By Kelly Harmon
I was talking to my 8th grade nephew a few weeks ago about his experience with virtual learning. He said Google Meet was better than sitting in the same class all day long, spaced six feet apart. He likes being at home, able to get something to eat or drink anytime he wanted. When I asked him if he turned his camera on and participated in class discussions, he said no because "no one else does." He said he'd do it if others did.
This got me thinking about how to build an online community of learners who feel safe to share their cameras and speak up during discussions. How can we give students a reason to turn on the camera? How can we help students see that they have commonalities with each other? It really boils down to starting each session with the social and emotional connections and then moving into the lesson content.
Professional collaboration was at play two weeks ago when I went to my fellow teacher (and sister-in-law) Christe Montgomery to ask for ideas for building community and managing behavior. She suggested the Ron Clark Academy house system that her school implements. It sounded fun and engaging, so I rallied the troops in 4th grade and we went for it. It was a hit very quickly. The house system teaches teamwork, responsibility, teamwork, friendship, and leadership.