1. Teacher Life

4 Ideas for Building Relationships During Remote Learning

In my newly released, self-paced course, “Developing the Innovator’s Mindset Through Remote, Face-to-Face, and Blended Learning,” I discuss the importance of building relationships in any environment, whether it is online or offline, and provide some strategies on how we can do so. I wanted to create this additional resource and compile some ideas that you might find beneficial for the start of the school year.

You can learn more about the course here!

Recently, someone reached out and asked about some advice that I could share with their group as they started the year virtually and shared the following:

This year for students is the ONLY year they have in this grade or subject. Think about the happy memories you have from your school experience and try your best to be those memories for your kids. I always try to remember why I got into education and I wanted to inspire kids to make a difference. No matter the setting, you can do that.

Of course, this is harder in a remote teaching situation, but no less important.  

This all starts with relationships at the core of our work.

One of the biggest questions I hear consistently is, “how do we build relationships through remote learning spaces, especially with a new class of students to start the year?”

In a conversation with Weston Kieschnick, where he shared that it was better COVID happened in March, where relationships had been formed with students for a significant portion of the year, versus happening in September.  That really resonated with me, but now we are entering the school year, many schools are either starting virtually or else in a blended space, and rightfully, they are focused on how to connect with new students in a classroom.

One important thing is that when we discuss relationships, that it is more than educators getting to know their students, but students also getting to know their teachers. The relationship must be reciprocated. 

Jennifer Casa-Todd wrote an excellent post on “Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Learning” and shared the following as an example of “Classroom Meeting Norms”:

Jennifer shared the following about the process of creating these norms with her students:

Norms-I have used technology and social media for students to connect with each other and the world for many years now. I have had almost no negative experiences. I believe that part of the reason for this is the co-construction of norms. When we are explicit with students about the expectations and allow them to co-construct what those expectations look like, there are few issues.  

Although every classroom is different, one of the things that I appreciated about the list Jennifer shares is that “video is optional” for students.  I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I know it is complicated, but in the sessions I have led with adults, I don’t expect people to turn on the video because I feel it is intrusive to be in their space when I wasn’t truly invited. I think this is something we need to examine with students as well.  Again, I am not telling anyone how they should conduct their classrooms, but I think it is something that we need to consider as we build relationships within our communities. 

With this all being said, I wanted to share a few ideas with you, knowing that these are just ideas, not solutions.  Every educator is working in a different context, and that means it is essential that they do what works best for them. We also always need to consider the following to ensure learners have what they need to be successful:

Please feel free to use and modify any of what I have shared below.  Also, please feel free to share in the comments any strategies that you plan on using for the school year.

1. Virtual Meet the Teacher 

I fell upon this video by Kim Huls, where she describes in detail how to put the slide show together.  She also shares a template that is ready to adapt so you can create your own.

This is a great way to get to know your teacher in any setting, which led me to create the next idea.

2. Sharing and Learning About Student Strengths and Passions

I have shared these questions before, and I think they are a great way to get to know your students, but I also think they would be great for your students to learn about you:

An easy way I found to share this activity for your students to participate in, is using Wakelet, which has Flipgrid embedded into the site. I created a video on how you can share this process with your students while they learn your answers to these questions:

Wakelet makes it easy to put this all together, and I love that you could do this in any setting. If you create this, you could also send it out to students before they enter your classroom in a face-to-face environment as well so they can get to know you before the first day.  

3. Virtual Ice Breakers

TikTok is not just about viral dances! Some great teacher ideas are being shared there as well. 

Check out this idea for “Virtual Ice Breakers” from @KindaSortaTeacher on TikTok:

@kindasortateacherVirtual Icebreaker for my high schoolers!##teachertip ##virtual ##teacherhack ##teachersoftiktok ##remotelearning ##netflix ##fyp ##highschool ##englishteacher

♬ Monkeys Spinning Monkeys – Kevin MacLeod

As an aside, one of the things that I love about TikTok is that it limits videos to 60 seconds, which is a great way to share an idea concisely.  Here is an example where I discuss a concept from “Innovate Inside the Box“:

There are lots of ways we can use the “60 Second” time constraint for students and ourselves to share learning.

4. A Daily Check-In With Google Forms

I love using Google Forms, and ever since I saw this video on using them as a way to check in on students, I knew they were a great way to go beyond “surveys”:

Mari Venturino has a great post on using forms for daily check-ins and has also provided this template that you can copy and modify.  This would be something that would be great for a daily or weekly check-in while providing students privacy in reaching out and discussing their social-emotional well-being.

This check-in shouldn’t only be reserved for students, either.  Allyson Apsey wrote this great post on team and community check-ins.)

Relationships are not everything in education, but they are the foundation of what we need to help, our students and ourselves move forward.  I have shared this before, and it is something that I believe in any environment:

The great thing about these remote learning strategies is that the ideas are not temporary solutions, but can be used in face-to-face and blended learning environments.

Thank you to all educators who are spending a ton of time building those meaningful relationships to start and maintain throughout the school year, no matter the environment.

Thanks for reading! If you would like to learn more about the “Developing the Innovator’s Mindset Through Remote, Face-to-Face, and Blended Learning” course, please go here for more information!

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