As I write this, we’ve just wrapped up our remote learning journey. Over the past several months, the ways we learn, teach, and think have been flipped upside down. Students are experiencing brand new methods of learning as educators experiment with and incorporate new tools into their lessons. While fighting the distance, it quickly became clear that now was the time we needed to stay as connected and in-tune with one another as possible.

As a new staff member at EPIC, I only had five weeks of “real-life” interactions with students before the world fell ill with COVID. But the bonds I’ve continued to build with our students over the course of remote learning have exceeded my expectations. 

That being said, if we rewind to the first two weeks of remote learning, I felt at a loss for how to connect with the students. My go-to in “real life” with the kiddos is just to grab The Jungle Book or Dr. Seuss off the shelf in our cozy library, squeeze myself into the tiny green chair, and try to wow them with my silly character voices. Nope, that would not be the case here. 

Behind a computer screen in my tiny bedroom, I had to educate myself, learning as much as I could to become a better resource for our students and families. 

At EPIC, we spend a lot of time brainstorming, developing, and implementing unique learning and behavioral strategies for each of our students. During my group literacy lessons and one-on-one Zoom sessions, I learned to adapt these tools to remote learning. 

For example, if one of my students was consistently straying off-task, playing with the buttons on Zoom, I’d say, “Hey, do you need a two-minute break?” This is a common tool we use in our physical space. When the student returned from the break, I’d do a quick focus check-in, and we were typically good to go.  

One major way I was able to build relationships with students was by consistently praising their hard work as we created something bigger together. This was particularly true during our fantasy writing unit. One student worked incredibly hard on her piece, but feelings of discouragement lingered. By talking openly about the confidence issues at hand and praising all the work she did independently, we were able to work together to complete her fantastic story, which she proudly shared with all her classmates and teachers at our Zoom publishing party. 

Since day one of remote learning, I have seen every staff member at EPIC giving their all so that each student succeeds to the best of their ability. Being a part of such a dedicated and ambitious team makes it easy to want to be an educator. Something I am taking away from remote learning, that I believe will make me a much better community member, is that it’s important to listen and learn from everyone: outside resources, students, families, and staff members. It’s been a journey watching all of us grow during distance learning, and I can’t wait to see how we grow moving forward.

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