Week 3. We are beginning to feel the impact of both the sustained isolation and the spread of the virus. As more and more people are either becoming sick, caring for sick loved ones, or worrying about those who are sick but at a distance, how are we adjusting our pandemic pedagogy?
As schools were closing, the focus was on getting devices and hotspots out to homes and distributing meals and worksheet packets. That makes sense – we’re educators, we get to work solving problems. As we enter the third week, though, we have to start wrestling with the more nebulous questions of this moment. How do we meet the needs of kids who cannot access their learning online? How do we meet the needs of kids who benefit from multiple therapeutic interventions and supports, intensive behavioral supports, life skills curricula? Technically IEPs should be amended to acknowledge the change in placement and to revise the goals and service delivery plans. I haven’t heard of any districts doing that and I understand why. But what are families to do?
Humanizing Pandemic Pedagogy Looks Like
- Asking kids and families how they are – first, and often.
- Communicating regularly. Contact 3-5 families each day to check in individually, assess how the workload, the communication, the dynamics are working for them. Adjust accordingly.
- Expressing flexibility. Let them know you understand they may be working from home, too, they may have several kids who have deadlines and devices limitations, they may be struggling with stress, job loss, illness. Be flexible.
- Keeping it simple. Send one To Do list per week for kids/families with explicit directions, approximate time commitments, and troubleshooting support. Include the “why” of the task.
- Building in differentiation with universal designs for learning. You wouldn’t do it all one way in the classroom, so let’s keep our accessible pedagogy going in our pandemic pedagogy.
- Acknowledging there are very different limitations and barriers in pandemic pedagogy. Ask families what barriers they’re experiencing and brainstorm how to reduce those barriers.
- Not grading work.
- Prioritizing social emotional learning above all else. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around what’s happening right now so I know kids are also experiencing all the feels. Let’s plan for it. Plan for those days where it all feels too heavy and like you’re moving through molasses, plan for those days when we need to feel some sense of “normal” so maybe Prodigy is it, plan for those days when we’re feeling lonely and class wide or teacher/student calls/video conferencing can help. Let’s center the kids and prioritize the emotional experiences of this moment.
My hope is that we can take our pandemic pedagogy back into our classrooms next year. We can frame this as an opportunity to make the changes we have long struggled with bringing into reality. We can prioritize kids with disabilities and their families in this moment, we can truly build partnerships, we can see each other and dismantle the “both sides” approach to supporting kids with disabilities in public schools. It does not have to be adversarial, it does not have to be combative, it does not have to be rooted in distrust. This moment calls on us to work together, communicate with each other, and listen. How are you humanizing your pandemic pedagogy?
Jen Newton, PhD is an assistant professor in early childhood/early childhood special education (isn’t that a lot of words for what should be one field??). I talk a lot and have strong opinions – or so I am told.