5 questions to Johanna: post-pandemic challenges in her classroom

Jan-Wolter Smit

Head of Education

Hi! My name is Johanna Poker and I have been a teacher for 24 years. I have a qualification in geography and social studies, and enjoy teaching “People and Society”. I teach at the Leon van Gelder school, and work also as an internship mentor for three schools that come together in the Groninger Opleidingsschool.

When LessonUp asked me for an interview, I was more than happy to accept! I am a big fan and enjoy working with the LessonUp tool.

We are still digesting the effects of covid-19 and of the many school lockdowns. What has changed for your students and colleagues? 

The pandemic has deeply influenced us all. Now we don’t notice as many students falling behind, but there has been a general change of attitude from a social point of view. During the lockdowns students could hide behind a screen, but when sitting in the classroom circle everyone can see you, and address you at any moment. Not being used to that anymore, even secondary school students have become more dependent and shy. They ask more questions and constantly seek confirmation. It is almost impossible for them to set their mobile phones aside. The impact that social media has on their lives is even bigger than before. 

For my colleagues everything has changed too. Going physically back to school implies getting used to more triggers and distractions. It takes some time. 😊

Getting students back to learning mode is a challenge. We hear it from many LessonUp users. How do you deal with this during your lessons?

This year I am busy teaching students in two of my classes how to learn again. In one class I explained what I am doing, and asked my students to participate in the process. In the other class, I have decided not to involve them. Investigating what works better for my students, also with the aid of LessonUp, is very interesting. I have started by talking about the power of repeating. After each lesson, I ask the same questions in LessonUp slides and, in time, students have noticed that their answers are improving. Based on this observation, I like to involve them in gripping conversations, and explain what I want to achieve.

Students’ favourite sentence: “ You don’t need to learn anymore what you already know”. 😉 Just listen, participate and answer the questions in LessonUp. Knowledge will follow. After a few months, I am starting to see the effects of my technique.

You are an Internship Mentor at your school. Do you notice a need to “go back to learning mode” also among your interns?

A few weeks into the lockdown I asked the school principal if I could give my feedback-sessions at school again. My last-year students, who were getting ready for their end of year exams, were very lonely and unhappy. Luckily the problem was understood and I was allowed to meet with them in the classroom.

The first time my students saw each other again they were so enthusiastic! The way they had missed each other during the lockdown was an eye-opener for me. Unfortunately, I also noticed that some of them were falling behind with their internships. An online internship is not comparable to standing in front of a class. We have to understand that, and help them become more assertive and proactive during lessons. It takes some time, but always works out at the end.

Talking about students: how do they use an online digital platform like LessonUp during their internship?

During my feedback-sessions with students I always use LessonUp. My lesson library is constantly growing. I prefer LessonUp to other platforms and use it for the same reasons my students do. Students who interact the most are always the same ones. In LessonUp I can focus on the answers of the more hesitant students, and put them in the spotlight. I enjoy sharing lessons and adding as much literature as possible, which students can add to their own portfolio if they want to.  

At the moment I am busy with the theme “learning to learn”. To prepare, I asked them to listen to a podcast about learning. Next to that, I created a LessonUp lesson based on the book “Wijze lessen” (“Wise lessons”). Once my students learn the 5 basic principles of learning, they can apply them to their own lessons.

When moving forward it is wise to also look back. Was the lockdown period overly negative, or have you experienced also positive changes?

The greatest benefit of the lockdown period is that we all work with a LessonUp school account. I requested it a few years ago as a nice side project. Yet we didn’t fully understand the advantages of having it until after the pandemic. Now it is much easier to share lessons and work together in LessonUp.

We have also learned how much better it is to teach at school, in the class with your students. We have experienced that we need each other in order to function at our best. As my students always say: “I would rather come to school and learn properly”. 😊

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