After I wrote a post on the dilemmas of hybrid teaching a few days ago, I heard from two teachers for whom I have the highest respect. In my judgment, their comments are worthwhile for readers of this blog.
Steve Davis teaches in the San Francisco Bay area. I met Steve 15 years ago when I observed his lessons for a study I was doing at the time. We have remained in touch all of these years through email and his comments on posts to this blog. He gave me permission to use his comment.
I have been teaching remotely for 100 days.
When we go back to the classroom it will likely be in the hybrid model (with responsibility for teaching both in-person and remote simultaneously). We already know which students have opted to continue to learn remotely and which students will return for in-person instruction.
The majority of students will still be remote.
You can’t just teach to the 5-10 students in front of you. It’s unrealistic to expect remote students to just follow along with the broadcast of in-person instruction. You need to closely monitor the remote students and frequently check for understanding, which mostly happens through text (many/most remote students are loath to have their cameras on or speak). That leads me to believe that the best practice may be to continue teaching the whole class (in person and remote) through video conferencing and other digital platforms. I will be in the room, and some students will be in the room, but we will still interact in the digital world. I can’t see myself moving about the (windowless) room to talk to students in close proximity, and I can’t talk to them across the room, so better to talk to them through the screen. Better to do one thing well than two things poorly.
David Brazer is a former teacher, high school principal, university professor and author (Leading Schools to Grow, Learn, and Thrive: Using Theory to Strengthen Practice). He now works with TeachFX helping teachers across the country analyze classroom talk during lessons. I have known David as a graduate student, his dissertation adviser, and a friend for over 20 years. He gave me permission to use his comment.
Larry, what is most familiar in this blog post is seesawing (I would actually call it whipsawing) change. That alone likely depresses learning because of the uncertainty it generates. Additionally, what I hear from schools all across the country is that large numbers of students either don’t log on to videoconferences at all or never turn on their microphones and screens. It is my belief that a large proportion of such students were disengaged when school was face to face, but I’m sure virtual and hybrid have allowed additional students on the margins in “normal” school to check out. Teachers often put it to me, “How do we get students to turn on their microphones and cameras and actually participate?” The short answer is, I don’t know. The longer answer is that same for “normal” school”: do what you can to establish a personal relationship with each student. My hope (and it is hope, not proof) is that the fundamental principle that students perform best for teachers who invest in them will kick in. It’s not easy to do, but I heard from a teacher yesterday who has kept a laser focus on involving kids orally online since October that the effort is starting to pay off. Talk about patience and persistence!