As we make efforts to lead in our congregations during a time of the unknown, we can start from a firm foundation of the known. We know the Lord through scriptures. We know his love through what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross and in his rising. We know he is all powerful, all knowing, and always present. We have certainty in uncertain times. Let this be the foundation we start from and the foundation that is at the heart of every interaction of our instruction through distance learning.
From this place we can give ourselves grace and patience. Every educator, from our first year teachers to our most experienced administrators, is being challenged at this time. The Lord has given us strength to meet each day with resilience and grace. Remember to take care of the body and mind that he has given you by pausing, breathing, naming our feelings and emotions as they arise (it’s okay to feel ups and downs, let them out by speaking the emotion), exercise, take breaks, and forgive yourselves and each other. Check in on each other. Remember the Lord created us to need human connection from the day we were born across our lifespan. Connection is healing at a time when we all need healing. We are in this together and together is how we will come through this.
Our students and their families will need us to share our peace, patience, and grace too. They feel the uncertainty of the space in their homes – they are more aware than we know. Often their human nature and brain’s reaction leads them to act out because they are hurting and confused inside. Help all adults take a deep breath before reacting, offering love instead. They are looking to see you because you are a vital part of their lives. As often as possible, have real back and forth interactions with them. We need it as much as they do.
Recommendations to Educators:
What is Distance Learning and what should it look like?
Distance Learning is learning for all students through access to appropriate educational materials and daily interaction with their teacher(s).
- Create opportunities for students to connect to the Lord through time in the Word with you, their teachers, and the congregations (connect students to congregational opportunities through their classroom platform).
- All teachers are still teaching to the best of their abilities.
- Local school districts are doing distance learning. Follow suit and use them as a resource.
- Document in your lesson plan book what you are offering for distance learning. Keep your own documentation and upload to the internal documentation link.
- Ensure continued differentiated instruction for students who need it, especially as it pertains to distance learning.
- Be mindful of the needs and circumstances of varying families: employment, mental health, socioeconomic, internet connectivity and technological hardware issues.
Special Education Students or Students with Accommodations
- If a student is on a documented learning plan such as an IEP, ISP, 504 or Accommodation Plan, collaborate with the case manager or special education teacher responsible for that plan. Each district is leading their special educators to fulfill the documented plans with specific district policies. In most cases services will continue to be carried out to the extent possible through an addition to the IEP document called an Individual Distance Learning Plan (IDLP).
- If a student is not being serviced through the local public school district, then plan to continue supports from their ISP or Accommodation Plan to the extent possible through distance learning.
- It is not possible to replicate your classroom instruction or supports. Carry out the goals and objectives to the extent possible. Use the accommodations as they apply to distance learning, keep in mind confidentiality. Remember, any way our distance learning design communicates their disability to anyone other than the parent and the student it is a violation of FERPA. FERPA is a Federal law that protects a parent’s privacy interest in his or her child’s “education records.” [T]hose records, files, documents, and other materials, which (i) contain information directly related to a student; and (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution. 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(a)(4). “FERPA would generally prohibit a teacher from disclosing information from a child’s education records to other students in the classroom, as well as prohibit a teacher from disclosing information from a child’s education records to the parents of another child who might be observing the classroom,” as stated by LeRoy S. Rooker, Director, Family Policy Compliance Office. Consider a parent confidentiality consent agreement for e-learning and distance learning.