Our school has a new platform. The platform is Newrow. Prior to that we were using Blackboard. With Blackboard, there was very little interaction. Now with Neworw, we have noticed some interesting behaviors with some of the middle schoolers. I teach special education. This is what I am noticing. The students now are encouraged to express themselves more via the new platform. With that, students are engaging in a virtual pecking-order via chat banter.
Also, I have been trying to look at patterns so that I can look at root causes and try to help facilitate pro-social behaviors. Here are some patterns that I have noticed. Most of the students who are acting out virtually also new to virtual school. Additionally, those who are acting out via our virtual platform acted out in brick and mortar school as well as noted per the IEP records and/or in school counseling services.
I am trying to frame the behavior by asking, 'What is the function of the behavior?' Is it attention-seeking or avoidance. Another tricky wrench in the works is that as virtual teachers all of our classes are recorded so that parents and school administrators can view our teaching at any time. This has both a positive and negative side. With that we aren't given too much time to interact on a social level with our students. Each special education class is only a half and hour sessions and we have a formula agenda that we must follow.
Furthermore, we do not have paraeducators (i.e. teaching assistants) who are working with us in our virtual school. Sometimes we will help out teachers on our team by being a co-moderator. However, that is not available for all of our classes as we are bogged down with paperwork. We do not have a school secretary as well and need to connect with parents often regarding attendance.
Conversely, in brick-and-morter school, if a student was being really disruptive, I would bring the student out into the hall and talk with the student. I would want to find out what is going on with the student. As if things are okay. Also, I frame the way that I am disciplining based upon the need for the behavior. I like to look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs before I decide how to intervene. Such as, is the child hungry? If so, I would often have a mini fridge and snacks in my fridge that I bought for my students. I would try and meet that need for my students as best I could.
In Virtual School Land, I am in the process of being an observer as well as looking for patterns. I am starting to name the behaviors as a way to make sense of the behaviors. Here are some patters of some of our middle schoolers with special needs at our virtual school. These behaviors can be categorized as the following:
The BOR Jumper is the Breakout Room Jumper. With this new platform, the students are automatically made moderators within the breakout rooms. A couple of our students are starting to jump rooms and either socialize or disrupt learners. This can be tricky when there is one teacher and so many students. I rotate through the breakout rooms to talk with each student. Teachers are supposed to take snippets or screenshots of student work samples as data for IEP goals.
The Muter is the student who likes to mute both fellow students and teachers. I couldn't help but laugh when one of our students muted a colleague of mine and me in a breakout room. I was like, 'How clever!' I may have done something like that in middle school as well. When the student saw that I was chuckling, rather then getting mad it changed the dynamic. He saw that I do have a sense of humor and I appreciated his sense of humor. I was reflecting on the behavior. This student is a student who is reading at Kinder level in the 6th grade. I made it mandatory for him to attend office hours because I wanted to build more rapport with the student. He said that he doesn't know how to read. I encouraged him and asked him if he would like me to help him. He and I are continuing to build rapport and sharing a sense of humor. Also, he isn't muting his friends or teachers anymore.
The Scribbler is a tricky one for me. I am also a fine arts teacher. However, this year I am teaching special education. I love to doodle. When I was a kid, I doodled in school and even now, I doodle in our faculty meetings. I need to have that kinesthetic stimulation of drawing. I am also trained in art therapy. So when I see a drawing that my students with special needs creates, I want to look for the deeper meaning in the drawing. I want my students to tell me a story relating to their drawing, etc. However, given the old guard parameters our teaching standards that we must meet within a half and hour lesson we don't have time to do this. At brick and mortar I would make time during the day for maker-space time. The scribbler will often scribble on the PowerPoints that we spent hours working on designing our lessons. There are no books for our students. Teachers design the curriculum for Specialized Academic Instruction (SAI) classes. What I have done is added an extra time each Friday where students can create digital doodles and socialize. I call it Listen to Your Art Time. I also encourage students to have a notepad or Post-Its by their computers so that they can keep on doodling. I love Post-Its. Also, the sticky side is good tactile stimulation for students who are on the autism spectrum.
To be continued...What interesting behaviors are you noticing while teaching virtually?