Can teachers "journey with students" during distance learning?

  • Academics
Jess Thibault
Screenshot of online learning

The idea that good teachers journey alongside students during the process of learning is a popular one. Teachers as "guideposts" is a beautiful, visual metaphor. Students are always on a journey to gain knowledge and be transformed by the challenges they face along the way. Excellent teaching seizes this opportunity and utilizes strong relationships to guide students to higher heights and deeper impact.

But distance learning gives us pause. 

Is it possible to recreate the in-classroom experience? Not entirely.  

Can a student feel like their teacher is right alongside them on the journey to knowledge in a virtual setting? Judging by our first few days of distance learning, YES. 

Excellent distance learning must be learning based on partnership.

So what does partnership look like in this new environment? This is what the teachers of Sage Ridge School have to say.

1. Co-Creation

True classroom partnership is based on the idea that teachers and students are constantly co-creating the learning, which with a new virtual environment is exactly what each day feels like. 

"As an art educator, I teach what I love and I am learning what they know. They are becoming empowered by helping me with their own knowledge of technology while in return they are hungry for an artistic and creative outlet. We are all simultaneously educators and students within every class and we have discovered a new balance and respect in the learning environment."
-Kimball Iverson, Art Teacher

"By talking to them as conscious actors in their own lives; ones who are worried about what is happening, and are doing the best within the circumstances. My students will tell me what they want, what they need, what is working, and what is not if I give them the opportunity to do so. I ask them, listen to their answers, and then improve what we are doing based on their feedback."
-Bret Thibault, Math Teacher

"I think the eighth grade students especially feel empowered and eager to have the opportunity to direct their own learning. My relationships with them have allowed me to understand their individual interests and what they want to learn, and have allowed me to accompany each of their individual learning journeys by guiding them based upon their unique aspirations."
-Dominic Vitale, Music Teacher

2. Vulnerability

Teachers who fully embody the idea that they are journeying with students as they teach are not afraid to admit that distance learning brings them way outside their comfort zones too. This very act of admitting discomfort and demonstrating courage is a powerful teaching tool in itself. 

"I'm focusing on Courage and Responsibility as important equipment for this journey.  Courage on the part of students to try new ways of thinking and demonstrating understanding- by sharing in a zoom chat, sharing aloud in zoom, sharing answers in google classroom or in email exchanges with me.  Students are sharing in ways that work for their learning style and personality in more ways that in person class time allows. I am using courage by trying new methods of sharing content, creating new formative assessment strategies, and designing interactive on and off line experiences."
-Michelle Gallivan-Wallace, Science Teacher

"Amazing how much the students helped me use the technology. They knew that we were all in this together."
-Ralph Bothe, Math Teacher

3. Finding Opportunity

There is incredible opportunity in this new adventure -- for both teachers and their students to learn something new. Journeying with students means embracing the opportunity.

"My hope as I join my students on this journey detour is that we can support each other and find something we wouldn't have if we had stayed on the expected route. The engagement is high, and the students are bringing ideas to the class that help me decide how we will proceed with certain activities. It is a partnership in more ways than ever."
-Jennifer Kuehn, English Teacher

"These kids are resilient and will be more 'ready' for anything that comes at them now and in the future. They’re all positive, excited, and working hard! I’m so proud of their ability to preserve and adapt to change like chameleons!"
-Melissa Kirkwood, Grade 4 Teacher

4. Leading with Heart & Compassion

A true sense of partnership comes from the presence of empathy in relationships. The journey of learning online blossoms when the heart leads the virtual classroom. 

"With a positive attitude, optimism, dedication, respect, and a loving heart."
- Jaime Garzon, Spanish Teacher

"I'm showing up with patience. Accompanying them in their learning journeys right now is taking more patience than usual, and for many of my students, I have to choose patience if I want them to make it through distance learning. "
-Emily Dolan, English Teacher

"We are all laughing and smiling as we make mistakes and missteps with technology and we are enjoying the peek into each other's home lives- siblings, pets, wall color and decor."
-Michelle Gallivan-Wallace, Science Teacher

"I have been stressing to my students that my first priority is for their well being, and everything else comes after that."
-Christine Kratzer, Physical Education Teacher

Challenging curriculum and our character Pillars - Scholarship, Respect, Integrity, Courage, and Community - are the hallmarks of a Sage Ridge education. But the end result -- the thing alumni and current students both cite most frequently as the most impactful aspect of SRS -- is relationships and community. This foundation of Sage Ridge School translates into a strong and enriching virtual environment.

Sage Ridge School is full of incredible teachers who pour massive amounts of time, passion, creativity, and emotional energy into their work each and every day. Their willingness to step up and take on distance learning has brought me to tears on multiple occasions this week and I personally feel proud to be part of this community. 

May we all be inspired by their commitment and passion.
May all students find this journey of learning online rewarding and transformational. 
Stay well.

  • Coronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Distance Learning
  • Highlights
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