This past week, I was privileged to meet with over 50 educators virtually, in SPARK University 1.0. They came one at a time, signed into zoom, hesitantly, not knowing what to expect.
One by one, I greeted them at the virtual threshold of my classroom. Some had trouble finding the mute button or the video button, but once we were all present, we began.

“This week is about YOU and YOU KNOW HOW TO TEACH!”

Words of encouragement, confidence and belief in people who have taught maybe up to 30 years, and yet ALL were feeling like a first year teacher.
I said those words because, I truly believe that we know ‘how to drive the car’, but the road we’re all about to get on is VERY different! The road map has a few detours, and alternate routes, the car has some new technology, and the road maybe rocky and steep, but we are SURE of the final destination! You know how to teach!

At SPARK U, we use Harry Wong’s 3 characteristics of an effective teacher as our road map. He says that a good teacher:

  1. Sets high expectations for students.
  2. Is an extremely good classroom manager.
  3.  Knows how to design lessons for mastery.

    As we head down the highway of remote learning, learning from home, virtual learning, etc., this road map is more important than ever.

    Think about it. Teachers still have to create and maintain high expectations for learning to occur. Yes, you have to be visually present at all sessions. But, what does being present look like and sound like? Now more than ever you have to introduce, model, practice and reinforce new routines and procedures for your virtual classroom.

    Teachers have to be excellent classroom managers. This may mean you have to organize materials in a different way, become efficient at various tech platforms, and use time as a way of holding students accountable for the learning. You may also want to schedule small group zoom breakout meetings, organize break out sessions for re-teaching , extensions or more guided practice, using your paraprofessional or parent volunteer. Also consider other aspects of a healthy classroom such as engagement, brain friendly factors such as movement, vividness and novelty.

You know how to do this!

Finally, lesson design is essential during our journey. If you are inclined to follow a textbook chapter after chapter, or assign worksheet after worksheet, you’re going to struggle!! Learning has to have clear purpose and meaning and clear criteria for success! Otherwise, students will lose motivation and retention, and learning will not occur. As we introduced at SPARK, think of the three parts to an effective lesson, strong beginning, flexible middle nd a comprehensive ending. That way, you will be able to build a lesson around a solid framework, and then apply all of the various resources that schools and districts are offering.

Last week, all 50+ SPARK U teachers wrestled with the new road that they WILL have to travel on for awhile. But I am confident that they are better prepared, confident and passionate about teaching and learning even on this rocky road.


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