“Every problem is a character-building opportunity.” -Rick Warren.
“Well, what in the world are we going to do now?” This was just one of the myriad questions my IB History 12th graders had for me when we were watching Jay Inslee, the governor of the state of Washington, announced that schools would be closed for six weeks as in order to assist in “flattening the curve” and slowing the development of the outbreak we were (and still are) experiencing here.
I responded with feigned optimism doing my best to mask the uncertainty I was dealing with at the moment. “We’re going to do what humans are notoriously good at doing; we’re going to adapt.”
One week into my time teaching my students from home (and doing my best to teach my own children who are 6 and 9 years old), I can say that “adapting” has been a very slow process. Another thing I can say is that I have been nothing short of amazed at the character demonstrated by many corporations in the private sector. I’ve gotten dozens of emails in my school inbox from companies excited to serve us on the front lines by making their resources free for all. It’s been a bit overwhelming, to be frank. However, Zoom immediately comes to mind as one company who instantly went to work to assist us on the front lines of education by offering their video conferencing suite, free of charge to anyone in K-12. It has been amazing (and entertaining) to say the least!
If you haven’t had an opportunity to play around with Zoom, I strongly urge you to. I’m not comfortable hosting Zoom conferences with my students yet and I would encourage everyone reading this to look toward your district leadership for their direction on the service, but I have co-taught a few different lectures with my colleague Adam Novelli. The two of us have had a great time conversing with each other electronically over Zoom about the methods used by authoritarian leaders in the 20th century in their rise to power. We then upload the Zoom conference to YouTube and share it out on our Google Classrooms. We’ve built Google Forms for students to complete after the video which helps us monitor engagement and most importantly, as a result of the restrictions on our ability to teach in person, our video content can be reused in the future as we turn this unit into a “flipped classroom” unit.
YouTube! What an incredible tool for us to use in these times. No, not to share someone else’s content, but to share your own. If you have children of your own, give them an old cell phone that’s been laying around for years and let them record videos with it. If you have a MacBook, you can teach them how to use iMovie and make videos to share with their own teachers and classmates. If you’re unsure of whether your children can handle it, I can tell you with certainty that my 9 year old was able to figure it out. Don’t have a MacBook? No problem, go download WeVideo on to your Chrome Browser (free!) and you’ll have a pretty amazing video editing tool to use to make your own videos as well.
You may have seen blogs in the past on the CharacterStrong blog talking about True Story Friday. Well… why let being at home stop you from telling them? Grab a cell phone, turn it sideways (landscape mode for the win), and tell your True Story Fridays on Friday and share it to Google Classroom or via the Remind App after you’ve uploaded it to YouTube. My wife and I took an opportunity to do this on Friday and it was a really fun, new twist to an old tradition. An added bonus? If we continue to do this, we will have a treasure trove of true stories for our own children to show their children. I’d be remiss as a history teacher if I didn’t allude to the US Constitution here and say, “do it for the sake of your posterity!”
I’m sure there are dozens of other amazing tools and resources you are employing in these difficult times and we’d love to hear all about them. Be sure that you’re checking in with your students from time to time as well using the CharacterStrong Temperature Check once a week. I shared one last week with my students and was astounded at how hard they are impacted by the new routines in their daily lives. Using these tools, you should be able to remind them that A) you are still there for them and B) the learning never stops!
Take good care of yourselves! Respectfully, Bryan Slater
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Bryan Slater is an experienced classroom teacher who has taught high school Social Studies in Tacoma, WA, Lagos, Nigeria, and Sumner, WA since 2002. He currently teaches IB 20th Century Topics, Advanced Leadership, and Theory of Knowledge to 10th, 11th, and 12th graders at Sumner High School. Bryan's passion centers on helping teachers and students understand the importance relationships play in developing a culture of learning and trust in the classroom. He believes the Eight Essentials are the key to those relationships and works hard to challenge his fellow colleagues and students to think about how they are creating their "Character Brand" as teachers and learners through the 1,000's of choices they make each day.