Although it happens every year, going back to school doesn’t seem to get any easier. You’re coming off of vacation mode, booting back up to face colleagues and students, and nowadays, learning about new technological advances in the education market. A big part of the way that technology is incorporated is through blended learning classroom models, which combine face-to-face learning, hands-on activities, and online instruction. It is just as important to plan for back to school in the online and blended learning setting as it is to plan for the traditional setting. So as an administrator, how can you prepare for the best back-to-school season in your blended learning classrooms?
Greet the new school year with open arms.
The welcome-back letter is a staple in the back-to-school routine of many teachers and administrators. The letter sets the tone for the school year and introduces teachers to both students and parents. It is also a great way to initiate an open pathway of communication by including contact information and an invitation for questions. The welcome-back letter can be physically mailed to students (what child doesn’t love receiving personal snail mail?), or it can be included in a set of emails distributed to parents. One first-grade teacher even adds a twist of technology to her welcome-back letters. She includes a QR code that, once scanned by any QR reader app, links to an audio recording of herself reading the letter. Simple gestures like this can help to promote the use of technology in education.
Although parents will normally meet teachers during a back-to-school open house, they are less likely to meet administrators early on. As an administrator, it is important for parents to know that you truly care about what is best for their children. Emailing important resources and a short introduction about yourself and your educational background is a great way to let parents know that you are also actively involved (and more than qualified!).
These letters and emails offer you an opportunity to remind parents that even though their children are using technology in a blended learning classroom, they are still receiving face-to-face instruction and interaction with very real and very human teachers. Technology in the blended learning classroom is here to enhance the student-teacher relationship, not replace it.
Educate and involve parents further.
In addition to wondering who’s teaching their children, there’s a good chance that parents are also curious about the blended learning classroom. Create a presentation explaining how blended learning works, how it benefits students, and how parents can be involved. If an in-person presentation is not a viable option for your school, then you may want to record a webinar presentation (or air a live one). You can also send parents materials via email that elaborate on the blended learning classroom. Another great option is advising your teachers to open up their classrooms for a day and invite parents to observe or participate. This way, parents can get a first-hand look at how a blended learning classroom operates. Parents will be more willing to support new instructional practices when they understand how influential and important they are to their children’s future learning and growth.
The most effective way you can promote educational technology and the blended learning classroom is by using and understanding it yourself. This enables you to become a knowledgeable user who can provide sufficient information to parents and fellow educators. It is also vital to engage your teachers in the planning process because, ultimately, teachers are the ones who must embrace and propel the use of technology in the classroom in order to ensure your implementation is successful.
Get out there to support your teachers and show your enthusiasm.
An easy way to support teachers in their blended learning classroom is to understand different blended learning models. One of the most popular models is the station-rotation model. This implementation involves a set schedule by which students complete online coursework and then participate in face-to-face time with their teacher. It is commonly used in elementary school settings, but it also works in middle and high schools, as teachers are able to more easily streamline lessons on specific skills or concepts they’d like students to learn. Understanding how to implement station-rotation and other models can help you assist your teachers in setting up their blended learning classrooms.
A final basic component for a successful back-to-school season is to simply be visible. You know the saying, “out of sight, out of mind,” and you don’t want your teachers or students to think that you don’t exist. So even though you may be inclined to stay in your office and take care of behind-the-scenes work, teachers, parents, and students are more likely to feel your passion for the job if they see you smiling and greeting them throughout the school year. Parents will also feel relief knowing their children are in the good hands of an administrator who is accessible and considerate.
During the first few weeks of school, it’s also a great idea to poke your head in and check out the classrooms to ensure everything is flowing smoothly. This is especially helpful in a blended learning classroom, as it reinforces the idea among teachers and students that their blended class is equally as important as traditional classrooms. Students will learn to recognize and respect you, and your teachers will appreciate the effort and interest. Staying visible throughout the entire school year should be a priority in general, but we all know that first impressions can leave a lasting imprint.
As you prepare for the back-to-school season, remember that day one is not just about you; day one (and every day thereafter) should be about your students, parents, and teachers, and making them feel welcomed and supported in the blended learning classroom.
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