Q: My school has gone back and forth between hybrid, in-person and virtual learning due to COVID. What can I do to create structure and stability for my students (and myself)?
All of us—including teachers, school staff, caregivers and students—are facing uncertainty almost daily amid the ongoing pandemic. But there are little ways you can create routines and structures that can be easily implemented in person or virtually. Think about activities like one-minute check-ins, building in a few minutes every hour for a short wellness activity or a game, and quick writes on short prompts for students to focus their thoughts. Give students time to process and take deep breaths. These routines will help ensure that, no matter the format or venue in which you’ll be meeting, students can come with consistent expectations. Bring parents and caregivers into the routine by giving students discussion questions they can talk about after school and then—if they choose—discuss in class.
In addition, please remember you cannot be a consistent presence for students if you aren’t taking care of yourself. Along with activities for students, make self-care a part of your routine. That can take many forms; only you know what works best for you. You can check out our webinar The Value of Educator Self-care for ideas and inspiration.
Q: Even though election season is over, my students are still confused by the conflicting and false information they find online. How can I remain nonpartisan and objective while giving them the tools to identify misinformation and think critically about sources they encounter?
Digital literacy is only increasing in its importance. Your students will continue to encounter false information, opinions framed as facts and sources with varying degrees of trustworthiness. We hope you’ll advocate on their behalf with your administration to ensure you are supported in your efforts to teach this critical subject. By teaching digital literacy, you can equip your students to better understand the ways information makes its way to them and to look at that information critically and with a healthy dose of skepticism. These skills are applicable in any subject area—and can be incorporated into your existing curriculum. In math, for example, you can have students compare data from a range of sources to see whether its presentation is being skewed to favor a particular position.
Educators in any subject can also teach about the algorithms that result in curated filter bubbles and emphasize the importance of distinguishing between fact and opinion. You can talk with students about ways to take action and push back against misinformation. This can include asking clarifying questions, citing reliable sources, and challenging misleading or harmful language and information. Tools like the TT Digital Literacy Framework or Stanford History Education Group resources can be helpful references as you dive into this work. Collaborating with your colleagues to develop a common language will ensure students are hearing consistent messaging throughout the school day when it comes to digital literacy.