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New Year, New Rules - Back to School Blog from a Distance

New Year, New Rules - Back to School Blog from a Distance

Posted by Danny Hauger on Aug 18th 2020

Hello, digital pioneers (aka teachers)!

As we embark on a wireless web of new tech and new opportunities for many teachers, here are some tips for approaching a successful year, beginning in distance learning, or hybrid teaching. If you’re in the classroom with your students, these can still be helpful ideas for the 2020-2021 school year.

Zooming In, Up, and Away

  1. Your appearance shows more than you think. Check a mirror, or your webcam, before students connect. Your nonverbal signals mean more than ever, since you won’t hear all the feedback simultaneously from your classes.
  2. Mute everyone, and disable their ability to unmute themselves. WAIT. Don’t ignore them, just start your class under your control, set expectations, and then unmute each student at least once per class, ideally more, and talk with everyone to get the class involved, and start building community.
  3. If you have the means, get TWO MONITORS. Being able to monitor your entire class of students on the right screen, share the left screen, and manage participants and chat on the right is exceptionally helpful. I can’t understate how significantly increase your management capabilities will become. At the very least, split your screen, and invest the time in teaching students how to do so, it will be great as they embrace a variety of platforms and activities.
  4. Welcome your class with reassurance, student expectations will be shaped like a first impression in person.

Set the precedent

If a lot of the buzz around this new start to the year sounds daunting, realize that you can dictate the perspective you deliver to your class on day one. I am taking on one approach per week, to try and find a handful of rotating skills and formats ,to build a winning formula for strategic engagement. Currently exploring: Microsoft/Google Forms, FlipGrid, Padlet, Kahoot, EdPuzzle, and next month, more. Pick a few at a time and see if they click for your needs. What’s your favorite?

My first week back

I’ve been back at school for a week, and I put on the biggest smile that I had to greet my students one by one as I admitted them into the classroom and zoom. I uploaded a PDF to PDFEscape for free to check off students as I admit each person, greet them, and know that I have attendance taken properly, and am not admitting strangers or friends of friends.

Get to know your students, now more than ever.

Consider using my “first day getting to know your student survey” from and my Hauger history store. There are 15 questions of various interests to let you know more about your students and how to best serve them, and another extra resource for goal setting for the year. If things get stressful, add a mindfulness meditation for your class. This can be a tremendous time for students to take advantage of their own free time and apply it towards becoming the person they want to be and gaining the skills to succeed in life outside of the classroom, at the same time building resilience to get through difficult times when they arise in their life now and in the future. I also have modified some popular ice breakers, and added a few of my own, that I used to love in middle school.

Community Building and More Online Assets

Emily Ice, community builder extraordinaire, recently joined our Inspiring Teachers podcast to discuss tools and goals for distance learning. Emily discussed a cornucopia of resources for games, audio and visual interaction, projects, and activities. Tune in to that episode early in this link:

Muted but not silent

One of the things that has drastically improved the process of holding class throughout the week was asking every student in the room a question each class session. Whether its an ice breaker, historical journal (this day in history), or just a check-in for wellness, take the time, it will pay dividends in togetherness and classroom community.

The first two days I thought I would run the show like a podcast, but then I realized having gas and getting diverse opinions of the room was the best way to build community and belonging. By Thursday and Friday, students were staying after class to tell me how much they appreciated the opportunity to interact and critically think about the material we were learning. I replied that we are all in this together, in more ways than one, and will benefit from being able to interact and take advantage of the opportunity to also have one person speak at a time to truly be heard by everyone else in the classroom.

I am looking forward to every class period, and think that many of my students share the sentiment. Bring on every bell, every challenge, and every new chance to reach students with every tool we have.

Written by Danny Hauger

Host of The Inspiring Teachers Podcast



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