August 3, 2020

Teaching and Learning FAQs

Teaching and Learning FAQs Featured Image

I feel like I’ve become a distance learning teacher overnight. What are some best practices for online instruction? Whether you are providing your students with at home learning activities on paper, instruction by phone or video, through interactive web services, or a Learning Management System (LMS), distance learning provides the opportunity to retain valuable instructional time. Considerations for virtual instruction include: 1) Making expectations explicit. Written and electronic communication can be easily misinterpreted. 2) Creating engaging assignments, not busy work. Similar to being in school, activities that are interactive, require movement, and critical thinking skills are best. 3) Less is more. Stick to the basics focusing on student needs and interests. Teachers who have been doing online learning for some time note tasks can take up to 35% longer. 4) Communicate Regularly. When a teacher can’t be seen they must be heard. Make yourself available through secure email, employer approved apps, chats or group calls as you work to meet your students’ instructional needs.

My school is offering learning packets, yet I’m hearing others are offering online instruction. What’s best for students? Nothing can replace the in-person relationship students have with their teachers and school support professionals. While these alternative learning approaches may address some core academic standards, none of them are ideal to address the needs of the whole child. Some districts have had long-term remote learning plans in place for quite some time, while others are scrambling to figure things out. The inequities we see in providing alternate instruction in a time of crisis reflect the larger inequities we see in resource allocation and administrative efficiencies across the state.

I’m a high school social studies teacher. My seniors were prepared to register to vote this fall as a class assignment.  What can I do? Your students can register to vote online. There is a serious level of unequal rates of voter participation among young adults. Therefore, WEAC encourages all high school teachers and school support specialists to encourage seniors to register to vote and to vote through group (class) or personal outreach.

What about my students with special education needs? When school closes and educational services are not provided to the general student population then schools are not required to provide services to students with IEPs or 504 plans. If your school district provides any type of instruction to the general student population during the closure, the district must ensure that students with IEPs and 504s have equal access to the same educational opportunities. If some services cannot be provided or minutes are reduced, the IEP team should consider compensatory services that may be required when school reopens.

As a special education teacher, I wonder if my students’ IEPs are put on hold until school restarts? IEPs are not paused during a school closure if services are provided to the general student population. When schools are closed for 10 or more days a student’s parent, teacher or any IEP team member should request an IEP meeting. The IEP or 504 team should determine the appropriate services needed to provide students with a free and appropriate education. It is possible that an IEP team could including provisions for instruction or related services at an alternate location, or the provision of online or virtual instruction in combination with instructional telephone calls and other curriculum-based instructional activities. This determination would be made consistent with health department and school medical professionals’ advice and is a made as a collaborative team decision.

I am not a classroom teacher. How can I play a part in alternate instruction? Whether you are a school nurse, counselor, social worker, a reading specialist, speech teacher or therapist, you and your program are a valuable part of the school team. You have the expertise and resources to support student intellectual, social, emotional, and physical well-being during this extended school closing. Your voice and your ideas matter.

My principal wants to hold regular staff meetings using Zoom. Do I have to attend? If your employer continues to pay you, it is reasonable to expect your attendance during the regular work day. School districts should provide the necessary hardware and software tools required to meet virtually. Staff meetings can be an opportunity to share successes and struggles you may be having in this new learning environment as well as ask for additional resources.

Am I still a mandatory reporter during a school closing? Yes. Wisconsin law requires school employees who have reasonable cause to suspect a child seen by the employee in the course of their professional duties has been abused or neglected, threatened with abuse or neglect or that such abuse will occur, must make a report to county CPS or law enforcement.

I’m worried about a lack of social interactions while my students are home. Perhaps even more than curriculum content, our students need reassurance and human connection with their teachers and school support professionals. A significant part of the school experience is social. It’s understandable that teachers and school support specialists are concerned about the dramatic decrease in student interactions with peers and caring adults. To further complicate matters, it is easy for students to hide in online learning experiences. We recommend you encourage students to securely video chat with friends, grandparents, and relatives. Educators can suggest students take a moment to send someone a message of kind words and support rather than just liking and moving on. Close communication with family members and friends is important. Board games, books and family movies can be the impetus for creating lifelong happy memories while helping children cope with the tension and anxiety during confinement.

What can I do to keep my own professional learning fresh? These are stressful times for us professionally and personally. Continued professional learning may not be at the top of your priority list. However, teachers are lifelong learners, and this may be the perfect time to investigate that professional knowledge or skill set you have been putting off. Whether it’s a good book, a series of professional videos, or an online course, WEAC encourages you to continually learn and grow as a professional. The WEA Academy has been providing members with quality professional learning opportunities for over 25 years. One of the newest methods of professional development are micro-credentials. These are short, topic based, self-paced professional learning experiences and are free for members.