As COVID-19 restricts life around the globe, we asked some of our teachers, placed in Asia and the Middle East, to pass on the lessons they have learned over the past few weeks of e-learning in their countries, as the whole educational world adapts to a new way of working.

Prepare for frustration

This way of working requires a new set of skills and attitudes for everyone involved, including you - normally the expert. Don’t be afraid to open up about the frustrations involved to colleagues, parents, and students. Using new software, waiting for limited broadband speed, or losing work is equally frustrating for teachers, students and parents.

Less is more

This, for the foreseeable future, is the new normal, quality over time is what matters. As everyone begins this new phase of school life, strip activities back to the fundamentals, and carefully layer on complexity over time.  You, students, and parents will become more confident with e-learning over time. Your taught curriculum can not look exactly the same as it always has while everyone involved gets to grips with a huge change.

Different differentiation

Teachers are used to differentiating with a class load of students in front of them,  but now you need to differentiate for resources too. If a family can’t access a printer they still need to be able to complete the work - is there an explicit alternative in your instructions? If a child can’t access a computer and is looking at a phone screen, how can you present information you’d usually have in a slideshow? Make sure you consider the reality of the homes your children are living in.

The creative (home) classroom

It’s relatively easy to be creative when you’re in your classroom, surrounded by students and resources, but figuring out how to energise your students via a computer screen, requires insight, confidence, and expertise on a whole new level. Look for opportunities to break out of the mundane and support students to use the people, objects and  their imagination, as much as possible.

Know your audience

The phrase ‘parents as partners’ has never been more apt. You’re used to pitching lessons at your students, but depending on the age group you teach, your main audience might now be a parent or carer. Levels of available time, patience, and skill available to parents and carers will vary hugely. You need to cater for all of your parents in the same way you cater for all of your students. Where you know more support will be needed, anticipate obstacles and do what you can to overcome them. Some teachers have found that making use of messaging options on existing home-school platforms has been a good way to communicate with resistant parents. Others have offered support to parents before they receive a message requesting help. Others have found simplifying instructions, or using a translator, has allowed EAL parents to better support their children. Whatever the problems you come up against, remind yourself this is a challenge for everyone, seek help, and be as transparent as possible to keep parents on-side.

Be crystal clear

Being productive and happy at home is all about structure - if you can be as clear as possible about timings and expectations around standards you’ll help to avoid the kind of debate that could lead to parent-child conflict at home. Although you aren’t in the room, you are still the teacher, so be clear in what you are looking for so parents and children can work together with a shared understanding of schedules and outcomes.
Establish an easy-to-use tracking system

Think about how you want to keep track of the work your students are (or aren’t) completing and make it manageable. Some people have been asking for photographic evidence, others using support staff to record who is completing work. Our teachers reported between 50-90% completion - you’ll know what level of participation you're aiming for with your students, but whatever system you use, make sure you can stick to it consistently and you give as much feedback as you can to keep students and parents engaged.

And we’ll leave you with a few encouraging comments from people who have already done it!

“It is frustrating to learn a new way of teaching but it makes you a better educator”

“Your creativity is your greatest asset here, dare to try something new”

“Be patient with yourself. Be willing to learn. Never forget WHY you are doing this.”