As teachers, we are natural problem-solvers. We are unusually good at adapting to any situation given to us and making it work. Hybrid teaching, however, has probably been one of the most challenging endeavors we’ve been expected to undertake. Hybrid teaching comprises of a mix of distance and in-person instruction. Classes are divided into groups which alternate between attending class in person and learning online. As a special educator at the high school level, I’ve come up with 5 tips to help you find some balance in the world of hybrid teaching.
1. Review each child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP)
With hybrid teaching, we are not able to give our students the same amount of in-person instruction as before. Yet, we are still required to ensure that our students are getting what they need to reach their IEP goals. Knowing each child’s goals and objectives before starting to create in-person or virtual lessons can help ensure that you create a more personalized form of instruction for each student. We need to be creative in our approach to teaching this year – especially considering that our students may have learning gaps as a result of school closures last year. Prioritizing their individualized learning goals is essential so you can ensure your students are receiving the content and skills they need to be successful. We also need to ensure that we are able to gather as much data on their performance as we can. During virtual teaching days, this can be done via online educational curriculum programs or even by parents who are willing to be trained to fill out a simple data sheet.
2. Maintain Open Communication with Parents
Especially during virtual learning days, we are relying heavily on parents to assist with their child’s education. Many parents are struggling to keep up with all the details of hybrid learning, and they need to know that we are here to support them, also. If you haven’t already done so, create a communication system for your classroom and be sure to include guidelines. As much as we love our students and their parents, we don’t want to answer calls, texts or emails late into the night! Depending on what your district allows, creating a private social media group in which you can post regular updates, photos, videos, and/or announcements could be beneficial. Other alternatives are using an education communication app to send and receive messages, creating and sending out weekly newsletters, and even establishing weekly office hours on a virtual platform. This will give parents the opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns they may have.
3. Make Virtual Lessons Easily Accessible
When creating lessons for virtual learning days and/or those students who have opted for 100% virtual learning, we need to ensure that we are not overwhelming our students or their parents with an overload of online resources. Asking parents to keep track of multiple websites and passwords can be daunting and overwhelming to many. Creating a weekly schedule with clickable hyperlinks has been a lifesaver in my classroom. I’ve received very positive feedback from my parents, which has increased student participation. Every video, website, form, or educational game I’d like them to access is literally one click away.
A copy of this schedule is posted on multiple platforms, including Google Classroom and our classroom webpage. I also email a weekly newsletter to parents with a pdf copy of the schedule that they can save to their desktop. This gives parents and students multiple ways to access the week’s lessons in whichever way is easiest for them.
4. Think Outside of the Box
You’re the teacher, you know your students and their needs. With the new hybrid learning schedule, you’ll need to think about each student and what they will need to be successful with both types of learning – in person and virtual. While it would be ideal if we could send home tangible resources such as file folders, task boxes, etc. with each student, it’s not always feasible or cost-effective. Below are some ideas on how we can reach our students using items or resources we already have on hand.
• Record videos of you doing an experiment, reading a book, demonstrating a life skill, etc. that your students can watch from home. If you have educational assistants, this would be a great duty to assign to them. There are a variety of free video apps that can help you with this process.
• Assign non-virtual tasks for your student to complete at home. At my level, we focus a lot on life skills. Create visual checklists of jobs they can work on at home. This can include setting the table, making their bed, sweeping a floor, etc. As they complete a task, you can have them or their parents mark it off in a daily log.
• Creating sets of visuals for your students can help tremendously. This idea would require work on your part initially but will be very helpful in the long run. If you have a student who you know benefits from a visual schedule, first/then boards, a token-economy system, social stories, etc., create a copy of each item for parents to keep and use at home. If you have parents who may need a tutorial on how to use these instructional aids, you can create a step-by-step video explaining the process.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Self-care is more important now than ever before. Hybrid teaching is difficult, time-consuming, and the constant demands from teachers can be overwhelming. In order to effectively help and support others, we must regularly take step back from our duties. Read a book, listen to music, meditate, exercise, focus on a hobby – just do something that will completely disconnect you from lingering responsibilities.
I also recommend setting and following-through with a “stopping time” every day. Especially now as our to-do lists seem to be increasing, teachers tend to feel guilty if we don’t get everything completed in a timely manner. For the sake of your sanity, your family, and yourself, step away from the workload and make a conscientious effort to focus on yourself. We cannot effectively take care of other people if we are not taking care of ourselves.
How are you balancing hybrid teaching this year? Share in the comments below.