Insights from China: When Learning Goes Home
Two international educators, Keisha LaBeach and Emily Cave, who have been in virtual school for two months share their insights and lessons learned.
NCIC Immersion is a bilingual school in Shenzhen, China. They have been in virtual school for eight weeks so we asked them to share some reflections and advice. Keisha LaBeach is an EAL Coordinator and Coach; Emily Cave is the school’s Founding Director.
The idea of online learning was nothing new to most of our faculty who have taught internationally. We were used to going online as a common response to short-term closures. However, as it became a long-term reality we had to reflect on how well we were serving the needs of our students with what we had in place. It was like being novice teachers once again. Looking back at what we know now, after two months of learning and teaching from home, there are some key points to consider in establishing practices for learning and teaching from home. These are our thoughts from both a leadership and a language learning perspective:
People first: start with the human connection and take the time necessary to build the virtual learning community. (Including for teaching teams, external and internal school communications.) What personal needs or limitations might get in the way of someone’s engagement online?
Go slow to go fast: re-visit existing routines, teach new necessary routines, and model how to navigate new tools (e.g. Responsive Classroom and tech videos) Practice those routines in a way that gradually builds teacher and student proficiency before expecting in depth work with new content.
Remember your Why: rely on your principles to guide your decisions (e.g. CGC, WIDA, Key Principles for ELL Instruction). Virtual learning tools and platforms used should match your purpose. (e.g. morning meetings hosted live on Zoom so that students can reconnect and share news with one another, using language skills in an authentic context)
Use shared knowledge and language: leverage planning resources and data (e.g. WIDA Can Do descriptors and F&P). Most of what you do as an institution does not and should not have to change. Teachers have a baseline to work from when planning for student strengths and needs, as well as a common language about learning to use in co-planning.
Aim for quality over quantity: offer learning opportunities with clear content and language targets instead of overloading students with busy work
Stand in your students' shoes: ask yourself, "Is it clear and how is it connected?": remove barriers you know might cause your students to struggle so that they can engage.
You are not alone: and you are not responsible for everything. This can be an opportunity for people to share their expertise, members of the community to shine and take leadership, and to extend professional and social networks. Many people out there are going through the same thing and they all have something to contribute that can save you time and energy.
Start with what you know and what your students know: this is not a sprint and we don't have to become eLearning gurus overnight. Plus, transitions will be less jarring for our students and teachers if they feel in control or at least familiar with aspects of this new way of learning.