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Nine Distance Learning Guidelines for Teachers

The transition to distance learning will not be simple or easy. Teachers will need to think differently about how to communicate, give instruction, and provide feedback, how to design lessons and assignments that are authentic and meaningful, and how to ensure students continue to collaborate and communicate with others. The eight guidelines provided below are intended to help teachers across all grade levels reflect on challenges they’ll confront in shifting to distance learning.


At St. Luke School, we know our students, and they know we care.

Our commitment is to nurture relationships and demonstrate deep care for our students and one another. In the event of a crisis that leads to implementation of this DPL, your students may be stressed or worried. Before diving into curriculum, take the time to assess your students’ mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. How are they doing? How are their families?


Evaluate your students’ conditions for distance learning.

While most students will have reliable online access at home and the necessary devices to shift to distance learning, others will not. Teachers should remember that each family’s circumstances will vary, and they should avoid assumptions about limitations or restrictions students are facing. Ask your students and/or their parents whether their online access is reliable and what devices the student has at their disposal. Determine which students will need to sign out a device. Open a dialogue with students and families and avoid assumptions that all students’ circumstances are the same. 


3 — Stick with the familiar.

Especially in the first weeks after moving to this DPL, teachers should continue using existing communication channels and learning management systems. In other words, stick with what’s familiar to your students. Teachers should remember that while many students will thrive with distance learning, others will struggle. In the event that the school remains closed for a longer period of time, it may become necessary to explore new or different learning platforms that provide different experiences.


4 — Less is more.

Should St. Luke School implement this DPL, one challenge confronting teachers will be how to best streamline content and elevate the most essential learning for students. In other words, teachers need to take a less-is-more perspective, including the pacing of lessons and volume of assignments and assessments. It can also be hard to know exactly how long school closure might last, which makes longer-term planning difficult.


5 — Seize the moment; embrace new opportunities and possibilities for your students.

Years or decades from now, how will your students remember the emergency that resulted in school closure? While distance learning should attempt to bring some normalcy and routine to students’ lives, teachers shouldn’t ignore the opportunities resulting from school closure either. Teachers might require students to keep a daily journal or diary for the duration of the crisis. Personal journaling and/or other creative writing assignments can help students process their thoughts, worries, and emotions, particularly in times of crisis. Students might use other media as well, including video, drawing, painting, and music. Moreover, the crisis might also provide other real-life opportunities to study scientific phenomena associated with the crisis, and media/government responses.


6 — Design asynchronous learning experiences.

When school is closed and students are learning from various locations, teachers can still connect them asynchronously (not all students at the same time). For example, MYP teachers can use familiar discussion forums/thread or tools to allow for student responses and dialogue during a set time period, knowing that students might not all be online at the same exact time.


7 — Design synchronous learning experiences.

When it comes to student engagement and learning, relationships matter as much online as they do in person. If St. Luke School’s campus were to be closed, students will be able to gather for synchronous learning times via Zoom, an online video conferencing platform, Google Hangouts, or other online platforms. Collaboration remains important and there are many ways teachers can foster it through synchronous (all students at the same time) learning. This is a good time for discussion, class meetings, sharing, show and tell, and more.


8 — Think differently about assessment.

Assessment is one of the most challenging adjustments for teachers new to online learning. Distance learning should be seen as an opportunity for students, individually or collaboratively, to complete writing assignments, design infographics, make video presentations, or complete oral assessments via video chat. Teachers are encouraged to think differently about the frequency and end goal of assessment instead of forcing a traditional assessment method that doesn’t fit distance learning.

Thinking differently about assessment will positively influence the experience for students, leverage the strengths of distance learning, and prevent frustration on the teacher’s part when traditional methods do not work.


9 — Meet the unique communication needs of distance learning.

As teachers, students, and families adjust to the challenges and opportunities that distance learning presents, it will be critical to make school-home communication a top priority. We are partners in the education of our students, and a distance learning situation will emphasize this reality. The school administration will continue connecting with families via regular communication modalities (Thursday Packet, website, etc.) and will work with teachers to establish protocols and guidelines for communication-related to instruction and student learning. Conferences on the school calendar will proceed, using remote platforms, to the extent possible. Teachers will utilize Progress Report and Report Card comments, and other opportunities (“Office Hours,” Google Classroom check-ins, phone or Zoom calls, etc.) to communicate about individual student progress during distance learning, with the awareness that learning is happening in different ways and may require additional explanation and check-ins with individual students.  All one to one video conferencing will need both parents' permission and will be recorded.  All families in agreement with one to one video conferencing will sign the required Digital Authorization Form.


The guidelines above are modeled directly on the DLP of the American International School of Japan, ‘Iolani School, and Holy Family Bilingual School with our gratitude.

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