Teaching Through Coronavirus: What Educators Need Right Now

We asked educators what they need, and we listened. We hope this message—and these resources—offer some help.
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On Monday we asked our community of educators what they need in the face of uncertainty caused by school closures and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 2,000 educators responded, and the range of those responses illustrates the incredible responsibilities they feel for their students’ learning and well-being. More than 98 percent were facing school closures—and the ensuing consequences fell on educators quickly.

What Educators Are Asking For

“I think people are going to feel helpless,” one respondent told us. When asked what resources they’d recommend, another said, “At this point, I’m feeling overwhelmed. In the course of 72 hours, our school district shut down, we had to scramble to prepare lessons for students and now we’re on a shelter-in-place order. I don’t know of any resources right now. We NEED resources!” It was a sentiment we saw time and time again in the responses.

Overwhelmingly, these educators requested resources they could easily share with students, be it online or in packets delivered during food drop-offs. More than 80 percent requested “Do Something” projects that could easily be adapted for distance learning. And half asked for articles about ensuring equity during a time of school closure, distance learning and racism directed at Asian American students.

We also want to stress the range of specific needs educators brought up in this survey. Educators wanted recommendations for online resources and platforms. They wanted emotional support for students and educators alike. They wanted materials on the intersections of COVID-19 and social justice. Educators asked for best practices for distance learning. They asked for physical and printable resources for students without online access. They asked for information they could send families about basic necessities and resources for families trying to do their best to take on the role of educator in the household. Below, you will find links to resources that address these asks. 

Amid the calls for specific resources to help with learning, there was also an overwhelming need for hope, for reminders of our collective resilience, for ways to cope with the intersecting anxieties students and educators are facing. We aim to address these requests as best we can—and to call on the education community to help where we feel less equipped. 

Coming together begins with responding to what our community needs right now. 

Resources to Share With Students

Teaching Tolerance has a bank of resources that can be adapted for take-home or online learning. Our Student Text Library has more than 500 texts (including readings, read-alouds, images and videos), filtered by grade level, subject and social justice topic. Our film kits include student-friendly documentaries and discussion guides. For copyright reasons, some of these texts and films require an account to access—but anyone can create a free account, whether an educator or a caregiver. Educators are welcome to create class accounts and share the login and password with students or to save texts as PDFs and email them to students or upload them to a password-protected course management system like Canvas or Blackboard. 

Teaching Tolerance also has lessons that can be adapted for students with or without online access. While we are currently undergoing an evaluation of these resources, we feel confident that any of these can strengthen your lesson planning:

  • lessons based on the book The Color of Law, which can add depth to any unit on segregation, government-sanctioned discrimination or systemic racism;
  • Teaching The New Jim Crow, lessons about the criminal justice system that can help students understand the connections between historical and present-day injustices;
  • lessons on digital literacy and online citizenship, which are designed for students K-12, whether they have online access or not.

“Do Something” Projects

Our website features 34 “Do Something” tasks. Most of these are adaptable to distance learning and homeschooling. They are designed to allow students to apply their knowledge to real-world issues. Here are a few of our favorites:

  • Oral History Project, in which students can conduct interviews at home to see how personal experiences intersect with something they are studying;
  • Buddy Share, in which students could share art or writing with an online classmate;
  • Identity Artifacts Museum, in which students can create a display of items from home that represent aspects of their identities. 

Articles With Recommendations About Equity

We know that—with such little time to plan—the absence of school programming or the implementation of distance learning may threaten equal resource access for a wide range of students. We know that students experiencing poverty, students with disabilities, English language learners, students living in food deserts, students with elderly caregivers and families without work flexibility are particularly vulnerable. In the coming weeks, we hope to produce or share articles and resources with recommendations for ensuring equity for these students and families.

Today, these resources may prove useful: 

We cannot predict how the spread of coronavirus will affect schools tomorrow, next week or months from now. But we feel reassured by the knowledge that social justice educators have always been leaders in building our communities up. So we stand alongside you in not letting this crisis keep us down. To the extent that we can, we will humbly face this unknown with you and strive for a better tomorrow.

We hope these resources help.

Resource List for Educators 

Note: This list is drawn from survey responses, TT staffers and youth-serving organizations. TT has not vetted all third-party lists. Please take special care in selecting online learning platforms and checking for equity, accessibility and—as we teach students to recognize how their personal data is monetized—privacy.

Coronavirus Resources: Teaching, Learning and Thinking Critically — New York Times Learning Network 
This ever-updating resource includes items for staying current on coronavirus news, teaching media literacy around the coronavirus, essential questions and discussion suggestions, and advice for teaching and learning online.

Emotional Support

“We need to be sure our students have their fears acknowledged. … We need to focus on their mental health along with their physical health.” –TT survey respondent 

Crisis Text Line 
This resource offers 24/7 crisis counseling to those who text HOME to 741741.

The Trevor Project
For LGBTQ students—especially in non-accepting families—social isolation at home may be difficult. The Trevor Project provides them support.

Talking to Children About COVID-19 (Coronavirus): A Parent Resource  — National Association of School Psychologists
This site offers guidance for talking to young people about the coronavirus in a way that is factual and anxiety-reducing. 

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information and Resources — National Alliance on Mental Illness
This thorough resource includes tips for how to deal with anxiety caused by COVID-19 news and special considerations for people experiencing homelessness, people with vulnerable family members and people who feel isolated. 

Care for Your Coronavirus Anxiety
A website with resources for addressing anxiety that educators may be feeling, including that induced by xenophobia, financial fears, isolation and more. It also includes a special portal for parents.

Parent/Caregiver Guide to Helping Families Cope With the Coronavirus Disease 2019 — The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
This printable resource, available in several languages, includes information for families and caregivers that educators can use and share. Particularly helpful is the section outlining common reactions to stress and recommendations for supporting children that are broken down by age group.

