How 80s Music Can Help Us Teach During COVID-19

Submitted by Michael Frankfort, Co-Chair of STAO Elementary Curriculum Committee

How 80s Music Can Help Us Teach During COVID-19

AUGUST 23, 2020 – Click HERE for full article

by Sean Junkins Twitter @sjunkins

Teaching can be challenging, even in normal times. But this is 2020 and nothing is normal anymore. The emergence, and subsequent spread, of COVID-19 has changed so much of how we live. It has also dramatically changed how we teach and learn. With the concept of some form of remote, distance, or online learning becoming a reality for just about everyone, teachers everywhere are looking for answers to help them teach in the Age of COIVD.  Many educators have watched endless hours of YouTube videos, some have downloaded resources from Teachers Pay Teachers, and a few have just sat in a corner and wept uncontrollably. What many of today’s teachers haven’t realized is that the answers to many of their questions can actually be found in a rather unusual place – 80s music. It’s true. Music from the 1980s can provide us with more than just power ballads and hair bands, it also contains many of the answers we need when it comes to teaching, and surviving, during COVID-19.

We’re all Under Pressure (1981) right now. This is the understatement of the year. We’re all a little stressed out. Teachers. Parents. Students. We all want answers, but all we seem to find are more unknowns. These are uncertain times. None of us have been through something like before. This whole situation may not be ideal, but it is our reality for the time being. We have to accept that there is no road map for this experience. Breathe deep and make the most of this situation. 

Before we dive into the problems remote/distance/online learning leaves us with (and the answers suggested by 80s music), let’s take a moment to appreciate three major positives of remote learning: 

  1. You won’t be Hungry Like the Wolf (1982) since you don’t have to scarf down lunch in less than five minutes and then not be able to snack throughout the day. If you’re teaching from home, you have access to all your food all the time.
  1. You can proudly say Here I Go Again (1987) as you now have the ability to go to bathroom any time you’d like throughout the day. 
  1. You can wear whatever you’d like Down Under (1981). It’s not like anyone on Zoom or Google Meet is going to see your bottom half – so wear what you’d like. Yes, you probably still need to wear pants, but at least they can be comfortable ones.

Remote learning is going to be a different experience as you have to prepare students to learn With or Without You (1987). Whether your school is fully remote or taking a hybrid approach, students are probably going to be asked to participate in synchronous teacher-led activities and they will need to take initiative on more independent asynchronous assignments. 

When it comes to those asynchronous tasks, put assignments, directions, resources, and links in one consistent place so you can avoid getting emails and/or notifications from students saying the same thing – I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (1987). Just realize that students have the ability to work on these asynchronous assignments on their own self-created schedule which usually means All Night Long (1983) the night before the assignment is actually due. So expect questions from students to come In The Air Tonight (1981). That doesn’t mean you have to work through the night to meet their needs. Have a place where they can submit questions and let them know you will respond in a timely manner. 

Synchronous activities might be as close as we are going to get to our normal classroom experience, so make the most of this time together with students. Have a plan for your time together. Share the agenda and communicate your expectations. Make sure students know why they are there and don’t leave them wondering Should I Stay or Should I Go (1981). Synchronous sessions don’t have to last all day. Just give students the information they need, let them ask questions and seek clarity, and then let them get to work. You can also use this time to get to know your students better and let them get to know each other as well. It’s ok to mix it up between academic and non-academic when you’re together so it doesn’t feel like the same meeting Time After Time (1983). Find ways to make your time together enjoyable and engaging.

And by the way, when you’re together online, encourage students to mute their mic (and mute yours when necessary too) you don’t want to risk an unintended Careless Whisper (1984). 

Whether students are learning via synchronous or asynchronous means, we’ve still got to hold them accountable for getting their work done. If meetings aren’t being attended or assignments aren’t being turned in, you may need to be Straight Up (1988) with the students, and/or their parents. Difficult conversations are never fun, but parents will appreciate your concern. What they will not accept is an overall lack of communication. Sure, some parents are harder to reach than others, but stay committed to keeping a line of communication open. Email. Call. Text. Whatever it takes. If you have to leave a message or voicemail just tell them, “I’m Never Gonna Give You Up (1987).”  

The same goes for kids too. Some need more reminders, checkpoints, and gentle prodding than others. Get to know your kids and you’ll find out what works best to motivate them. Consistent check-ins can go a long way to help students feel supported. Sometimes kids don’t know when they need help or how to ask for it, there are many ways a kid might tell us Don’t You Forget About Me (1985), so stay in tune with what they’re doing and look for signs when they need some help, support, or motivation. 

Through this all, don’t forget each student is someone’s Sweet Child O’ Mine (1988). They’re kids. There are times we are going to love them. There are times we are going to want to help them transfer to a different school. But they are your kids for the year. Forgive their mistakes, help them grow, and most importantly, Don’t Stop Believin’ (1981) in them.

It’s quite possible that Bon Jovi may have lied to us. We may not actually be “halfway there”. We don’t know how long this whole COVID thing will last. Until then, we may just be Livin’ on a Prayer (1986). A piece of advice, if you’re teaching and learning face to face or by some hybrid model, Don’t Stand So Close Me (1980). Please practice social distancing when interacting with students and colleagues so we can get back to normal sooner, not later. When this is all over, it will undoubtedly be one of the most memorable periods of history you’ve ever lived through. My grandparents told me stories about the Great Depression and World War II. We will one day tell generations to come about what it was like to live, and teach, during the COVID-19. Make the most of this so when it’s all over you can look back on it and say “I Had the Time of My Life (1987).”

Featured image and embedded photo courtesy of Sean Junkins from the webpage linked to this article from above.