In 2020, as COVID-19 mushroomed into a pandemic, school districts shut their schools’ doors and rapidly transitioned online. For two years, students, teachers, and faculty dealt with the challenges of remote learning.
As the pandemic wanes, the push to return to full-time in-person learning strengthens. Studies show that many learners have fallen behind during the pandemic, and states like New Jersey have even disallowed school closures to help underachievers catch up.
Not everybody wants to return to face-to-face learning. According to USA Today, more minority parents support distance learning than white parents. Studies show that remote learning can help students of color gain confidence and interest in their work. Online learning may in fact benefit all students. An EdTech article supports the hybrid model. It says students who engaged in asynchronous learning—studying on their time—were more engaged during synchronous (interactive) class time.
A few school districts are expanding online systems. The Des Moines Independent Community School District is even using its federal funding to develop its remote learning structure further and offer the option to middle schoolers—it already allowed high school students to learn remotely pre-pandemic.
Some teachers prefer remote teaching. According to a Rand Corporation survey, one in three teachers wants to continue to teach remotely or has no preference; around a third of the country’s schools currently allow remote instruction. Though remote teaching poses some challenges, some teachers find them manageable and appreciate the flexibility of working from home, saving time and money previously spent commuting to work.
This article offers _tips for how to teach remotely. It covers:
Teaching remotely can be challenging. According to the New York Times article “‘I’m Teaching Into a Vacuum’: 14 Educators on Quarantine Learning”, teachers have struggled to perceive non-verbal cues, continually engage students (especially young kids), and set boundaries between work and personal time.
Of course, now that they’ve acquired some remote learning experience, teachers have many tips to share to make distance learning more effective and satisfying for both student and educators. Top suggestions include the following.
According to the Forbes article “7 Tips To Help Make Remote Learning More Effective,” teachers can boost attendance and participation numbers by setting clear expectations. For instance, there are times during instruction when it’s essential that students’ cameras are on and others when it’s not. By establishing a consistent framework for participation and sticking to it, you can head off issues before they occur.
You can also leverage FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) when appropriate, to make students think everyone else is doing the work. When students feel their peers are engaged, they’re more likely to step up their game.
It’s just as vital to build camaraderie with your students online as it is in the classroom. There are many ways to build a better community and create trust with your students. You can employ ice breakers, which help allay students’ anxieties and allow kids to get to know you and each other informally. Another option: introduce yourself to parents before the school year. Before the semester starts, you can call, email or send a card to help build a relationship with your students’ authority figures. Finally, discussing life outside of school can also foster a sense of community. One teacher included an exercise called “smiles and frowns,” in which kids share both the good and bad things in their lives.
In school, doing the same thing every day isn’t necessarily bad. An established structure can comfort students and help facilitate their ongoing participation in discussions and activities. One educator mentioned in the Times article structures her class to include a quiz or activity first, then instruction time, followed by self-work. Another teacher reads a poem at the end of every class.
Virtual classrooms utilize a variety of technologies, including video conference services like Zoom and Flipgrid, and online discussion forums like Slack and Canvas to improve student engagement. Still, the platform matters less than how you use it. The best teachers identify student needs and address issues with available technology. For instance, if the class is too big to facilitate individual discussion, you can utilize Zoom breakout rooms to establish clusters of students who can talk in smaller groups (to which you can drop in). You can replace writing on a whiteboard with a screencast.
Balancing work and life presents a significant challenge to many teachers. Teaching at home makes it harder to limit availability to parents and students. If you’re not clear about setting boundaries—e.g., defined office hours—you may struggle with burnout. Teachers recommend setting up an office in your house from which to work. Shut it down at a set time and turn your attention elsewhere after work hours. Self-care also means establishing a network of other teachers with whom to check in. Your peers can offer more helpful online teaching tips and serve as commiseration buddies.
A Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree prepares student teachers for a successful career in the field and to earn licensure. If you’re interested in administration or school leadership, you might want to consider a Master of Education (MeD) instead.
The amount of time you need to complete an MAT depends on the program. Most require two years of full-time study; part-time options take longer. You can complete a one-year residency program while earning your MAT
at New York University. Advanced standing MAT programs for students who earned undergraduate degrees in education can be completed in as little as 12 months.
A teaching license is not a prerequisite for earning a MAT, but having one can help. Many programs, like the one at American University, prefer applicants with experience. Specialization may involve meeting additional admission requirements.
Expect to submit a resume, transcript, personal essay(s), letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores. Education degree programs typically ask applicants to submit their Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores. You may need to complete a Praxis exam, especially if you’re trying to become a subject teacher.
MAT programs mix pedagogy coursework with in-person training as you learn to manage a classroom. Though all programs cover these two areas, creating significant overlap, there can be differences. For instance, fieldwork requirements are state-set; you may need to complete more in one program than another. Most programs start with pedagogy education, including lesson planning, subject teaching, and catering to student learning styles, then immerse students in teaching positions.
MAT programs are a great way to specialize, especially for current teachers. Options include special education instruction, specific subjects (math, biology, etc.), and English as a Second Language (ESL). You can also specialize outside the classroom in areas like curriculum development and administration, though again an MEd is more common for those pathways. You’ll complete relevant fieldwork and coursework to finish a specialization.
US News & World Report says top education schools with a teaching master’s program (including MAT alternatives) include:
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