As many schools close and turn to online learning due to COVID-19, multi-classroom leaders (MCLs) can help smooth and lead the way for their teaching teams and students. Students need their teachers’ steadying hand even more when the world feels chaotic and parents face extra stress.
MCLs can continue their job of guiding and supporting teaching teams to ensure that all students continue learning—and provide the social-emotional support students need.
Here’s a start for thinking about how to help your team continue instructional excellence when students and teachers are at home. MCLs, use these tips with your teams. Team teachers and reach associates, make sure your MCL sees these. Principals, share with all of your teachers.
For more on the structure of school, roles, and schedules when all or some teachers and students must work from home, see these models:
- Multi-Classroom Leadership with Students & Teachers in Multiple Locations
- Multi-Classroom Leadership When All Students & Teachers Are at Home
Tips for Creating High-Standards, High-Connection Online Learning
Keep Your Teaching Team Strong and Connected
MCLs and their teams must continue to plan and prepare to deliver lessons together, monitor student data together, improve instruction, and—importantly—support one another personally. Teams should continue their regular meetings using videoconferencing at least weekly, ideally more often.
Scheduling is critical here: Keeping daily schedules the same, or condensed in the same order, is not only clearer for students, it also protects MCL team planning time and coaching time with individual teachers—essential for team success.
- If the team is unable to keep students and team/individual meetings on the same schedule at home as in school, the MCL should make a weekly and daily schedule for this collaboration.
- Make sure each person on the team knows what to do while working remotely. MCLs should expect confusion to arise. Prepare yourself to calmly re-clarify each person’s role, schedule, and how the team is working together.
- MCLs should continue observation and feedback, co-teaching, and modeling by joining team teachers’ video instruction, and continue leading small groups of students and your teaching team through video conferencing, as happened in person.
- Maintain the routine of checking in personally with each teacher each week. Team teachers should also check in with other team members to listen and provide mutual support.
In other words, keep calm and carry on—leading, teaching, and supporting your team and colleagues.
Plan the School Day
Again, scheduling is critical to maintain the strong teams that are the hallmark of Opportunity Culture design and Multi-Classroom Leadership.
No matter what method below you use, keep in touch with parents and guardians, ensuring that they know the day’s schedule and assignment due dates.
One 6th-Grader’s Tip to Teachers: “Send your students a silly selfie every morning to make us laugh and get excited about learning, seeing friends and you on screen in “class” that day!”
Consider keeping students on the same schedule, or a condensed version of it, at home that you use at school. Students need this continuity, certainty, and live interactions to stay motivated, focused, and emotionally stable.
As much as possible, use web-based video capabilities to maintain the schedule and active student and teacher engagement. Rotate through teacher-led small, face-to-face groups through videoconferencing; minimize less-engaging large-group or all-independent work.
- If using the same schedule, make assignments due at the same time you would at school—at the end of the period—to keep students from getting overwhelmed later in the day. Use “class” time to connect with the whole class briefly and start students on the day’s lesson and assignment(s). Unless your material requires a longer lecture on a given day, rotate smaller groups through on-screen, active, face-to-face engagement with you and each other, using standard phone or computer webcams, for a portion of each period.
Example of a class period: 10-minute topic kickoff; 15 minutes with one small group online, then 15 minutes with another, for discussion; 20 minutes for both groups working on an assignment with the teacher available for questions by messaging. This keeps most learning happening together, face to face, most days. Other days could include more group project work, with teachers available for questions and conducting group check-ins.
- If using a consolidated schedule, follow the same order of subjects (elementary) and courses (secondary) in shorter periods of direct engagement by webcam to promote continuity and certainty for students and teachers. Again, focus on rotation through small groups face-to-face with a teacher, minimizing large-group or all-independent work for students. Make assignments due later in the day (such as 7 p.m. for elementary, 8 p.m. for middle school, and 9 p.m. for high school students).
Plan ahead to accommodate students with little technology and higher needs. Students lacking online access, hefty data plans, and/or smartphones will need accommodations—from being able to call in and just listen to a class instead of video hookup, to packets of material delivered to each family and a scheduled phone call with a teacher daily to walk through mini-lessons. MCLs should lead the team in planning the student contact schedule for each student and to determine what materials need to be delivered. MCLs may want to consolidate these students and assign one teacher on the team to learn quickly how to help all such students stay on track remotely—with minimal technology but human contact by phone and using materials that both student and teacher have. MCLs must lead the team in working with school social workers and special needs teachers to meet the needs of students with IEPs and 504s, English language learners, and others with the least resources and the highest needs.
Keep Elements of Instructional Excellence Strong
Plan with your team; use the Instructional Excellence Summary as a foundation, and brainstorm how you will follow each element when using online learning. Here’s a start! Click on each bold header for key actions, video clips, study guides, and more.
- Plan ahead: MCLs should continue to plan very engaging lessons and materials aligned with the curriculum and state standards. Lesson plans should include frequent checks for understanding. Plan with your team in the way you usually do but using online platforms.
- Connect with students and families. This is one of the easiest elements of excellence to lose when teaching remotely—and one of the most important when families are under stress. Make sure that teachers communicate each week’s and each day’s schedule the night before, ideally by 6 p.m., for families to plan ahead. Share assignments with adults, not just students; follow up quickly with a parent or other adult in charge when a student does not “show up” for online class or is late with assignments. Consider a video call with the family if a student is struggling persistently. Ask how you can help rather than making demands at first. Be patient, respectful, and kind in all written and spoken interactions.
- Lead the classroom: Think ahead with your team about how to keep students engaged during videoconference classes and small-group time. Use the same firm-yet-warm presence that works in person; practice your on-camera presence, eye contact, voice, and expressions to hold students’ attention and respect, positively. With students, state your behavior expectations clearly, affirm positive behaviors fast, and use your hierarchy of consequences. Remember that students may be under extra stresses at home; follow up one-on-one with students when you have a special concern, and take special care not to embarrass students in video group sessions. Also, check your video setup—ensure that you are looking straight ahead or slightly up at the camera, so students feel you making eye contact, and that you have adequately bright lighting in your room.
- Execute rigorous, personalized lessons: Lessons should meet the same high bar as always. Use a combination of work to help students move toward both mastery and stronger critical thinking: a limited amount of large-group instruction and a focus on small-group, project teams, and individual work. Videoconferencing with small groups is a critical tool; do not deliver your lessons only in large groups or by just posting assignments—the most fragile students need face-to-face contact in small groups and one on one, with teachers and peers, now more than ever.
- Monitor student learning data: Continue the data cycle with your teaching team that you already use, reviewing student progress at least weekly—more often if possible—so no student falls behind. Use videoconferencing for data review.
- Adjust instruction to meet each student’s needs: As always, plan additional interventions that ensure each student makes high growth. Again, keep team meetings intact to ensure that all teachers know what changes to make each week.
- Share data with students and families: Make sure that students and their families know where students stand. If your district has not already adopted a platform for teachers to share grades and missing assignments, now is the time.
- Last but not least, continuously improve! We can’t overemphasize the importance of keeping MCL team meetings intact, albeit virtually. In addition, principals should continue meeting virtually with the MCLs in their schools. Use a portion of your time together each week to identify 1–3 improvements to make the following week.
Quick Guide to Free & Cheap Technology to Engage with Students Online
In response to the COVID-19 school shutdowns, we have created a quick comparison of several popular online platforms; the elements included here will be helpful if MCLs need to evaluate and select platforms to use with their team’s students. Please share your additional thoughts with us on these and other platforms.