Alyssa Ciarrocchi Explains How Teachers Can Stay Connected With Their Students Through Remote Learning
Remote learning presents many challenges for all parties involved. But one of the greatest challenges many teachers are facing is how to stay connected with their students despite the physical distance. As if there weren’t already enough kinks to be worked out with virtual learning, the connections that many teachers foster with their students is yet another. Successful teachers are often able to be successful not because of the content they teach, but because of their ability to connect with and understand the needs of each and every student in their class. While remote learning will certainly make this more difficult, it isn’t impossible. Many educators have spent this past summer trying to figure out different ways for these classroom connections to be maintained.
Alyssa Ciarrocchi is an educator based in Hammonton, NJ.
Currently, she works with Brett DiNovi and Associates as a registered behavior technician and works in homes and in schools with children who are on the autism spectrum. She provides a few tips on ways teachers can stay connected with their students during the pandemic.
It sounds simple but saying hello to students can make a big difference. Spend a bit of time at the beginning of each class to say a quick hello to your students. Alternatively, some teachers are even opting to call their students before class to say hi over the phone. This is a great personal touch that will certainly be appreciated during this trying time, especially by younger students. Some teachers have created a rotating schedule, where they call roughly five to six students each morning, getting through the class in about one week. This not only provides an opportunity for teachers to chat and check in with their students, but also for students to speak up about any problems they may be experiencing with the material or with virtual learning in general, shares Alyssa Ciarrocchi.
Encourage Connections Between Peers
Remote learning doesn’t just pose a challenge for students and teachers, it also creates an obstacle between students. That is why many teachers have figured out different ways to foster connections between students and their peers. For example, Alyssa Ciarrocchi loves the idea of assigning a partner
to each student in class. Each set of partners has to check in with each other virtually, whether it be via text, email, or phone call, and just ask how the other is doing. Then, they draft a short write up to the teacher, explaining how that student is doing or what they have been up to. This is a simple way to encourage everyone within the classroom, not just those who are already friends, to keep in regular contact with one another, more like they would be if they were learning in-person. Overall, Alyssa Ciarrocchi believes that encouraging students to connect with each other is just as crucial as the connection between a teacher and their students. The more socially connected a classroom is, the more successful it will be.
Don’t Avoid Group Exercises
Many teachers are under the misconception that remote learning equates to a teacher lecturing their students on a certain subject. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Online learning platforms have come a long way even just in the last few years. There are now plenty of ways to incorporate interactive, social exercises into lesson plans. Alyssa Ciarrocchi believes that students learn better in social settings and so taking away group activities just because they might be a bit more work to facilitate remotely is not the answer. Creating virtual tables or breakout rooms online are a great way to encourage virtual discussions between classmates. Zoom and Google Classroom are two platforms that offer these benefits. For example, Google Classroom allows teachers to set up discussion threads with four or five students so that they can discuss the assignment at hand, ask each other questions, and just generally stay connected. As teachers like Alyssa Ciarrocchi know, many students feel shy about speaking up in a whole class setting, which is why, even virtually, smaller group settings are a must.
Make Room for Emotions, Says Alyssa Ciarrocchi
This is a highly emotional time for many people. Not only are they isolated from friends and family, but their schedules have been changed, they are cooped up at home, and perhaps they even know someone who contracted the virus or is working on the frontlines. Therefore, teachers need to prepare a little differently for the upcoming school year, asserts Alyssa Ciarrocchi. Unlike your typical year, students are likely to be more emotional than ever. Make room for these emotions and perhaps even encourage students to share these emotions if they are comfortable. For example, it’s a great idea for English teachers to assign writing tasks where students can express their frustrations, fears, and concerns about this new reality. This might be one of the few opportunities they have to be open about how they’re feeling and how the pandemic has affected them. Ciarrocchi advises all teachers to give students the option to share their assignments with the class or not. No matter their decision, feeling free to express themselves is a great way to develop a teacher-student bond. It will also help the teacher gage how their students are doing, and which students might be in need of a little more help or attention.
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