About the same time we switched to distance learning and stay-at-home orders were in effect, I started working out with Peleton. I couldn't help but notice the subtle ways that the instructors gave positive praise and how it motivated me. Sometimes when we were in the middle of a minute long plank, the instructor would say, "I know this is hard, but you can do hard things." Or during a long uphill climb on the spinning bike, the instructor would say, "I'm proud of you for tackling this workout, you are getting stronger every day." Inspired by this, I started to sneak some motivation into my video instruction. I would tell the students I was proud of them for working hard - in my head I imagine the kids who were actually working hard feeling good about being recognized and the ones that weren't starting to work a little harder (kinda like if I am taking a break when the fitness instructor tells me he or she is proud of me). I would also validate the fact that what we were asking of them - learning online in a pandemic - was challenging work. Here is a video clip from one of my lessons:
Last school year I already had strong relationships with my students when we transitioned to online instruction, so I was working more on maintenance of that relationship digitally. If this school year starts online (and I'm still not sure if it will), I need a way to build relationships with my students. Another thing I noticed during these workout videos is how the instructors tell some personal stories while we are exercising. They will have anecdotes that correlate to the music or the movement or just a story about their day. It makes me feel like I know them because I know things about them. I think this will be so important if I am instructing online. By telling them stories either about my personal life or my classroom experiences or how I feeling while recording the video, I think I can build those connections. By including some praise throughout my videos, I can help to motivate them to keep learning and let them know that I recognize their efforts.
I do need to find more ways to reach out with specific praise. I love these digital stickers (freebie from Damman's Algebra Room) as another way of sharing some positivity digitally and, while not as meaningful as a handwritten note left on your desk, they are easy to share digitally. As I said in a previous blog post, I will not compare this year to any other. I know that I felt extra motivated by that note from my administrator. She recognized something that I was doing that she appreciated and her comment made me strive to work even harder. Doing that digitally will be a challenge especially with students I do not know. But I also keep reminding myself that teenagers today often make and maintain relationships digitally. They feel connected to people online that they have never met, and I think our shared experiences of navigating this course during a pandemic will connect us when we do [hopefully] eventually meet in person.