The last few days have been a whirlwind. As a teacher, I felt a sense of uneasiness that was similar to my first day of student teaching. I remembered all those old questions: Was I prepared? How would I handle any issues if/when they arose? How would my students respond to my teaching style? How should I curate all these resources and pieces of information that are being thrown at me into an effective teaching plan? As a parent, I juggled getting a two-week supply of food, materials to be an effective teacher for my own children, disinfecting the house and not getting too close to anyone outside of my immediate family (for fear of bringing home this virus).

I started my career in distance learning 2002, when my former employer went bankrupt and we wanted to keep our professional development program moving forward. At the time, there wasn’t a lot of information out regarding best practices and strategies for distance learning, so we learned while on the job (and made a lot of mistakes). Effective distance learning programs and lessons take months to create and put into action. However, educators across the globe are now faced with just a few days or hours to get things together.

As teachers, you are the captains of a large plane (i.e. Airbus A380-800, Boeing 747 or 777). You were comfortable flying your single-engine, regional plane. But you got promoted to flying a much larger vessel (without ever being asked if you wanted to accept this new position). You normally follow a flight plan (i.e. curriculum). However, your flight departed early and you weren’t given a detailed (if any) flight plan on how to operate this new machine. Nor were you provided training or tutorials. You were overwhelmed with a bunch of manuals (tools, sites, suggestions) but didn’t have the time to process (read, learn or preview) everything. You just said a prayer and held on tightly to the flight stick. Your passengers (i.e. students and parents) weren’t given any (or little) safety instructions for how to have an enjoyable flight and weren’t really told where they were headed and how to pack (what materials and supplies were needed). As an instructional technology specialist, I feel like I missed many of my flight connections with my fellow colleagues. I’m trying to reroute and catch up, but there are so many technical delays. As a parent, I feel like I am sending my kids off on their first solo flight and I’m not sure if I packed them with the right suitcase.

When your plane first took off it was exhilarating. Out the window you saw a lot of new things. Unfortunately, as pilots you couldn’t see all the sites down below (i.e. tools, resources, methodologies) because you were trying to keep the plane steady and not fly into turbulence. However, it’s inevitable that you will hit some turbulence (student and parent confusion, changing directives, etc.). The key about turbulence is to not panic and overcorrect the plane. Instead, you want to breathe deep, ask questions and listen to your command center (i.e. network of educators and administrators). You may be given different advice about how to weather the storm. However, just as you move fluidly from one plan to the next in the classroom, keep doing so online. The key is to take a deep breath and don’t bail out of the cockpit.

We will all arrive safely at our final destination. Some of us will have longer flights and layovers, but we will be better teachers (and parents) for this experience. As 21st educators we are facilitators of learning. We must be effective communicators, collaborators, critical thinkers and creators. We don’t need to be perfect for our students and parents. In fact, we can use this opportunity to show our students how to be persistent, make sense out of ambiguous information and remain calm.

In the real world, airlines work in teams that are composed of pilots, flight attendants, air traffic controllers, gate agents, etc. Remember, you don’t have to fly alone. In fact, please don’t work in isolation! Use your network and community to make this a memorable and life-changing experience for everyone. Come work with PLP in an upcoming webinar to learn how to weather the turbulence and head towards your sunny destination.

Be sure and make plans to attend out Remote Learning Webinar Series, learn more and register here:

Want ongoing free support with Remote Learning? We’re relaunching the PLP Community Hub, this will be a free place to connect, collaborate and find resources on remote learning, it’s launching April 1st! Join the waiting list to be notified as soon as it’s open!

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Christen Dodd

Christen is a Connected Learning Specialist for PLP. After earning her MEd. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Virginia, she began her career as a K-5 Computer Resource Teacher. She enjoyed collaborating with staff and creating technology lessons that engaged students, but caught “the bug” for presenting to educators on a national level. For eleven years, Christen trained educators both face-to-face and virtually with Verizon Thinkfinity. She also served as their Distance Learning Coordinator and Vice President of Professional Development. Christen has enjoyed working with Powerful Learning Practice since 2011 and continuing her work with educators, parents and students alike. Currently, she is also an instructional technology specialist at her children's JK-8 Catholic school.

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