Education During the Pandemic: Getting Creative with Learning During Chaos

Education during the pandemic hasn’t been a walk in the park or a picnic. However, these adverse circumstances have helped U Prep educators engage their creativity and innovation to keep our scholars engaged with learning.

Pandemic! Virtual school! Distance learning…Oh my!

I was overjoyed to be asked to give my perspective on how the pandemic has forever changed me and my teaching practice. Although I’m an optimist at heart, and not very easily discouraged, the drastic shutdown when COVID first hit gave me pause. I believe that the apprehension simply came from the unknown. Soon after taking a deeper dive into the ever-changing tenets of pandemic teaching and learning, I reset and forged ahead into this new creative and innovative space. 

When I first heard that we would be teaching virtually, I was both relieved and nervous. Relieved because my children and I would be safe from COVID but nervous because I had never delivered online instruction before. I coached myself through a new lens of “this glass is half full, not half empty” and I moved forward. I knew that if I approached this unfamiliar space with negativity at the helm, I would never reach the levels of flexibility and adaptability required for success during this tumultuous stage.

Beginning a new style of education during the pandemic

The first thing I did was brainstorm with my math partners, as I was sure of two things: I wanted to develop a structure using programs for accountability. And the infusion of interactive instruction would be key to holding my scholar’s attention and offering the space for their feedback while challenging their curiosity.  

I thoroughly researched best practices and how to maintain motivation and engagement with scholars during our distance learning period. One of the websites that I frequented regularly offered five ways to motivate students in the virtual space.  

These five became my north star as I guided each scholar (and myself) through this new space and opportunity. Some of the most effective strategies were:

  • Motivate with goal setting
  • Motivate with rewards and praise
  • Motivate with meaningful feedback
  • Work with parents to motivate students at home
  • Stay connected as a class and motivate each other

Motivating the students also meant creativity, a cheerful disposition, and presence online. I had to be prepared to provide additional support to every scholar. I was up for the challenge, and I began each day of virtual/distance learning in good spirits, and with the determination that “this” would be a great year! I even received feedback from parents who shared that they “loved the fact that I seemed excited every day while teaching.”  What an honor and humbling feeling to know that my parents appreciated my unique style of teaching by leading with enthusiasm. Nothing, however, compared to the accomplished feeling of having 95% attendance rates in my classes throughout the duration of the distance learning. 

In-person learning during the pandemic

As we transitioned back to our building, and back to in-person learning, my enthusiasm remained and creativity increased. My innovative mindset and that of my scholars are here to stay. This pandemic, if nothing else, stretched our thinking, evolved our practice, and forced us into a new, freer space that challenged what we thought was creative and innovative instruction.

We will continue to expand and develop through that lens of challenge and freedom while keeping the school community safe. Our scholars have proven to be resilient in adversity, and our entire school community truly executed the concept of partnership and trust in the process and each other. 

Our Author: Erica Wade

Erica Wade is a Math Teacher at University Prep Science & Math Middle School. She has been an educator for over ten years, with the majority of her teaching experience in middle school instruction. Erica is a long-term educator at U Prep Schools Network. She told us, “This is my 6th year in the district and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”

Erica Wade