Preparing CTE Teachers for Re-Engaging with Students in the Fall

The 2019/20 school year is coming to an unusual end. After spring break, our students never returned to their classrooms. While core academic teachers were required to provide review materials online for their students, CTE instructors were asked to do the same being cognizant of the overall time students already had to spend online, the access to technology students may or may not have, and the fact that parents are going to be stretched thin trying to ‘homeschool’ and do their own work from home at the same time.

The results spanned the whole spectrum. Some teachers were trying to get their students through the final modules in preparation for an industry certification and we celebrated their students’ successes on social media. Other instructors, whose courses were not an EPSO (Early post-secondary opportunity like dual credit/enrollment, CLEP exam, or aligned industry certification) were not allowed to teach new content in order to provide equity to all students and stuck with the review material that was also not supposed to be graded. Other teachers stopped teaching entirely – reasons ranged from students not having access to technology, to not being able to get in touch with their students, to feeling limited as to how they could teach their hands-on skills remotely. To some extent they are right. However, this cannot mean we throw our hands up in the air and say I’m done. It does take a lot of creativity to take many of our CTE courses to a blended or remote setting.

Faced with these challenges, our school district has crafted a plan for all content areas to achieve two goals over the summer: 1) train our teachers on ‘distance learning’ strategies and the required technology know-how in case school will be out again in the future, and 2) give them guidance on how to teach missed content from the Spring semester in the next-level courses next school year. Each content area, including CTE, will have its own components to add to this training.

As the CTE Specialist in our district responsible for our CTE instructors’ professional learning, I will work closely with the other content areas in the next couple of days and weeks to develop these materials. First, in May and still on-contract, all teachers will participate in two one-hour trainings – one on Canvas 101 (our learning management system) and one on trauma-informed teaching. In June, all teachers will complete one Canvas course of the equivalent of one full day of professional development, which includes several modules on how to adapt traditional classroom instruction to a blended or even fully remote setting with examples around an “If this, then that” template to get educators thinking about what that would look like in their area. This would allow us to keep teaching new content even while school might be out part of next year. To ensure equity, our district is working on expanding 1:1 technology and internet access at the same time. Last, in July, all teachers will complete another day of remote training specifically for their content area. For us, this might be a CTE Canvas Course with modules for each career cluster or even specific programs of study.

Times have changed. Instruction must go with the times and adapt to challenges. It is not like our department has not offered training around learning management systems, Google classroom, and the like before. But it was all rather optional and some of our instructors shied away from using these teaching tools in their classrooms. We don’t have this option anymore. It has become a ‘must be up-to-date’ on this now. If we don’t adapt and offer our CTE students some level of content even if it has to be remotely, then we run the risk of our programs being closed.