An Educator's Reflection on Teaching Remotely

April 20, 2020

This blog was originally posted by iCivics Educator Network member, Elizabeth Schley-Evans, on her Teaching AP Government blog

I’ve been writing this in my head for three weeks. In my 17 years of teaching, I never knew something like this could be possible. As a National Board Certified Teacher, I am constantly reflecting and changing things. I am currently 3 weeks into remote teaching and 5 weeks out of school (because of spring break). I’ve been taking long walks and distancing myself from work to get a better reflection of a meeting, a day, or a week. My husband teaches APUSH and AP Macro, and we have a 3rd grader looking to finish out her year at home. It’s a circus.

Things I have done that have worked in the last weeks:

  • Meditation
  • Assigning webinars from the National Constitution Center, Bill of Rights Institute, and others as they appear in my Twitter timeline. Look, I’m good at what I do, but I need help with content creation and these folks are experts.
  • The YouTube reviews from Jenifer Hitchcock (she's also a member of the iCivics Educator Network!).
  • Podcasts. Clearly, I love them and I assign relevant ones to my students and allow them to discuss.
  • Setting a schedule. Obviously, things are fluid, but I keep this schedule for my students to keep some consistency for them. I use Monday to connect via email, take department meetings, and set myself up for the week. I like the flexibility of time in case something pops up, which it has for the last 3 weeks.
    • Tuesdays from 8a-9a, online teaching for second-semester students
    • Tuesdays from 12pm, open office hours via Google Meets
    • Thursdays from 8a-9a, AP Test review for test takers
    • Thursdays from 12pm open office hours via Google Meets
  • I take an hour for lunch without technology.
  • I get outside every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. This can be a walk or just sitting in my backyard. Sometimes, I take my meetings while I walk around the block.
  • Setting an alarm to stop working and spend time with my family because I need to refuel with my husband and daughter. We play games, make dinner, or just watch our ten-thousandth episode of the Office
  • Not working on the weekends. Period.

What hasn’t worked:

  • Taking every single meeting. Last Friday, I had too many and I should have said no to two of them. It would have changed my day completely. This week, I’m saying no thank you to anything that I cannot muster the emotional energy for.
  • A to-do list. I need to pick two things to get done each day that absolutely need to get done for work. And the number one thing to do is to connect with my students. I’ve scheduled all the posts I need to for the week so I can get ahead of this.
  • Getting lost in the raging river of information. It’s easy to get caught up in what everyone is sharing and want to create this amazing experience for students. It’s also exhausting and demoralizing.

My biggest takeaways:

Each day will bring a new challenge. I am constantly on the go and making decisions on the fly, which is an environment I thrive in. I’ve slowed down, took a step back, and made my days more manageable. I keep a post it note next to my desk that says, “You do not have to do it all.”

After the AP test changes came down the pipe I was engulfed in a barrage of information and I purposefully distanced myself so I could digest the information before making any decisions. I took the weekend and just thought. I’d write things down as they came up, but then went back to my weekend.

For me, I am making it a goal to connect with one positive person a day. Maybe they aren’t feeling positive, but they’ve made a positive impact on me. My favorite is always sending inside jokes to others. It’s just a reminder that we have a connection, even if we aren’t connecting every day.

Just take it a day at a time. Fail. Cry. Celebrate. You are a professional and what you do matters. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself.

Reach out if you need help. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or emails. It may look like some have their stuff together, but believe me, they don’t. The only difference is that they are ok with it. I haven’t worn real pants in 5 weeks. FIVE.

Lastly, make it a habit to reflect on what works and what doesn’t. Do not be afraid to toss what doesn’t and make sure you share what does!

Written By Elizabeth Schley-Evans
Elizabeth is in her 17th year of teaching and has taught most of the social sciences in a public school setting including; 8th grade, AP Government and Politics, APUSH, World History, US History, and College Prep Government and Politics. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in Social Studies/History (Early Adolescence) and has been a member of the iCivics Educator Network sine 2018. Follow her on Twitter @e2schley

The views expressed in this blog reflect the views of the author alone and do not reflect the views of iCivics. iCivics does not endorse, verify or represent the accuracy, completeness or reliability of any opinion, statement, recommendation or other information written by a third party and published on the iCivics blog.

Need more? iCivics has compiled enrichment activities, our most popular and timely games, and lessons into a Remote Learning Toolkit so you can easily find resources to support remote learning and share them with students and their families.