By Kasey Short
Since August, my students have attended school in a hybrid A/B day model where one group attends school every Monday and Wednesday and the other group attends school every Tuesday and Thursday, and then they alternate Fridays.
A few weeks ago I began gathering feedback from students in 6-8 grade about their experience in this learning model. I asked them what advice they would like to give any teacher who is teaching in a hybrid model and what they wish teachers knew about a student’s experience learning in this format. I spoke with many students one on one and collected feedback digitally through Google Classroom.
Listening to kids talk openly about their experiences reminded me how important it is to give students a voice in their school community. Their insight was valuable, and they provided advice for teachers that can be immediately implemented and significantly impact the student experience.
Advice for Teachers
► Give remote students specific opportunities to talk during class. This lets them know they will not be accidentally interrupting their peers, helps them feel connected, and encourages them to stay on task.
• Direct some questions only to remote students.
• Give remote students a little longer to start responding because it takes time to unmute and activate the microphone.
• Stop your lesson a few minutes before the end of class and give remote students time to ask questions about the lesson or homework. They cannot stay after class like the in-school students, and if the teacher teaches until the bell and then cuts off the Google Meet, there is no time to ask questions.
► If you call on students in class who do not have their hand raised, then do it for the students at home as well. If you do not call on students in class who don’t have their hand raised, then don’t do it for student at home. Treating everyone as close to the same as possible makes everyone feel part of the class.
► If you are screen sharing, go back and check the Google Meet every so often. Students often have their hands digitally raised or have asked questions in the chat that are never noticed. There is no polite way to get a teacher’s attention when you are remote.
► Post all work, daily agendas, and rubrics in advance to help students stay organized and use their time wisely while at home.
► If students are working independently, do not have the Google Meet projected to the Smartboard. It is loud for in-person students when the students at home have their questions loudly projected during quiet work time and tests. This is very distracting when taking a test in person and you are consistently hearing students at home loudly asking questions through the Smartboard speakers.
► Talk to the other teachers on the team to make sure all teachers are not assigning large projects or tests at the same time.
► If anything is being read aloud in class, have a remote student do the reading. It keeps them engaged and everyone can hear them read. When you are at home, it is often difficult to hear what other students in the class are saying.
► When you can, please prerecord lesson presentations and/or make video instructions.
► Ask students at home if they can see the screen you shared and if the volume is okay. Sometimes it can be too quiet or it sounds like teachers are yelling.
► Give more transition time because it takes students at home time to switch between apps and find things online. The kids in person most often just need to look up at the Smartboard, but at home students need time to the right app, file or website and then get to it on their tablet, all the while listening to the instructions.
► If all classwork assignments are done on tablets, then please allow students to take their tests on them as well. It is difficult to have to hand-write tests when students are used to typing everything else the entire year.
I Wish Teachers Knew
► “There are a lot of things outside of our control when we are at home including: Wi-Fi and technology issues, siblings and pets who are distracting, parents coming in to talk during a class, and loud noises outside like my neighbor’s dog that is always barking and distracting me.”
► “Sometimes it is loud in my house and I do not participate because I do not want to turn my microphone on.”
► “It is rare that I do school in the same place two days in a row. I switch between school, my mom and my dad’s house. It is a lot to keep up with everything I need every day and not forget anything.”
► “It is difficult to do everything that is asked on only one device. I cannot watch the teacher working out problems on Google Meet and take notes at the same time. Taking notes while also referring to an article is also difficult with only one screen and takes a long time.”
► “Everything takes much longer when I am at home than when I am at school.”
► “Sometimes I go an entire day without anyone speaking directly to me and that is lonely.”
► “Please think about how students feel before asking them to turn on their camera. When I must turn my camera on, I feel exposed and cannot focus because I am worried about how I look on the camera and what my peers are thinking about me. I would be happy to turn on my camera if only the teacher could see me, but it is intimidating to know everyone is staring at my face. I do not take selfies and avoid looking in the mirror, so imagine how I feel when I must turn on my camera.”
► “Sometimes at home I need to go to the bathroom, and it feels awkward to ask to go to the bathroom in my own house, but also, I worry that if I leave my screen then the teacher will call on me and think I am not listening.”
We can learn a lot by listening to our students
Their overall ideas and feelings can best be summed up by an 8th grade student:
Be patient and understanding. Hybrid learning can be difficult, frustrating, and upsetting. If teachers approach a problem with patience and an understanding mindset, more will get accomplished and students will feel more comfortable.” — Sutton W.
Kasey Short (@shortisweet3) loves to share ideas from her classroom and writes frequently for MiddleWeb. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is currently an eighth grade ELA teacher and English Department chair at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School.