for topics they are passionate about with exciting and age-appropriate activities. By implementing clear and consistent routines, like starting and ending class the same way each time you meet, you can help learners gain a sense of order. Let learners know how the course will be structured, what they can expect to learn and accomplish, and how you’ll support them throughout class.
3. Encourage Interaction
As an educator, your virtual classroom should offer learners the opportunity to make awesome connections with you and their classmates through interactive dialogue and activities. Use a small amount of time at the beginning of your class to play ice-breaking games and help learners form bonds based on social or silly interactions. During instruction, use group discussions, Zoom tools, or other online teaching strategies to encourage active participation from all learners. In the Outschool classroom, @name mentions and email notifications can keep learners in the loop outside of live meetings.
4. Be Honest
After an unprecedented year and a half, learners are sure to have questions and concerns about what may happen in the future. The best way to handle this is to respond openly, honestly, and in an appropriate manner. Acknowledge the fact that these have been troublesome times and that there may still be difficulties ahead. Let learners know that uncertainty is a part of life, however, you don’t have to dwell on the negative aspects. Offer support, but be sure to keep your classes focused on topics you are qualified to teach as defined by our class content policy.
5. Be Intentional When Giving Feedback
Use specific, positive praise to let learners know you appreciate their contributions to class when it is appropriate (for example: “Luca, you did a great job solving those addition problems today.”). And, when necessary, redirect learners who are not meeting your behavior expectations with kind and direct feedback. Help learners find their place in your classroom by supporting them as they strive to meet expectations, grow a passion or learn a skill, and be active participants in their learning.
Educators are uniquely placed to help ease learners’ minds and facilitate a smooth transition back to a consistent learning schedule. By being sensitive to the unique needs of learners, educators can help make this time of year a powerful piece of each learner’s educational journey. With the right support, any learner can thrive – even amid change.