Teaching in the Time of COVID-19

Image of a laptop with a headset on it with a small whiteboard and red marker, and a mug that says Talk Nerdy to Me

For the past several weeks, my social media has exploded with educators sharing tips and tricks to make the radical switch from face to face teaching to remote educational experiences. Companies have offered their virtual lessons, simulations, and resources for free to help students and teachers adjust. Fellow educators have shared the videos they made, offered training, and banded together to help. We’ve all heard so many ways of things we can be, should be, or shouldn’t be teaching.

We have fielded instructions, questions, and commentary from school, district, and state administrations, parents, and students about

  • If we should be teaching new content
  • How we should or should not be holding students accountable
  • If learning should be synchronous or asynchronous
  • How to prepare lesson plans, or not
  • How to assess students
  • How and when to be in touch with students


It’s been a lot.

I have a secret for all of you.  

No one really knows how to immediately transform an in person class to a distance learning environment. We struggle to provide an equitable education, whatever that looks like, for all our students and make accommodations for differences in learning abilities, home lives, internet access, in addition to mental and physical health.

So instead of overwhelming you with new resources, I ask that as we all navigate this new normal together, we keep some guiding principles in mind.

Show Grace

This applies to yourself and to students

You are going to make mistakes, it’s not going to be perfect. But, you aren’t perfect when you teach in your classroom everyday. As a teacher, you are being asked to do the impossible, so do the best you can, apologize when you make mistakes, and do better the next time.

Your students, just like you, are under tremendous amounts of stress and are figuring out how to learn in this new environment. They too will make mistakes, so please be patient with them as well.

What Actually Matters

Some states have already closed schools for the year, while the rest of us are still waiting with the unrealistic hope that schools will reopen. If you are teaching remotely for the rest of the year, chances are that you will be unable to complete the material that you planned on. So, consider what are the core concepts that you really want your students to be able to learn.

It’s ok to grieve for the end of the school year as you planned it and the lessons you will not be able to do, and from there figure out what are the most important lessons for students to learn. Maybe you’ll decide to keep going with your units, maybe you’ll choose the one that you are easier to teach remotely, or maybe you’ll decide to focus on tying a concept to a real-world application to show applications of chemistry.

Flexibility in Grading and Assessment

Because students will not have the same experiences at home, do formal assessments really reflect what students have learned? Consider if grades are important and if a Pass/Fail or Incomplete/Pass/Pass with Distinction is a better path given the current circumstances.1 I encourage teachers to accept late work and be flexible with grading policies and to just err on the side of your students.


The increased use of technology to supplement learning has only widened the gaps between the haves and the have nots. I ask you to consider whose voices you are listening to when helping plan your learning.

How many of your students have

  • A device
  • High speed internet
  • Are caring for siblings or another family member
  • Have a stable home life
  • Have enough food
  • Aren’t working
  • Have mental and physical health
  • Have supports at home to guide them

Take Care of Yourself!

Please, take care of yourself. Stay home. Don’t feel that you need to respond to every question from a parent, student, or administrator as they come in. You are allowed to separate your home life from your work life. Get outside every day. This doesn’t mean go to the beach, I mean literally step outside. Sometimes just having fresh air will make you feel better. Take care of your loved ones. Check in on your friends and family members. Set up virtual happy hours, video chat them, call them.

One last thing. If you or someone in your family is sick, don’t even try to worry about teaching, it’s just not possible.

Stay well everyone.


1. Jung, L., O'Connor, K., Guskey, T. and Wormeli, R., 2020. A New Normal: Assessment And Distance Learning March 27 2020.

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Comments 1

Scott Balicki's picture
Scott Balicki | Mon, 04/06/2020 - 09:07

Thanks for your timely piece Ariel.  I think you have beautifully encapsulated how teachers can teach with humanity from a distance. Great pieces of advice as we all settle in for distance learning for the long term.