New Beginnings Await

New Beginnings Await
boy looking in towards the school

New Beginnings Await

August 2020 | Issue #16

We finished out the 2019-2020 school year in a way we, as educators, were not expecting and have never experienced before. Usually, we would celebrate the last days of the school year with our students acknowledging the hard work they put in throughout the year. We never got to say our goodbyes to the faces we were accustomed to seeing Monday through Friday in our classrooms. Instead, we only were able to see our students over Zoom, Hangouts, Meets, or Teams depending on what virtual platform your school or district chose. Even then, it wasn’t the same. I’m not saying it wasn’t nice to see them, but it wasn’t the same human interaction we would experience daily with hugs, high-fives, handshakes, fist bumps, or whatever way you used to greet your students.

As you are aware, we are going to start the school year off with distance learning. Our first-day jitters are going to be very different this year. We are going to experience a different kind of nervousness as we teach through technology. The connections and relationships we build with students are going to be a lot different. As educators, we will get through it together! Lean into your school family and educator friends to help through the days where you experience heartache when you can’t reach the student(s) who need a hug, need some food, need a pencil, or a safe place. We are going to need our support system of amazing educators who will do whatever it takes to meet the needs of our students. The days ahead are going to be long and hard. It is like we are going back to our first year as a new teacher and learning the ins and outs of what being responsible for other humans is all about. Sacrificing our hearts, extending our minds, and challenging our very core of who we are as educators.

Through these same difficult times, we as adults are experiencing, our students are going through it with us. Here are some things to consider as we venture through distance learning together.

Do This!¹

  • CHOICE. Let students decide whether to turn on, or keep on their video. Allow them to use virtual or blurred backgrounds and fun filters (e.g., be a banana or a potato!)
  • REAL-TIME CHECK-IN. Ask questions often to assess student understanding. Allow students to respond via audio or virtual meeting tools (e.g., chatbox, polls, nonverbal reactions - “thumbs up”).
  • USE DIGITAL ASSESSMENT TOOLS. Collect different types of data to evaluate ongoing learning – Answer garden, Gimkit, Kahoot, Google Forms, Poll Everywhere, Socrative, Crowdsignal, Formative, Classkick, Ted-Ed, Playposit, Ed Puzzle, Nearpod, etc.

Don't Do This...

  • Connect student’s video use and eye contact time to participation points, grading, or school attendance.
  • Remove students from the meeting if their videos are not on.
  • Trick students into turning on their video (e.g., for a class dance party).
  • Give extra credit to students who have their video camera on.

Why Does It Matter?¹

  • PRIVACY. Students might be uncomfortable displaying their living space to their peers.
  • SAFETY. Students (and their family members) may not want their image captured, recorded, or shared. Students could be cyberbullied if a classmate takes a screenshot of their video. This will help the student feel safe in your virtual classroom.
  • EQUITY. Students might have unreliable Internet access, low bandwidth, devices without video capabilities, or limited access to a device (shared with a parent or another sibling).
  • PERSONAL. Students might feel shy or anxious to be on camera.

Something to Consider IF You Don’t Like Teaching to Blank Screens¹

Teach students to set up their Google Meet or Zoom profile picture as a Bitmoji, school photo, or a favorite appropriate selfie. When the camera is off, the students’ profile picture will show up, giving you a virtual audience to talk to.

Ask Before Assume¹

This is a challenging time for everyone. If students are struggling to show attentiveness, ask questions rather than make assumptions about their actions, or punish them for lack of engagement. ¹

Understanding your students' social-emotional needs is critical during these pandemic days. Here are some struggles our students are facing:


  • Some are missing out on their very first day of school
  • Our seniors, class of 2021, are missing the first day of their last year in public education
  • All are missing their friends
  • Some do not have the necessities at home to meet their basic needs
  • Some parents are out of work making it harder financially
  • Some are watching their younger siblings while trying to participate in virtual learning
  • Many are not getting the exercise they need
  • Athletes are missing playing the sport they love
  • All will be missing out on field trips, sporting events, assemblies, extracurricular activities, and other events that help shape their lives
  • Some have lost a friend or a family member during this pandemic and they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye
  • Lots wished they had one more day in person with their previous teacher or principal, and the list can go on and on

Remember we have all suffered from not being able to make human connection part of our normal routine for the past five months. As humans, we thrive on physical and emotional connections with other humans. As educators, we can help ease the struggle even for a few hours each day by creating safe spaces for our students. This year isn’t going to be easy. Being a teacher has never been easy.

This is a new journey, an adventure, a new start for everyone. There will be some bumps in the road, there always are and that’s okay. Those bumps are teachable moments. Moments you as an educator can use to shape the life of another human being. These moments, the good and the bad will fill your days leading to one amazing year!

At CAHELP we would like to extend our warmest wishes to you on this unprecedented and uncharted beginning of a New Academic Year. Let this school year be interesting and unusual for you as you let it bring new knowledge, discoveries, and new challenges for both you and your students. Make the learning environments, including the virtual ones, come to life through positive adult/student relationships, engaging lessons, from passionate and inspiring educators. Many blessings and best wishes to you!


¹ "Torrey Trust, Ph.D. on Twitter: "I put together this infographic to ...." 8 Aug. 2020, Accessed 12 Aug. 2020.