In our new series, Distance Learning Diaries, we are asking educators, school leaders and edtech experts to write about a “week-in-the-life” of their distance learning routines. These authors will generously share daily reflections on their challenges and successes with remote teaching, plus a few fun at-home anecdotes. Our first “Distance Learning Diary” is from Future Ready Librarian and Innovation Director of Instructional Technology and Library Media Shannon McClintock Miller.
How are you adjusting to distance learning?
When things first started closing across the country, my first priority was making sure our family was safe and prepared for what was coming over the next several weeks. It was a little stressful at first, but once we felt more prepared, that helped me focus on how education was going to look for my sons Hagan, who is 14 and a freshman at Van Meter, and Brady and Jaden, who are both in college, and then of course on my school community and all of the students and families we serve.
I have adjusted to distance learning, or as we call it at my school and in our state, “continuous learning,” very well. I find this time, even though challenging for a lot of reasons, as an opportunity to make education better and to open our minds to ideas, teaching practices and even more opportunities when we are through this. As a teacher librarian, I have found so many ways to help lead the continuous learning within our district and I really love being part of this work. I feel like all of my skills are definitely being used and tested each and every day.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
I think the biggest challenge so far has been time. There is never enough time to get everything done in one day. But I do feel like we were ready in a lot of ways, so I have spent a lot of this time making things the best they can be for our students, families and teachers. And to share with others as best practice, too.
What best practices have you uncovered so far?
Every time I have a big “ah-ha” or something that succeeds or fails, I take note because I want to be able to revisit these thoughts and ideas in the future. A few things that have really helped us at Van Meter:
Communication is key.
Be creative and flexible.
Don’t wait and ask what you can do. Just start doing.
Don’t feel like you have to add a lot of new things.
Build on the resources, ideas and projects you already have in place, but think about how to make them work in a virtual learning environment.
Be very organized and consistent across grade levels within the school.
Stay connected to each other through video meet-ups, emails, phone calls, texts, etc.
Be consistent in the things that students already loved about their routine at school.
And the best practice or advice I have right now: Take some time for yourself every day.
Here’s a snapshot of what I how I spent my week:
I have learned so much over the last four weeks, but here are three things that made a difference for me this week.
As a teacher librarian, I miss being able to put books into the hands of our students and teachers. However, when my friend Tracy needed some books for her weekly STEAM Challenges, I told her I would get some together and leave them on my front step. We have both been self-isolating at home, so we felt comfortable doing this. She was so excited to get this stack of books to use that it made my heart extra happy to share them with her. With lots of books at home, this is one way I can help my community of teachers and friends. Be creative. How can you make things happen for others in unique and different ways?
At a time like this, things change multiple times each day and we have to be flexible and open-minded about these changes. This is not just with our jobs, but with our family, community and country, too. We will get through this together and have to be patient, kind and loving along the way.
I have learned so much from everyone sharing online. It has been wonderful seeing what everyone is doing within their communities to make continuous learning work. In the Future Ready Librarian Facebook Group, everyone is very gracious in sharing lots of resources they are creating. I love this, and really appreciate the generosity and love we are spreading.
We will get through this together, friends. Together, we will create a new model for education which will include the voice of students and families even more than ever before. I encourage everyone to continue to connect with students and colleagues throughout the week and listen to how they are feeling, what they are learning about this time, and how we can make it better. I am learning something new every single day and am putting these things into practice as we go.
And give yourself lots of grace. You’re all doing amazing work.
I already know that I am going to be a stronger educator, librarian and parent because of this experience with continuous learning in our school district and as a mom of students at home.
Please stay healthy and safe. Reach out if I can help in any way.