The COVID-19 pandemic turned education upside down. But in the midst of all the challenges, teachers learned new strategies that they plan to carry forward into future school years.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, education was turned upside down. As teachers adapted to online or hybrid instruction or taught students to sanitize their hands and their desks, they found that some parts of their new routines really worked well for students (others, not so much). Here are a few of the lessons teachers say they’ve learned so far that will continue to influence their work when the pandemic becomes a thing of the past.
The pandemic caused many teachers to reevaluate their approach to teaching. What works in a classroom may not work as well online, or with students working independently at home while schools are closed. When some teachers noticed that their tried-and-true teaching strategies weren’t working as well, they tried new approaches and embraced what worked.
Sara Lilley admits that before the pandemic, she didn’t use technology much in her Vance County Schools classroom in Wake Forest, N.C. “I didn’t try and expand my reach to new and exciting resources. You just kind of get stuck in, ‘Well, this worked last year, I’m going to do it this year.’ That’s not an option anymore,” Lilley told the EducationNC podcast.
Her school district’s shift to one-to-one devices has made it easier to personalize lessons and allow students to work independently when they’re ready to move past ahead. Lilley says she plans to use devices more and worksheets less in her teaching going forward.
The long-term stress and heavy emotional toll of the pandemic caused many teachers accustomed to cutting corners on self-care to reconsider their routines. Neighborhood walks, email office hours, and earlier bedtimes are some of the ways teachers coped with pandemic teaching. California teacher Alison Lopez tweeted this reminder that even if this school year looks more like normal, teachers still need to take good care of themselves.
We just started school but I think some of us need to hear this already. This year teachers are dealing with the aftermath of over a year of distance learning. Remember to pause and take care of yourself friends! #teacherselfcare #selfcare pic.twitter.com/3zgBH7kx5V
— Alison Lopez (@HelloMrsLopez) September 7, 2021
Another California teacher, Martha Infante Thorpe, tweeted a reminder to teachers not to work themselves too hard by “turbo teaching.” This school year things look more like normal, but students and school staff are still facing the pressures of living in a pandemic.
I still will follow my own advice from last year: we are in a pandemic. Things may look the same but they are most definitely not the same. Slow your roll, be patient and forgiving with self and others, and no turbo teaching this year. We have to make it to June!
— Martha Infante Thorpe, M.S. (@avalonsensei) September 5, 2021
For many teachers, the pandemic reinforced the importance of relationships in the classroom. For one thing, it can be harder to connect with students over video than it is when you’re in the same room. Teachers missed the silly jokes and small talk they heard in a typical school day that give them greater insight into their students. And the students really missed one another.
Seeing his students struggle with social isolation during distance learning showed Colorado high school math teacher Jason Cianfrance how much his students got from interacting with their peers during the school day. In addition to the social interaction, students learn from hearing classmates ask questions or demonstrate how to do something.
Cianfrance told Colorado Public Radio that he sought out collaborative online tools for his students to use and plans to incorporate them into his classroom teaching. For example, one interactive program requires students to show their work as they solve math problems. He plans to continue using the program and project it in the classroom so that students can learn from one another.
Read more tips for teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.