How teachers are navigating the transition back to the classroom

For tutors

Remind Tutoring hosted an amazing webinar, featuring 4 educators who shared their experience and advice on how to best navigate the transition back into the classroom. We got a glimpse into the various challenges teachers have faced in this transition back into the classroom. We also heard some great tips and resources each teachers has been utilizing to re-engage their students and accelerate their learning. A huge thanks to the panelist who took the time to share their experiences with us.

Watch the webinar or read on to see some of the highlights!

Our 4 panelists and host include:

  • DeAniss Dean, Certified High School Math Teacher & Remind Tutor 
  • Stephanie Brown, Certified Math Teacher & Remind Tutor Interviewer
  • Ashley Fulp, Certified Elementary Math Teacher
  • Johnelle Dufour, Virtual Math Teacher & Remind Tutor Interviewer
  • Megan Parsill, Former Teacher & Customer Success Manager at Remind

What’s exciting about being back in the classroom?

  • Ashley: Hands-on experience! It’s so important to have and create those connections with children. Although teaching behind a computer is a great alternative, I am a firm believe that children can learn better when face to face. It allows us to build upon those relationships throughout the school year.
  • DeAniss: Relationship building! I enjoy being able to see my students face to face, and being able to connect with them in person. I feel like I am at my best when I am there with my students. I can reach out to my students more efficiently, and can automatically give feedback on the work they are doing.

What challenges are children facing today that might have been different from pre-COVID?

  • Johnelle: Virtual education poses a whole new ballgame of challenges. The lack of desire to want to engage in a lesson. Students have that ability to hide and turn off the camera; they essentially have a wall they can easily build up. This can come from different reasons such as fear of being judged for saying the wrong answer. The virtual environment also makes it harder to socialize. Another challenge is note-taking. In the virtual world, you can’t just pass out a worksheet for students to fill out. You have to teach and show your students to organize and take notes. A student who falls behind in a virtual environment has a lot harder time to catch up than being in person. They may feel very overwhelmed, and not know where to start. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to reach out to the student and provide a back in track plan to give them the direction on where to start. 
  • Stephanie: I taught at a lower SES type of school. Some of my students were having issues accessing the internet or a computer. It posed a challenge for them to need to log in everyday. Some of my students also had trouble learning how to navigate in Google Classroom or other educational apps. 

Are schools and districts navigating other hurdles that are different from those of the students?

  • DeAniss: The biggest challenge is the students transitioning back into a building. For example, a 9th grader’s last time in a school was in 7th grade. As you may know, middle school is a very transitional time. As a teacher, we are having to reteach the concept of school and reformulate what that looks like (from a maturity standpoint). Responsibility is huge. If a student falls behind, we need to push through in in-person learning. Students need to change their mindset of effort and responsibility. More support would be needed from both the parents and student side to make sure that student is on track. 
  • Ashley: Similarly, when you think of a 1st or 2nd grader, they’ve always been in virtual learning. They’ve never had the Kindergarten year of walking in a line or socializing with their peers. In a way, it’s almost like starting over. On a different level, our districts have also seen a major shortage of staffing. It’s been harder to get a substitute teacher. Restrictions are much tighter, which means families can’t be physically involved like they were pre-COVID. 

How are you balancing teaching of curriculum while addressing lack of prior knowledge? For example, It’s hard to teach algebra to students who missed a plethora of foundational knowledge. What are some recommendations for addressing both gaps and the curriculum at the same time?

  • DeAniss: Opener! I try to go back to get those fundamental skills, at least two or three times a week. It’s challenging to try to work it in all the time, especially with a state assessment at the end of the year. In the end, I know that my students will need to learn the basis of a concept before I teach them the next level. Although it’ll impact my time and make things longer, I know this will ease frustrations across all parties. We don’t want our students to feel defeated. We’ve had learning gaps before but it’s more evident now from remote learning and teaching. This will take awhile, but we need to remove to take small steps. If I can get students to understand positive and negative numbers by the end of the year, I deem that as a success!
  • Ashley: As an exceptional children’s teacher (EC), I can see both sides. My suggestion is going back to the baseline. Find out where the missing gap is and vertical align it. This can be during small groups or independent practice. Vertical alignment is key to bridging those gaps.

Do you have tools or resources that you suggest to help with instruction? 

  • DeAniss: Anything that is gamify works really well for my students. It draws their attention and allows them to focus. Desmo and Lookit has been a great tool to use for crafting and calculation. Lookit game is another great tool. I love both of them because they give you data. Kahoot is another great resource. I would also suggest Youtube. It’s been a great tool to use just to go over some of that pre-skills. If some if you already have your own Youtube channel, i’d suggest you make little videos to show. Short videos work best (bc of focus). Delta Math is another tool to use for those pre-skills as well. Change it up from me lecturing 
  • Johnelle: Canva - it’s a website where you can create customized announcements or formula sheets for students (eye-popping; and catch their attention vs word doc). I use that to post really important announcements. Khan Academy has everything line up to state standards based on what state you’re in. Delta Math is also a beautiful website; assigning practice and you can create custom classrooms and get practice to individual students; Flipped learning, I like to use Ed puzzle. I can create a recording and have built in questions  as they are watching video (act as a grading tool!); I also like to pass the role as the teacher to a classroom. I also like Gizmos. Phet simulations is another great way to simulations like unraveling the unit circle (like videos for students to interact with). I’ve created a google site, that has collected a  massive amount of resources here. 

Do you have other suggestions on how to create a more engaging classroom?

  • Stephanie: I always incorporate music. Music is universal; and you can always connect students to certain things like singing songs to the pythagorean theorem. I try to find something that would catch the student’s attention. Engagement is a piece that is difficult. I had to learn the music that they listen to and the things they did in TikTok. I try to incorporate a social media learning environment (that is what got their attention and interest). 

What are some ways to make teaching addition and subtraction strategies more exciting? 

  • Ashley: Youtube is a great resource for me. I really like Jack Hartman, who is an older gentleman that makes math, reading, and writing videos. He’s funny, silly and catches kids’ attention. I think anything you can put a rhyme or rhythm can help stick better! 

What are the best ways for communicating with worried parents? 

  • Stephanie: Newsletters! I create a newsletter, which includes information on what we’re learning in class and a FAQ section. I also include supplemental resources to support what I am doing in class. These are emailed out to the parents. I also have a board, where parents can come in and ask questions or voice their questions. I also use Remind. It’s such a great tool for parents to upload documents or have questions about specific things concerning their child. I also try to be ahead of the game, and answer any questions parents may have before they even ask them. 

How do you maintain work life balance and manage stress?

  • Ashley: Setting boundaries! Although I have email on my phone, I try to set boundaries so I am not answering them off hours. I also use lists, and prioritized them based on three colors: Red (High Urgency), Yellow (Medium Urgency), Green (Low Urgency). Prioritizing my list helps me tackle the most critical things first. Self-care is very important. If you don’t take care of yourself, you’re going to have those breakdowns. It’s important to find out what works for you, and make yourself a priority. 
  • Stephanie: Priority is very important. I learned that I don’t take my work home with me. I learned very early on that was the reason I was getting burned out. If it doesn’t get done that day, it’ll get done tomorrow. I’ve also learned to meditate and do breathing exercises. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment of stress. When I get home, I do the same thing: meditate and take a bubble bath. That’s helped me tremendously to control the feeling of being overwhelmed. 

We are in the process of gathering and compiling some great resources from our panelist. Once we have it ready, we are ready to share it with you all. Stay tuned for a future post.

What has been your experience like transitioning back into the classroom? Does any of this resonate with you? Any other tools or tips you have?