Teaching for Today & Tomorrow: 2021 Takeaways

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On Tuesday, February 23, 2021, hundreds of educators and administrators participated in the Teaching for Today & Tomorrow conference presented by Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) and Michigan Virtual. Mitch Albom shared a keynote address, and speakers hosted eight illuminating breakout sessions.

While it’s impossible to share everything we learned from the speakers and attendees, there are a few takeaways that we’d like to share.

1. Giving is living — that includes giving to yourself

In Mitch Albom’s keynote address, he said, “giving is living.” As executive director of outreach at Michigan Virtual, Anne Craft, mentioned, “teachers give and give and give.”

Educators can’t pour from an empty cup, as speaker and founder of LivingSLOW, Lauren Kazee, reminded attendees. Making a concerted effort every single day to manage stress is essential to avoiding compassion fatigue and burnout. But how? Lauren suggests:

  • Set boundaries
  • Say, “No, thank you.”
  • Remember you have a choice
  • Create time limits (and stick to them!)
  • Write and repeat affirmations
  • Say, “Can I think about it?”

MASSP Executive Director, Wendy Zdeb, echoed this sentiment when she shared strategies for leading in the education space. She explained that while administrators must have “tough skin” and make difficult decisions regularly, they don’t need to do it alone. 

Mark Thomas from Northview High School and Dr. Greg Dale from Duke University mentioned that reaching out to colleagues and cultivating a support system while leading during this unprecedented time is crucial for combatting feelings of isolation.

2. Don’t be afraid to try out tech tools

Emily Sicilia, Anne Perez, and Jeff Dungan from our professional learning team led two practical sessions, one of which was on bringing student-centered learning online. Some of our favorite tips for elementary and secondary teachers include:

Jill Souza and Tara Bladow, two of our instructional designers, shared a bevy of free and low-cost tools to create content and assessments for online courses, but, they noted, it’s crucial to be thoughtful about the design organization

3. Let data guide your teaching experience

Jeff Gerlach, our course development manager, led an invigorating session on creating an online learning experience that elicits engagement. As he said, “information alone is not instruction.” 

Using surveys and one-on-one feedback can be fruitful, but so too can determining your students’ habits. Such habits can include the time of day learners are active, the content they view, and the time they spend on pages.

Be deliberate when creating and maintaining an online learning experience by asking the following questions:

Action Research Cycle

4. “Students have a lot to say—we just need to listen”

Two of the most powerful moments of the conference belonged to students. Ife Martin, a spoken-word artist from Detroit, started the day with a poem about online learning during the pandemic. In her conversation with our President & CEO Jamey Fitzpatrick, Ife reminded us that students are trying the best they can.

At the end of the conference, MASSP presented a panel of student leaders throughout Michigan. Each shared the silver linings of the pandemic and the benefits of online learning. From increased connection with their communities to better school-life balance, these students reminded us why educators do what they do.

As Mitch Albom told the educators in the audience, “You are making a difference. You’ve always made a difference.”

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Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill

Sarah believes words have the power to build community. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade. Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City and her master’s degree in rhetoric and composition, as well as a scholarly publishing certificate from Arizona State University. Sarah lives in Austin, Texas and spends most of her time supplying her toddler with snacks.

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Limited Course Capacity

We’re sorry to inform you that we have reached capacity for several of our Semester 1 and Trimester 1 courses. You’ll notice when attempting to enroll students in our Student Learning Portal that some courses are unavailable. While we are no longer accepting new enrollments for these courses at this time, many courses continue to remain open for enrollment.

With many students across the state 100% remote, demand for our online courses is greater than ever before. Because every course we offer is taught by a Michigan-certified teacher, this high volume of enrollments has created capacity issues for our teachers who provide each and every student with individual feedback.

While the Michigan Virtual team anticipated and planned for significant increases in student enrollments this Fall, the increased demand we’ve experienced has been unprecedented. As a result, we are taking steps to hire even more part-and full-time teachers to support larger numbers of student enrollments for Semester 2 as well as for Trimester 2 and 3. 

For schools that still need online learning options this year, please fill out the form at the bottom of our virtual pathways page to meet with someone to discuss other solutions. While some of our teacher-led courses are full, we may still have the capacity to help you in upcoming terms or can discuss timing to implement a whole-school or collaborative program in which local teachers from your school/district use our online course content to teach students. We also have free course content and resources available for you to use.

We know this is an incredibly stressful time for all, and we’re sorry if the courses you’re looking for are unavailable. We never want to turn away a student who wants to learn from us. Our top concern, however, is student success, and we have a policy to not take on additional enrollments if we cannot guarantee that all students will have a quality online learning experience. 

We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the unusually high volume of enrollments we are receiving.