One of the foundational elements of effective teaching is personal interactions with students. As John Maxwell advised, “Children don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” In a thoughtful discussion of making distance learning less remote, Johnson & Eckert provide five excellent suggestions. I would like to include one more aspect of taking the “remote” out of distance learning.
In a classroom situation, caring takes the form of non-contingent interactions. This means that the students need not perform a particular task or activity to receive attention from the teacher. These interactions can occur before or after class, in hallways, at lunch, at recess, etc. Some examples: What’s your favorite pastime? What was the best thing you did over the weekend? What’s your least favorite food? How did your team do yesterday? What do you enjoy doing with your family? Of course, these interactions will vary depending on the age range of the students. Demonstrating unconditional positive regard for each student is the hallmark of a caring teacher.
So, one of the main challenges (if not the biggest challenge) of conducting virtual lessons is their impersonal nature. If a teacher is in a virtual lesson with multiple students, how does she provide the all-important caring aspect? While the teacher can see and hear each student, their interactions are contingent upon the lesson. The teacher can design lessons that involve students’ written responses about their hobbies, favorite pastimes, friends, or other interests. But establishing a true caring atmosphere is very difficult in a fully virtual class. It will involve extra work and time on the part of the teacher. Perhaps one method is for the teacher to arrange individual contact with each student outside of instructional time. The teacher can make periodic appointments with the student and family for a brief, 5 minute personal phone or video call to the home.
If anyone has suggestions for activities to bolster the caring in the classroom, please respond to this blog or Laura@HandleEducation.com.