Teachers have a significant impact on student performance, which is why FCPS has always worked to recruit and retain "champions of excellence." The importance of the teacher has never been more significant than it is now during the COVID pandemic.
Recently, I had the unusual opportunity to visit classrooms that were virtual and face-to-face. There is an obvious difference, but there is also a very obvious similarity—the importance of the teacher! Whether working with students online or helping them in a classroom, I observed teachers making a difference for students, and that made me smile.
In the classrooms I visited, students were wearing masks and sitting socially distanced. Yet, the teachers engaged their students with instructional strategies that I know are effective and which I have seen many times before. It was "business as usual" for these talented teachers.
In the virtual classroom I visited, I observed a teacher using instructional strategies that I recognized but with a slightly different twist. For example, the teacher wanted to assure that every student had an opportunity to respond, and so she called on students randomly—but they could respond over the microphone or in the chat. This strategy was particularly important because many of the students did not have their video cameras on; thus, the teacher ensured they were engaged because they did not know who she would ask to respond.
It was also interesting to see how the students were able to provide peer-to-peer feedback in the virtual environment. Photos of their artwork were uploaded, and then classmates were asked to offer comments. The teacher modeled the type of feedback she was expecting students to offer. Again, this is an instructional strategy I have seen many times in classrooms that translated easily to the virtual classroom.
As our students and teachers navigate the new paradigm of virtual learning, I am reminded of the critically important role of the teacher. Whether together in the classroom or online, teachers build connections with students, find ways to engage students, use effective instructional strategies, and give students meaningful feedback. It is nice to know that some things never change.