Due to COVID-19, schools across Ontario have closed. Teachers have been offered limited direction as to how their time should best be spent. The four suggestions offered here will aid educators in streamlining their time away from the building, with the aim of suiting educator and student needs both in-class and online. Education workers following these suggestions will find themselves engaged, while enhancing their already strong skills.
Improving Mental Health and Well-Being
There are few things more important than the focus on mental health and well-being. Focusing on this areas enhances the experience of both students and educators.
A number of strong resources have been created to support these ends. The most relevant of them are Supporting Minds and Leading Mentally Healthy Schools.
Supporting Minds: An Educator’s Guide to Promoting Student’s Mental Health and Well-being is a document that was created by the Ontario Government in 2013 to address the changing classroom climate.
The guide focuses on the following issues:
- Anxiety Problems
- Mood Problems
- Attention and Hyperactivity / Impulsivity Problems
- Behaviour Problems
- Eating and Weight-related Problems
- Substance Use Problems
- Self-harm and Suicide
For each of those areas, the guide answers the following questions:
- What is it?
- What does it look like?
- What can educators do?
- Background information.
By taking the time to go through this document, education workers will gain a better understanding of concerns that present themselves within the classroom. Internalizing the information from this document will allow educators to better approach the learning environment in an equitable fashion.
Leading Mentally Healthy Schools
Created for school administrators, Leading Mentally Healthy Schools is a companion document to Supporting Minds.
This document looks to address Mental Health from a national, provincial, board-wide, and classroom-specific perspective. Though it presents the three year plan that was initiated after the completion of the 2013 Supporting Minds document, many educators will find a number of initiatives presented in this guide yet to be undertaken.
Through the lens of shared leadership, educator’s can gain a better understanding of how they can support their schools through an awareness of the road-map that has been put in place for their administrators.
Rather than just presenting theory, there are a number of linked tools that can be used for immediate implementation.
“If only we had the time…” That’s a phrase often spoken by educators when faced with new initiatives. It seems that there are always new things to learn, but never any time presented to learn them. Right now, that has all changed.
The one thing educators do have now is time.
John Malloy’s Keynote Speeches at Unleashing Learning
There’s a lot to learn from the TDSB director of education, John Malloy.
For starters, there is his Vision for Learning: https://www.tdsb.on.ca/About-Us/Director-of-Education/Vision-for-Learning
Next, there are his powerful keynote speeches at the Unleashing Learning conferences. Though the 2020 conference will no doubt be cancelled due to COVID19, education workers can benefit from watching his 2018, and 2019 speeches, or reading the synthesized version at the following links.
Google for Education: Video Series
Google has created a number of videos to support the use of their tools in the classroom. One of the most valuable videos for educators rights now is Distance Learning Strategies with GSuite and Chromebooks. Their pre-recorded webinar can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gslpx7Q8mhc
Additional videos can be found on the Google for Education YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/eduatgoogle/videos?view=0&sort=p&flow=list
Professional Development: Google Training
Aside from watching videos, Google has created a number of additional training options to increase your digital literacy, and its application to classroom practices.
Google has created a number of different training sessions which can be found here: https://teachercenter.withgoogle.com/training
There are a variety of courses offered, including:
- Fundamentals Training
- Advanced Training
- Devices Training
- Digital Citizenship and Safety
By using this time to familiarize or reinforce yourself with digital tools, teachers will be prepared to engage with twenty first century learners.
Both the Toronto Public Library and the Ontario College of Teachers offer a number of professional texts that can help educators enhance their practice both inside and outside of the classroom.
It’s not enough to know one should read, one often needs to be pointed at the best texts to read. In a world where so many books are published on a daily basis, cutting through to what matters is often what holds people back from getting started.
The Six Secrets of Change – Michael Fullan
This book was suggested to me by my principal. Though it seems focused on the business world, it is written from an educational perspective that underscores the importance of a strong public education system.
For those without the time to read the full text, I wrote a synthesized version which can be found here: https://whatbinder.com/2020/03/04/the-six-secrets-of-change-by-michael-fullan-a-book-synthesis/
Seven Fallen Feathers – Tanya Talaga
Suggested to me by my vice-principal, this text is a powerful look at seven lives, cut short. Examining the systemic racism that permeates our society, each chapter presents the life of an Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay.
Additional Book Lists
10 Books I Wish My White Teachers had Read: https://www.bustle.com/articles/153390-10-books-i-wish-my-white-teachers-had-read
10 Best Books for Teachers in 2020: http://incompassinged.com/2019/12/16/10-best-books-for-teachers-in-2020/
10 Best Books for New Teachers: https://www.weareteachers.com/best-books-for-new-teachers/
Accessing the Digital Libraries
Sometimes understanding how to access information can be the roadblock preventing people from engaging with the materials. Guides to access the online resources from each of the two services can be found below.
Toronto Public Library
A guide explaining how to access the Toronto Public Library’s online collection can be found here: https://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/books-video-music/downloads-ebooks/ebooks-userguides.jsp
O.C.T. Professional Library
A step-by-step guide explaining how to access the O.C.T. professional library can be found here: https://whatbinder.com/2020/01/26/free-teaching-ebooks-for-ontario-teachers-through-the-oct-ontario-college-of-teachers/
Create Shareable Resources
Educators are also creators. Turning a few handouts into a seventy-five minute engaging lesson is nothing less than the act of pure, imaginative, artistry.
During the time away from the classroom, a number of educators will continue to create strong resources. Some will aim to enhance the blended learning environment. Others will be used to enhance the classroom alone.
Homeschooling Your Child: Free Teachers’ Guide
A lot of people have just found themselves in the role of home school teacher for the first time in their life. For that reason, I have created a Teachers’ Guide to help people home school their children.
Designed with elementary students in mind, the guide can be easily modified to suit the needs of students from preschool to high school.
This guide contains everything educators need:
1. A daily schedule
2. Strong, detailed lesson plans
3. Professionally created assignment sheets
4. Classroom ready graphic organizers
5. Extension ideas for further learning
In these times, we’re all in it together.
Some additional resources that I feel would be beneficial to students, and educators right now include:
- The Ten Key Literacy Skills
- The impact of Media
- Essay Writing
- Project Based Learning
- Inquiry Based Learning
Leave Your Mark
I encourage all educators to create, and freely share their resources in an effort to bring about a strong learning environment for all.
Comment with links to your creations in the space below.