Resources Students Can Use Online

“[I need] any online resources that students in grades k-12 can use at home.” –TT survey respondent

Amazing Educational Resources
This crowdsourced document lists education companies that are offering free subscriptions during school closures.

Free Online Learning Resources for Schools Affected by Coronavirus/COVID-19 — Tech Learning
This list includes hundreds of free e-learning platforms and resources that cover a wide range of grade levels, subjects and needs, including topics such as sex education, drama and language learning.

125+ Amazing Online Learning Resources — We Are Teachers
This list includes sites with ready lesson plans and activities for all grade levels, as well as e-learning platforms.

Free Educational Resources for Distance Learning — California Department of Education
This is a list of education publishers offering free distance learning resources.

Discovery Education
Offering free access through the remainder of the school year, this platform includes digital textbooks and multimedia resources for online K-12 learning.

Doc Academy
Doc Academy features free clips from documentary films, including social justice topics, with accompanying toolkits and lessons.

On the TED-Ed site, users will find free videos on a wide range of educational topics, with portals for students and educators.

Storyline Online
This website offers read-alouds of books for young readers. Books include a diverse range of authors and characters but should be vetted by educators.

Storytime From Space
On this site, astronauts read children’s books aloud. It’s out of this world cute, and the options include diverse representation of kids who love science.

Printables for Pick-Up

“[There are] issues of equity in access to online learning.” –TT survey respondent

Curriculum Associates
This website includes printable activities for grades K-8 in math and reading.

All Kids Network
Mostly geared toward young learners, this website offers printable activities and worksheets.

This page offers printable activities for students in grades K-8.

COVID-19 and Social Justice

“Our school has several students from China who will not be able to go home during this break. I saw a few Chinese students out at a local restaurant and heard a few old white men at a table nearby grumbling about how the kids should have on face masks. How can we protect our Asian students against bias?” –TT survey respondent

Since February, we have stressed the need for educators to understand the historical context of the rhetoric surrounding the coronavirus—and to interrupt it. Even in online or distance learning contexts, our Speak Up at School and Let’s Talk! guides can help you formulate responses to such rhetoric from students and facilitate conversations about where that rhetoric is coming from. 

When Xenophobia Spreads Like a Virus — NPR
This article provides personal narratives of how xenophobia has affected people across the United States during the coronavirus outbreak.

Support for Teachers During the COVID-19 Outbreak — Facing History and Ourselves
This collection includes resources on standing against racism surrounding the coronavirus and readings that can help students ground this moment in the history of crises and community care.

Coronavirus School Closings Expose Digital Divide — U.S. News
This article explains how some members of the Federal Communications Commission are advocating for ways the FCC can and should step in to mitigate tech inequities during quarantine.

COVID-19 and the Education of Students with Disabilities — National Disability Rights Network
This collection of resources from NDRN can help educators ensure equal access to online education for students with disabilities.

COVID-19 Response and Resources — The Justice Collaborative 
This page helps explain how marginalized and incarcerated populations are more endangered by COVID-19.

Best Practices for Online or Distance Learning

“We are not ready for distance learning.” – TT survey respondent 

Learning Keeps Going 
A coalition of education organizations developed this website that hosts tips, webinars and resource lists for transitioning to digital learning. It also contains a help desk for educators and a hotline for parents and students.

3 Ways to Turn Your Classroom Remote in a Hurry — KQED
This succinct resource from KQED includes a compilation of online learning tools and recommendations for implementing them. 

Resources for Teaching and Learning During This Period of Social Distancing — KQED
This thorough article offers resources and suggestions for educators to transition to distance learning. 

How to Teach Online Courses — Future Learn
These free courses can help educators learn strategies for remote and distance learning with students.

Resources for Families in Need

“The more vulnerable populations may be more at risk of environmental, natural crisis/disasters. How to become proactive and an advocate?” – TT survey respondent

These Organizations Are Helping People Get Food and Medical Help During the Coronavirus Pandemic — Buzzfeed News
This article includes a list of organizations working to deliver food, medical supplies and aid to people locally, nationally and internationally.

Coronavirus: Multilingual Resources for Schools — Colorín Colorado
These resources can help educators provide communication around this crisis to families in multiple languages.

Talking Points
This app can help educators send text messages and communications to students and families in their home languages.

Talking to Kids About Coronavirus: ASL and English Resources — American Society for Deaf Children
Resources in ASL that provide information on the coronavirus as well as its impact on the Deaf community.

Supporting Families During COVID-19 — Child Mind Institute
This collection of services includes video chats with clinicians, telemedicine services and tips for managing anxiety and discipline as kids are isolated at home.

Resources for Caretakers

“Lesson and online learning that parents can access as well. The teachers are putting things together, but the parents are at home implementing it.” –TT survey respondent

Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus — Child Mind Institute
This article offers basic tips that include open and honest conversation. 

Coronavirus and Parenting: What You Need to Know Now — NPR
This ever-updating guide from NPR includes advice for both health and education during the coronavirus outbreak.

Scholastic Learn at Home
This free resource includes days of projects for children in grade bands of PK-K, 1-2, 3-5 and 6+.  

Khan Academy
Khan Academy offers free courses for kids in subjects such as math, science and history.

Free Resources and Subscriptions for Remote Learning and Home Schooling Due to Coronavirus— QNS
This is a curated list of free remote learning and homeschooling resources for a variety of subjects and grade levels.

Coronavirus: Learning Resources for Kids Home From School — KIRO 7
This article provides advice for structuring the home learning environment as well as a list of free online activity websites.

For more resources to support students and families during this time, visit TT’s resource collection “Supporting Students Through Coronavirus.” 

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