Ed Smylie is my hero. You may not recognize the name, but you probably remember that scene in Apollo 13 when, upon discovering the spacecraft’s lethally rising CO2 levels and the dilemma of mismatched equipment, flight director Gene Kranz commands his team to “invent a way to put a square peg into a round hole. Rapidly.” Engineer Ed Smylie led the way in an all-night race to do just that. Using nothing but the materials on hand, his quick thinking and adaptability saved the astronauts’ lives.
Spring 2020 required teachers to become Ed Smylie. Nearly every tool we normally used to reach our students was wiped off the table–we were left in complete upheaval. With no choice but to use whatever we had available, we dug deep into our resourcefulness to help our students (and ourselves!) survive distance learning. Amazingly, what we did served our purposes not only for the duration of remote learning, but changed our classroom practices for the better, even now with students back in the classroom.
Once the initial lockdown passed, my district allowed staff to teach from their classrooms (albeit empty ones), pushing us to find new methods of instruction. Just days before the shutdown, a new flat panel had been installed in my room; it seemed to be the perfect time to see what it could do.
Building relationships with students during pandemic learning
Teachers know that proximity is one of the most powerful tools in their toolbox. Moving about the room and interacting with students is crucial, not only for effective classroom management but for the basic camaraderie needed to have smooth working relationships with students.