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The Importance of Feedback in Distance Learning

Who would have thought that we would be in the middle of a pandemic, and education would change so drastically in a matter of months? It has been a wild ride, at least for me. In our district, we are in a hybrid learning model. Our students come every other day to class and then work on at-home learning assignments. It has been a challenge, an adventure, and like all things, a learning curve. One thing that has not changed is the importance of feedback for not only students but parents and educators themselves.
Feedback and Students
I am sure you are shocked to learn that students do not want to do work at home. I know, right? Students believe that when they are home, they are “off.” Frankly, the television and social media are so much more entertaining than the actual stuff the teacher is giving me do to do, so guess what? They don’t do it. As a teacher, this was extremely frustrating. So I had to change my mentality. I decided to use it as an opportunity to get to know my kids. The masks are a hindrance. The students do not want to talk to me because of them, so I started leaving comments on their digital at-home learning assignments.
Not only am I commenting on misspelled words or lack of citations, but I am also commenting on the material itself and asking them questions about how they feel about things in life, in the classroom, and the subject. Guess what? They are starting to turn things in. I am not entirely dense. Yes, there are zeroes in the grade book, and I am sure that has something to do with it, but I am developing a relationship with them. They like the individual attention without having to say it out loud. Teenagers are a generation of texters, not talkers. So instead of fighting it, I embraced it, and it has worked. They do their work because they realized I am looking at and leaving questions and comments. It is more meaningful to them and me because I get to “see” them even with the mask.
Feedback and Parents 
Parents also need feedback more than ever. They are nervous. They sent their children to school in the middle of a pandemic and are continually doubting themselves if they made the right decision. Many parents have to work or just cannot help with the schoolwork. I am asking you to please check on the parents. I know you have so much to do. I know, but emails go a long way. I have had so much success with an email letting the parents know their child is doing great or needs to complete work. We all want our students to be successful. Give them feedback, the good and the bad. Try to find the good first. We all need to hear our children are doing the right thing. Today’s world is strange. Our parents and students are adjusting to part-time schooling and being out for six months. Let the parents help you, trust me they want to, but they don’t know unless you tell them what is going on. Give them feedback.
We are drowning, and so many of us are already doing way too much. Click To Tweet
Feedback and Students 
Finally, teachers need feedback too. We are drowning, and so many of us are already doing way too much. We need to hear the good, what we are doing right. Notes from parents, students, and administrators are everything.  They make the day better. As much as I love feeling loved, I do need a little constructive criticism. This hybrid learning model is challenging and new. It is so difficult to convert regular group assignments to online or distance models. Sometimes, the lesson, frankly, just doesn’t work. I need my students to talk to me and tell me this. There is a difference between I don’t want to do it, and I couldn’t do it because I didn’t understand it, and a good teacher knows the difference. Through the feedback on the digital learning assignments, my students are honest with me, and I adjust lessons as needed. It makes me a better teacher. I am more aware of how to give clear, effective directions. The layout of my assignments is so much better, which would have never happened had it not been for this pandemic.
The bottom line is we have to see the positive, or we will be lost. Give feedback. Talk to each other. After months and months of isolation, I think we have forgotten how to communicate. We have been so wrapped up in ourselves, we have forgotten we are part of a society, and we need each other. If you’ve gained nothing else from this article, remember this have patience with your students, your parents, and yourself. You are amazing. That is my feedback for you.

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