Beginning Teacher Interstate Connections Lessons Learned during the Pandemic

Ever since the doors to school buildings closed last March, teachers across the state made sure that the learning never stopped, even as they adapted to virtual learning, hybrid instruction, in-person teaching and sometimes all three at once! Coaches were able to observe teachers in all of these settings, offer support where needed and stand in awe of what teachers and students accomplished.

In the midst of the challenges everyone faced, Social Emotional Learning became increasingly important. Teachers and NC NTSP coaches alike worked to gain more knowledge about how to best support students and their families. One particular coaching exchange revolved around a teacher’s desire to model and encourage goal setting in her class. Kathy Fields, a coach in the UNC-CH region, shared some resources that supported her goal, and this was the finished product after she put her own spin on it!

Thanks for the idea! It may not be a traditional vision board, but I think it will keep them excited to work towards a goal together. Bonus, it was fun and easy to make! They chose green pictures to represent getting a greenlight on Reflex. -Kate, 2nd grade teacher Virginia Cross Elementary, Chatham County

Other teachers shared how they used technology in their classrooms to both accommodate for and enhance hybrid learning.  Lily, a teacher at Jordan Matthews High School, found ways to build and celebrate a culture of reading for students in her high school World Literature classroom. Her coach, Jackie Aponte from the UNC-CH region, suggested some ideas from the text The Book Whisperer, by Donalyn Miller. Lily began to find creative ways to build her own classroom library in preparation for her students’ return, and also started thinking of ways to implement some of the ideas in a hybrid or virtual environment. Prior to the winter holiday, she created a virtual newsletter to send to students that included apps and websites to help them identify books that might be of interest to them. She also hosted virtual reading celebrations, where students shared recommendations for books they recently selected and read independently. More recently, she created an interactive map using Google slides that could be accessed through their Google classroom. Using the map, students could click on different continents, and receive recommendations and teasers for books that were set in that region of the world. By thinking creatively about existing ideas for cultivating a culture of reading, Lily created a learning environment that motivated students, encouraged choice, and celebrated reading, whether her students were learning from home or the classroom.

Teachers utilized numerous strategies to keep students engaged in digital learning.  Digital games with content have proven successful to make digital learning interactive.  Elizabeth from Island Montessori School in Wilmington said, “Games online aren’t actually that hard to do. They are the best way for me to get the kids to stay engaged in online learning.” Elizabeth also saw the benefits of smaller class sizes and is determined to “do whatever I need to create small groups settings within my classroom whenever possible.”

Day in and day out, coaches were able to witness teachers seamlessly weave Social Emotional Learning, Technology and other strategies  into their daily class interactions. Lisa, Island Montessori School in Wilmington, is correct when she points out that we are “more capable and more flexible than ever before”.  When looking ahead to the next school year, it will be imperative to consider how we can continue to implement these practices in our daily learning routines.  In case you missed it, NC NTSP compiled a video straight from the mouths of those doing the hard work day in and day out-YOU!

Contributors: Jackie Aponte – UNC, Lori Best – UNCW, Kathy Fields – UNC

NC NTSP Blog Team: Bradley Sasser- ECU, Sandy Corbett- ECU, Jackie Aponte -UNC, , Lori Best- UNCW/WCU/FSU, Kathy Fields- UNC, Adreian Pitts-UNCG/APP State, Jami Graham-UNCP,Maghan Kirschner, UNCC

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