The 2020-2021 school year has been a year like no other. Many schools across the U.S. began teaching in a virtual setting, while others welcomed their students back into the classroom with—socially distant—open arms. While we can all agree that in-person learning is best for the student’s socio-emotional intelligence, there are also certain environmental and economic circumstances that pushed local legislation to maintain in-person learning through the pandemic.

Whether students and their parents decided that virtual or in-person learning was best for their family, it is our educators who have been largely affected by the ill-defined roles necessary for providing students the education they deserve. 

Many classrooms across the country have submitted to a hybrid-style of learning where some students attend school in-person while others attend in a virtual setting. The challenges surrounding this new, modern-age classroom have been abundant, however as our country’s great educators persevere, so does their desire to teach our youngest citizens. 

While none of us knows what the next school year might bring, we can all come together to develop a plan that better prepares us for what lies ahead. As teachers, we must consider the student and how they can learn best, while also ensure we stay on track and maintain normalcy within the classroom setting, no matter what it looks like. The following are some practices to incorporate when developing your simultaneously taught virtual and in-person class.

Be inclusive. 

Your remote students may initially feel disconnected from the class if they are left off to the side, without being engaged. Make sure these students can still participate in the same activities and lessons that your in-person students are. 

Planning ahead and sending home activities or crafts needed for certain lessons might be necessary. You can also have the students submit an activity electronically for you to print out, so it can be modeled and showcased within the classroom.

Get creative.

Finding opportunities to take your students on virtual field trips, celebrating student successes and birthdays, and encouraging participation in Spirit Days are all creative ways you can continue to build your classroom community. As educators, we know that if a student feels excited about and included in classroom activities, the more they stay engaged and the better they learn.

Many museum websites and other organizations offer free virtual tours—a perfect “field trip” for students to explore arts and culture around the world. 

Find an effective pace.

With students already experiencing learning loss due to the “Covid slide” from the end of last school year, educators were mindful of how they approached the current school year and how they taught their required curriculum. Keeping students on track had already proved to be a difficult task, combine that with a hybrid classroom and various learning abilities between students, and teachers have been tested like never before. 

When developing your curriculum for a hybrid classroom, it is important to be mindful of the varied learning styles among your group. Everything takes longer in a virtual setting, and that is ok. Academic success is important, but not at the cost of mental wellbeing. Ensure students are learning at an effective pace. Provide ample breaks and opportunities for students, both in-person and virtual, to ask questions and stay for office hours.

Encourage student collaboration.

Finally, when developing a hybrid curriculum, it is important for students to collaborate with each other to continue building social skills and teamwork. Allow them to interact with each other often via breakout rooms or on apps like Jamboard or Kahoot. The virtual students will enjoy the opportunity to connect with their peers, keeping them engaged in current classroom learning. 

Remember to be patient with yourself and your students. We are all worn out, stressed, and unclear of what the future may hold. Keep encouraging your students to learn and grow, and be available to help them succeed.