Distance Learning with Common Sense: Surviving the Transition

Merve Lapus of Common Sense sits down with Jessica Lura, director of teaching and learning at Bullis Charter School in Los Altos, California, and Joe Viatle, eighth grade social studies and tech teacher for Woodbridge Public Schools in New Jersey, who share their challenges and makeshift solutions during Week 1 of their school closures.

As schools across the country continue to close due to the coronavirus, we’re all doing our best to navigate teaching and learning from home. But let’s be honest: It’s not easy! In this twice-weekly video series from Common Sense, we sit down for short discussions with educators from all over the country to learn how they’re coping with school closures, putting together distance-learning plans, and addressing some of the challenges that come with teaching remotely.

Recorded on 3/19/2020.

– Jessica Lura @msjlura
Bullis Charter School, director of teaching and learning, Los Altos, California

– Joe Vitale @mrvitaleIMS
Eighth grade social studies and tech teacher, Woodbridge Public Schools, New Jersey

– Merve Lapus (host) @molapus
Vice president of outreach and regional partnerships, Common Sense Education

1. Implement a schedule … and adjust as needed. Jessica immediately supported Bullis Charter School teachers in creating a schedule with lessons. Go for it, and adjust each week! See Jessica’s sample K–5 schedule: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17aki7cuz-OLf7pMazZ1W8l5Ti6PFqiMtEj90WUm8aAQ/edit.

2. Avoid being a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.” Focus on doing one or two things well, Joe recommends, rather than trying to be perfect at everything at once. This is new for many of us!
Focus on the one thing you want students to learn. Choose one thing you want kids to take away from your lesson. Doing too much can be confusing and overwhelming.

3. Be open to feedback from parents. Parents are seeing and hearing directly from their kids on how lessons are going and how long they’re taking. Listen and be open to changes. Be flexible and help empower parents to facilitate the student learning you’re trying to maintain.

4. Communicate often and regularly to maintain a school culture. We can no longer go to the room next door to ask a quick question face-to-face. Jessica is focusing on implementing communication solutions to address how teachers can work together, asking such questions as: Are we using email well? Should we be using a different tool? How do we support each other and connect? Establish platforms and spaces for regular communication. Set norms for ongoing learning and regular check-ins with students. See Joe’s staff check-in form: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfiSzNhIu-70brUPHYa6sVLnJLx3K1FH8-_FIFmBLeG5qef2Q/viewform.

Are you looking for resources to help during the school closures? We’ve got you. Common Sense has free tips and tools for educators and families to support the transition to at-home learning. Get remote teaching resources, family education materials, and research-backed strategies to ease stress and encourage learning:

Join the conversation in our Facebook group, Common Sense Educators: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommonSenseEducators/.

See more videos from the series: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8TjVyuBdsCm83SWlcCqv3yfnORe0g7_q

Common Sense Education supports K–12 schools with everything educators need to empower the next generation of digital citizens. Our innovative, award-winning Digital Citizenship Curriculum prepares students with lifelong habits and skills, supports teachers with training and recognition, and engages families and communities with helpful tips and tools. ​Schools everywhere rely on our free curriculum, expert advice, and edtech ratings to help kids thrive. Visit us at https://www.commonsense.org/education/.

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