Teachers were surprised, and forced to be creative when home-based learning was announced. They had to adopt new and different technologies, methodologies, and pedagogies, all of which will change the way they teach forever
Now, there is an increased emphasis on learning independently and effectively. Teachers are facing tension between delivering content efficiently and trying to do so without coming across as uncaring and aloof to the students’ learning experience.
What can teachers do to build a positive learning environment amidst this period of drastic change?
The HEART strategy by Harvard Business Review (Waldron and Wetherbe, 2020), provides a framework that answers these problems. Providing teachers with a way to connect and care for their students, while delivering the content and teaching they need to.
It’s simple to exercise, and requires only a little effort. It will even help when times go back to normal.
Humanise your classes
This is the first time your students are spending more time at home with their family. You may want to begin by empathising with how they may be feeling, especially at their age where they place higher emphasis on social relationships than on family. You would have heard students saying phrases like “It’s so boring at home”, “I will miss you so much” to each other on the last day of school.
While deliverables are important, how students feel while going through it is just as important. The attitude they form now towards learning, shapes how they learn when they’re back in class.
Consider setting 10-15 minutes aside each week to talk about how their learning experience has been and how you can help to support them. Give some motivation through a story or a quote to know that you are with them along this journey too.
Educate them on how to interact with you
Share with students about the constraints that you may face. They usually seem to complain a lot but they are not people without empathy. Sharing circumstances and constraints open avenues for students to problem solve with you. You never know what they have to offer.
You can also encourage them to take the initiative and search for resources which may teach the content better. A collaborative community can be built around learning.
Students buy into you as a person before they buy into what you teach them. Your uniqueness as a person makes you a very special teacher. As someone who’s detail-oriented and always ensuring that students fully understand the intricate steps, or as an inclusive teacher who seeks to involve even the quietest student. “Continue to provide the things they have come to know and love”. You don’t change, even if the environment is changing. These are the very reasons they love you as a teacher.
Revolutionise what your students value about you
Change is the only constant, and change gives rise to opportunities for innovation. Previously, we might have focused on delivering content. In this time while they’re stuck at home, what can we teach students about life skills? Give them tips on developing discipline to sit and learn effectively in the home environment they’re in. Overcome procrastination. How to focus and get onto the “zone”?They may even be seeking advice on how to interact with their family members for such long periods of time. How to enjoy silence and peace and even learning a new skill.
Show them how these life skills stay with them forever and will be useful wherever they go. Share a part of your life, you are deepening relationships with them even through a screen.
Tackle the future
Give certainty to your students. Let them know the long and short term goals in the pipeline and the strategies towards it. You’re priming their minds for future tasks and actions.
Show them what plans you have to make the next month more enjoyable. Be willing to change and improve the way you teach now and even after this whole pandemic is over. These improvements now inspire confidence and let your students know that you’ve got it in control. Show that you’re responding, not reacting.
“They don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – John Maxwell.
One of the strongest factors motivating students’ learning is their personal relationship with their teacher. Students don’t wish to disappoint a teacher who puts so much effort to care for and help them.
With these communication and interaction strategies, you can even emerge from the crisis with much stronger relationships with your students.
Build on your relationships and you can build their learning.
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