Collaborate and Focus

CJ Reynolds offers two key ideas to help teachers work remotely

This year my school is beginning the year with 100% virtual learning. That’s a big leap! We’ve never before had a one-to-one supply of laptops or tablets for students, and until last March, I had never used Zoom, Google Classroom, Schoology, or any other remote learning technology. We’ve all had to learn so much so quickly. It feels like I played basketball on a court for 15 years and then someone suddenly handed me an Xbox controller and said, “This is how we do it now.” Well… how hard could it be? I know the moves, I know the rules, I know my team; it should be easy, right?

Turns out it’s really hard and terrifying. I truly believe education is only ever about the students, but how can we help students navigate this new landscape when we don’t know the way ourselves? I have two ideas.

First, we must figure out three things: What do kids really need to learn; what can we trim to create lean, efficient lessons; and how can we make those lessons ultra-engaging? Focusing on spreadsheets, trackers, and checklists kills inspiration. Focusing on students above all else opens the floodgates of innovation, motivation, and courage.

Second, to survive this wild year we must tap into the greatest resource in the world: each other. In 2018, viewers of my YouTube channel, Real Rap with Reynolds, asked me to start a Facebook group where they could support and inspire each other. Since then, thousands of people from around the planet have joined this passionate and responsive community. A veteran teacher who needs to learn about Schoology can ask the group and find help in no time. A first-year teacher who feels completely alone can find a hundred friends to offer both survival tips and emotional support. Truly, any need can be addressed through the power of connection.

YouTube, Facebook, and Linkedin are other great places to find educators who resonate with you and who will help you become the teacher you always dreamed of being. Teacher’s Corner, created by HMH, allows teachers of all grades, subjects, and experience levels to share powerful ideas and support. Connections are more vital than ever this year. Take time to explore these virtual spaces and find a place where you can both give and receive support. That way all of us can focus on what’s truly important this year: our students.

CJ Reynolds teaches high school literature and The History of Hip-Hop in West Philadelphia. He is the author Teach Your Class Off: The Real Rap Guide to Teaching. CJ is also the creator of the YouTube channel, Real Rap with Reynolds. CJ uses his passion for creating engaging content as an HMH Ambassador, working with learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to develop original professional development resources in its tool for educators, Teacher’s Corner.

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