#6 – Make the Most of the First Weeks of School

Unpacking Education September 23, 2020 28 min

Learning is a social endeavor. While it is impossible to re-create the exact conditions of a physical classroom when teaching virtually, teachers can continue to connect with students (and each other) despite the distance between them. This week’s podcast explores strategies to establish strong relationships and support students’ needs in the virtual classroom. We also provide tips for staying connected to your teacher community for support, resources, and inspiration.

Join our Digital Learning Specialists as they discuss their teacher superpowers and help you identify yours as you navigate virtual learning. Let’s start building community with our students and leaning on each other through our professional learning communities (PLCs) and our professional learning networks (PLNs) to thrive this year.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
Digital Learning Coach
Pamela Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist

Below you will find resources and tips shared during podcast to support your virtual teaching goals.

I’m not going to school just for the academics. I want to share ideas and be around people who are passionate about learning.

Emma Watson, actress


In this week’s episode, we discuss the following strategies and resources that are available on AVID Open Access for you to explore in more depth.

Support Your Students and Your Inner Superhero

As you navigate the first weeks of school in a face-to-face, virtual, or hybrid environment, you are faced with the daunting task of creating a safe space for your students in a time of constant change and shifting unknowns. Now more than ever, your inner superhero is being called to action. Below are suggestions from this episode for developing a positive classroom community and gentle reminders for tapping into your network of teacher superheroes.

Develop Relational Capacity

  • Build Classroom Community: Start with topics that are less connected to students’ core values and identity. It takes time to build trust. Your first weeks should focus on activities that are fun and encourage student voice. Build to deeper topics over time.
    • Encourage personalized introductions via Flip (Tool Tip), Padlet, or a class slideshow.
    • Share activities your students would normally enjoy at the start of school. Let them decorate their virtual locker to express their interests. Have them create personalized pennants and post them in a shared location for students to learn more about their classmates.
    • Check out other AVID Open Access community-building templates here.
  • Foster a Growth Mindset: “Learn and grow at the speed of trust.” We need to start by building relationships with our students to gain their trust. Once we have trust, students will take risks and build their confidence to overcome challenges. As teachers, we need to model a growth mindset. Share your passion, grace, perseverance, resilience, and positive self-talk to inspire your students to do the same.
  • Address Academic Gaps: Just as we need to take the time to build relationships with students, we can’t overlook academic gaps. Try not to focus on skill recovery or returning to units/lessons that were missed. Avoid remote learning at all costs. Look for your students’ strengths. Don’t be a gap hunter.
    • Embed carryover skills into projects that will motivate students toward continuing to develop these skills in engaging ways. Use projects to empower students to be creative and use their critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
    • Tip! Plusses and Wishes: Use a T-Chart for students to reflect on what went well and what they wish could be changed after each learning opportunity. By focusing on wishes, instead of deltas, your students envision what they want that positive outcome to be.
  • Take care of your inner superhero: We need to make time to intentionally connect. Given the demands of virtual and hybrid teaching, teachers feel like they are on an island by themselves. We need to bring teachers together to think, innovate, share resources, and support one another.
    • Check out the 30 K-12 Influencers to follow in 2020.
    • Take care of yourself. Take virtual coffee break breaks. Set boundaries so that you have time to recharge.
    • Reach out in your building, across your district, and across the nation via your PLNs.

Digital Tools

Let us help you look for new ways to engage students online. We share tips for the following digital tool in this week’s episode. Each digital tool review in AVID Open Access includes a takeaway tip sheet and overview video.

  • Twitter: Follow thought leaders and your colleagues. Share the ideas you have and borrow the ideas of others to fill in the gaps of your lessons.
    • Join @AVIDOpenAccess #TechTalkForTeachers on Twitter every Tuesday at 5:30p PT / 7:30p CT / 8:30p ET for a live chat on current topics that teachers are facing in their face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid classrooms.