Teachers – Don’t Over Think It!

I haven’t slept tonight. I keep just writing post after post. I’m feeling driven by the Holy Spirit because I keep thinking of my dear friends and colleagues who are OVERWHELMED right now.¬† I have LITERALLY been doing this – teaching while the world has been burning down around me for the past 17 years. ūüėÜ Anyone who knows me will tell you that the Waldrons just keep moving from crisis to crisis. In fact, I¬† JUST finished a Nov – Feb ordeal in which I was teaching my 6 classes at BYU-I as a visiting professor (each class meets 2 times a week with a total of approx. 300 students) and a daily Seminary class at Madison High School (add 5 more weekly classes, 23 students) to try to get hired on SOMEWHERE as a teacher when my BYU-I contract ends this July. Yes, that’s 11 preps for 17 classes weekly – all while, I am the mother of three and my poor husband (who already has other medical conditions) had a shoulder surgery (12/23/19) and then a bout with internal bleeding¬† at the end of January that left him zero energy for quite a few weeks.¬†

I GET how difficult this is for you, for all of us around the country and the world. My daughters’ schools are closing the same day that I am supposed to go live teaching my collage classes again – and we’re all going to be one big happy family in a two bedroom apartment as I try to teach students who are also in chaos (more on how to do that coming soon). Fortunately, I only have my BYU-I classes right now and my husband is doing much better – so this for me is like a vacation. ūüėČ

My point is, these posts are here to help you. For whatever reason, I feel compelled to share, but I can’t get these posts into the hands of the overwhelmed teachers without your help.

So, breathe, and let’s start over –

Remember when you were a first time teacher and you did it one class at a time?

You only need to get one class up at a time.

Don’t overthink the whole few weeks at once, don’t stress.

Simple lessons and assignments.

(I have already written posts with more examples that are coming)

Here’s a quick example of something easy that you can do – (I sent this to my cousin who is an art instructor)

  1. Watch this video (use a youtube video from someone who is showing you how to use a certain technique, make sure to give that person praise, gratitude, and credit)  If you are worried about copyright and how it will effect you, here is some information Public Statement: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research
  2. If you can’t find a video on youtube or pictures on the web – grab your simple camera phone – 1-2 minutes video demonstrating the technique or procedure, or a succession of pictures (think old slide shows). Throw them up on a platform that you understand (Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc.) and send it in a link to your students in an email with a short lesson.
  3. Have your students try the technique and
  4. Answer these questions:
    • What did you learn as you used this technique?
    • What do you need to do to improve as you move forward?
    • How can you use this technique in the future?
    • What else would you like to learn about?

Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In this post –¬†Help! I have to change my face-to-face classes to online in just a few days I have a link to the first announcement that I gave my classes. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In this post –¬†Okay, Virtual Reboot, Now What?¬† I give tips and examples of instructions for the students to know what to do on the day that they come back. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In this post –¬†Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons I’m sharing some hard-learned advice and tips on video conferences. They are great, but I don’t anticipate that they are going to be what the classroom experience is. So I am trying to put up other options as fast as I can. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.

In our short meeting tomorrow (see the instructions on the post above) I will likely spend the time doing the following (that is if the tech doesn’t crash)

  • Practicing the different features of the room – going in and out of breakout rooms.
  • I have some questions based on their prep for them to discuss. Oldest in the group leads the discussion, youngest takes notes, all are expected to participate) – we may or may not get to that, depending on the tech. Yes, I do think it’s going to be a problem, but that’s just based on my past experience. ūüėČ
  • I have other plans for if the tech breaks down which you can read about in this post on – Tools for Teachers Who are Mired in the Middle of Converting F2F classes into Online Classes which is scheduled to be published in one minute and has a great suggestion for a discussion board that I can use in case it all breaks down. Take any/all of that – adapt it to your needs. Copy, paste, edit. I give you permission.¬†
  • I will give announcements like – I will be talking about asynchronous work¬† (I’m changing all of my due dates to the end of the week) and working on lessons that they can do anytime during the week. Because this is a hectic time for everyone!

YOU’VE GOT THIS!!!!

See, here’s an ugly picture of a whiteboard with instruction on it for a lesson that I did.¬† ūüėČ Take simple pictures, take pictures of you handwriting something, of you demonstrating a vocal technique, or a dance move. It won’t be brilliant, but it DOSEN”T have to be perfect right now. I agree with this article from Rebecca Barrett-Fox, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Arkansas State University, Please Do a Bad Job of Putting Your Courses Online who reminds us to not take the prep and tech too high-end right now, because we are all in a crisis situation. Agreed! Use what you know. Be simple. If you have time, try out a new tech. If you need to do a quick discussion board for the first day, there is that idea again.

47506077-B7D8-4C02-B9D0-011DB74FA719 Again – YOU GOT this!!

Tools for Teachers Who are Mired in the Middle of Converting F2F classes into Online Classes


To continue my helps for teachers while dealing with this situation (COVID-19 and having to race to turn F2F classes into online courses) I am sharing some examples of tools to have in your “back pocket” as you begin to covert your face-to-face lessons into on-line lessons.

At my school (BYU-I) many are suggesting using online meeting rooms for the virtual classroom experience. Many of the teachers are working with screen capturing materials to create video lessons (more on that later) so that the students can watch them asynchronously. Both are great tools, and like anything, present their own unique challenges (such as the learning curve with tech, engaging the students, etc.). In this (and a few following posts) I will present some ideas to have as other tools in your “back-pocket” so that you can have time to learn the tech and deal with the myriad challenges that we will be facing shortly – think fielding phone class, emails, virtual one-on-one meetings for your office hours, juggling family, [as we will all be quarantined together in a small space – more thoughts on that later!].

