A team of teacher educators dug deep to find out how teachers motivated themselves to meet the challenges of remote learning during COVID

Teacher resilience: 3 practices of teachers who toughed it out during remote learning


A team of teacher educators dug deep to find out how teachers motivated themselves to meet the challenges of remote learning during COVID

1. Teachers were collaborators. For so many teachers, education and community went hand-in-hand. This spirit was on full display as teachers reached out to each other to brainstorm, troubleshoot, create resources, talk through their trial and error processes, and collaborate.

“I work with a fabulous team. We collaborate and share the tasks of making and posting assignments. I can always ask for help from them.” (Washington, Grade 3)

Though they were no longer down the hall from colleagues, successful models of meeting the diverse needs of learners involved teachers who continued to work together to ensure that students had access to the resources they needed.

“I have also been working closely with the Special Ed Department to make sure all students on Ed. Plans can access material, and it is modified to their needs.” (Massachusetts, Grade 4)

Many teachers collaborated beyond their circle to work with teachers around the country and around the world. They connected with other educators through social media to get ideas, forming their own virtual professional learning communities. One high-school teacher from Pennsylvania even mentioned that she joined a Twitter professional learning network “for inspiration and support.”

“I am working with other colleagues at my school as well as joining groups on social networking sites to discuss solutions.” (Florida, Grade 3)

Other important collaborators for teachers were the parents and caretakers of the children with whom they work. Teachers made meaningful and purposeful connections with families, demonstrating their care for the role of families and their students.Teachers put forth intensive efforts to connect and communicate with families throughout the school building closures. Teaching, unsurprisingly, became about so much more than instruction.

“I changed my focus to building connections and supporting families in need.” (Connecticut, PreK)

“I have begun sending out an individualized email to each student (copying parents) checking in on them, praising their accomplishments and encouraging them to work hard.” (Virginia, Grade 7)

“I’m learning with my families as we go and try[ing] to set realistic goals to accomplish each day.” (Illinois, Grade 7)

2. Teachers sought balance. Teachers faced extended hours teaching, reaching out to students and their families, learning new technologies and researching curricular resources better suited to the online platform. Many teachers also had families they were caring for at home and even their own children were engaged in remote learning. Teachers discussed the ways they attended to their health and well-being; simply turning off their screens all played a vital role.

“I’m trying my best to turn my phone off on the weekends to parents[’] texts/emails…” (Massachusetts, Grades 1-5)

Teachers cared deeply about the students and families with whom they worked. It was not surprising, then, that they kept the whole person in mind when making decisions about teaching and learning. Many found success treating students as people first.

“[I tried] not adding more stress to a stressful situation.” (California, Grade 5)

3. Creativity and flexibility were teachers’ mojo! Teachers seemed to exhibit the greatest agency in the area of instruction. Here their creative sides flourished as they sought to find ways to better engage learners, to use what they know to be developmentally appropriate instructional strategies and more.

A public high school teacher from Colorado shared this success:

“…I talked my principal into allowing us to do asynchronous instruction. This has helped a lot, especially for those families that have only one computer.” (Colorado, Grades 11-12)

“For seniors, I have incorporated music lyrics as poetry analysis and letting them choose their own songs to analyze in an attempt to keep them engaged.” (Massachusetts, Grades 9 and 12)

We often heard from specialist teachers (music, art, PE) that they were struggling to connect with learners. It is here that we saw a wonderful mash-up of creativity and collaboration.

“[I have been] dropping into classroom teacher’s google meets as a special guest.” (Virginia, PreK-5)

This flexibility was demonstrated by teachers across the country as not just simply a practice but also a mindset.

“Some families want more to do, some families are totally overwhelmed. So to try to accommodate all their needs, I offer a mix of “required” instructional small group meetings and several optional drop-in enrichment or support online meetings.” (Washington, Grade 3)

Teachers told us, “I was never prepared for this,” and “I’ve learned more in the last 3 weeks than I have in the last 10 years.” Our teachers are rock stars – they have demonstrated determination and compassion throughout this crisis and we as a nation have much to learn from them.

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