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Jamie Lincow is a high school Spanish teacher. She is working in a school that offers a hybrid model, which means that students can come into the class for in person instruction 2 days a week or choose to stay home for fully virtual instruction.
When I first learned that my school district was opening a hybrid model for in-person and virtual instruction and that teachers would return back to the building full time, I felt deflated. I could not imagine how I could teach to live students and virtual students simultaneously…and in Spanish! Despite the 18 years of experience I have in the classroom, I was more nervous to start school this year than any other time, including my first year in the classroom! That first week was daunting, but I’ve learned a few tricks along the way that have helped guide me through my first month with success, gratitude, and admiration for my craft. Here are some of the tips I have been following:
- Take it day by day. From day one, I had no expectations for myself regarding the amount of material I could fit in each class period. I typically follow my lesson plans from the previous year as a guide, but this year will be completely different…and that’s ok! Everything moves slower in this environment. Lessons that took 15 minutes last year now span over 2 class periods. I know that I will get through all of the required information that my students need eventually, but the pace is slower and therefore some extraneous projects or activities may need to be deleted.
- Take risks. Teaching Spanish requires communication between the students, and I traditionally break students into pairs for informal conversation practice in the classroom. In a hybrid model with students in front of me and students online, I had to rethink my entire method. Since Google Meet does not yet have a function for breakout groups, I decided to try to open a few meets at a time and let the students connect with each other in that way. I was able to pair together both the virtual and the hybrid students so that we felt like a seamless classroom for those activities. I felt like an adventurer as I toggled back and forth between 4 different screens to monitor the students, but after various attempts, the activity is much easier.
- Remember to smile! Under all the face shields, masks, and PPE, I find myself smiling more than I thought. When I see the proverbial light bulb go off in my students’ eyes, I feel instant gratification and I remember why I chose this profession. I am reaching my students (albeit in a different way than ever before) and they are so thankful for the opportunity to connect with their teachers and peers.
I regularly follow these guidelines, and I am building confidence with each passing week in this new environment. Now that I have mastered the delivery of the material in a hybrid model, I am beginning to think about how to assess it, which will entail building new activities that will be meaningful, verifiable assessments of my students’ retention.