Back-up Plans if “Zoom” or other tech wonders falter

I am concerned that with so many of us (think all colleges closed during this pandemic as well as businesses working remotely … worldwide) using technology (especially the more popular ones like the virtual meeting space Zoom¬† – don’t get me wrong, it is an AMAZING tool!) that some of these tools may falter. When I did conferencing in a hybrid set-up for an English course at SLCC (shout-out to Lisa Bickmore, Benjamin Solomon, Kati Lewis, and the rest of the team) we had many quirky tech situations and I learned to have a few things ready as back-up plans.

  • Make sure the students know where to go for further instructions if the tech fails (I’ve told my students to check the announcements. I have one pre-written (but not published) for each class linked to another option – like a discussion board. If I need it, all I need to do is hit “publish”.
  • Other conferencing tools (think of it as driving a different route when the freeway is at a stand-still) such as Google Hang-outs, and many, many others. Here is a list from Capterra (a software review company) of video conferencing software that is available. I’ve used Cisco, Big Blue Button, and Zoom in my teaching. Don’t overthink it and get overwhelmed. Start with what you know, what your school recommends, or those which your school has purchased a license.
  • Simple Discussion Boards (see below for an example)
  • Simple at home lessons (post on this topic coming tomorrow)

Virtues of asynchronous learning for this situation

Consider the power of asynchronous learning(where the students have the opportunity to study a common resource when they want to/can rather than at a set time) in addition to the virtual meeting spaces. If you choose this option, consider changing all due dates to a certain time at the end of the week. Then remind the students (in an announcement, or however you communicate with them) that they have all week to complete the work but that there is a common due time (see my late work policy below). Encourage them to work on assignments and turn in work early.

Taking time to learn new technologies and the learning curves

I suggest creating a few at home assignments, some group work, and some simple discussion boards so that you can take time to learn new tech. I also recommend, longer at home lessons instead of meeting in a conference each day (post with an example on this topic coming Friday, I believe). This will give the students a rich learning experience while affording you the needed time for all that is ahead.

Each one has its own learning curve, but you can learn them all with a little bit of practice. When I first started delving into tech, I felt like I was learning to write with my toes – everything was so foreign! But my job as a Technical Writing Professor (shout out to my awesome colleagues for encouragement and support – Brian Whaley UVU and Elisa Stone SLCC) demanded that I become proficient in web-design and many other proficiencies. Soon, each new tech felt like writing with my left hand, a challenge, but nowhere near as bad as when I first began.

So, I would recommend choosing one or two (or maybe even 3-4) new tech skills to master during this unique experience. It will change and bless your teaching in the future.

Simple Discussion Boards

Here is an example of a very simple board that you can get ready. Typically, I would have it “dolled” up with the course image, a title, and then have it linked to the lesson or reading that was to be prepared that day. This was for an REL 275 Teachings and Doctrines of the Book of Mormon course and was very successful, I think because of the pose a question and answer a question. There was a lot of rich created content from the students.


Please post the following and then reply to 3 (or more) students:

  1. A quote from the reading that you thought was really profound or answers a question that you had.
  2. A principle from the reading (that you can use to guide your life).
  3. A gospel question (can be about the reading or anything that you would like).
Go through and respond to 3 or more students, answering questions with a source (a source is a scripture, words of the living prophets, etc. ), discussing, adding insights, etc. (if one post has a lot of respondents, please move down and make sure another post has comments).
20 points for your high quality post
10 points per high quality response Рto be a high quality response, it must have a source (see above) in addition to your thoughts (up to three, but you can earn a little extra credit for more than 3).
Thank you so much!!

A total aside as I share some thoughts on extra credit –

Some teachers absolutely HATE it – which is totally fine. I use it sparingly, I find it a funny little “motivational tool”.¬† I tend to not give a lot, maybe through the semester enough to make up a minor assignment, but certainly not enough to make up a major assignment.
On this discussion board, I ended up giving 5 points as extra credit for any worthwhile comments for a student who did more than 3. It wasn’t a lot of points, but I think some who were in desperate circumstances did gladly accept the opportunity.
I use our LMS canvas to automatically take off late points for any overdue assignments and I will not change that.
Here is a section from my syllabus (when my students ask to turn in something late, I just direct them to this) –¬† taken (with some tweaks to fit my style) from a dear colleague at BYU-I (shout out to Bill Riggins) with great gratitude.

Late Work:

God is both just and merciful and so I try to emulate him. If you miss a deadline, you can still submit your work; that is merciful! However, mercy cannot rob justice, thus you will be docked 10% per day that it is late. Please don’t ask me to waive the late points. I will not do this for any reason.¬† I give ample time for you to know what the assignments are and to do them, early, if need be. If something happened and you have to turn an assignment in late, do it, take the penalty and move on. ¬†If you are really behind, work on what is current, and then see if you can go back and finish any old assignments. Stay as current as you can!


 

Thank you!

I wish you all the best in this work – feel free to comment about what you are doing (your ideas, questions, epiphanies), subscribe to get posts to your in-box, and to share with other teachers who need it right now.

Other posts in this series –

Help! I have to change my face-to-face classes to online in just a few days

Okay, Virtual Reboot, Now What? 

Tips for Virtual Conference Lessons