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Distance Learning Collection

Don’t miss the August 24, 2020 update

The Just ASK Team has written new articles and updated some older ones as 2.0 versions to support our many colleagues who are starting the 2020-2021 school year tasked with creating positive and productive learning experiences from a distance. We will continue to add to this collection and hope that you find it useful in your challenging work. Please feel free to share with colleagues near and far, and do be sure to check back often.

Distance Learning Collection
Table of Contents

Ten Tips for Enhancing Distance Learning (Paula Rutherford)
Lessons We’ve Learned (Marcia Baldanza)
Parents as Partners 2.0 (Bruce Oliver)
Maximizing Distance Learning (Marcia Baldanza)
The Writer’s Notebook (Heather Clayton)
Messages from the Children (Bruce Oliver)
Empathy in the Time of Coronavirus (Marcia Baldanza)
Tips for Promoting Student Engagement During Online Sessions
(Heather Clayton)
What Do We Do Now?  (The Just ASK Team)
Mentoring From Near and Afar (Paula Rutherford)

Tips for Recording and Using Instructional Videos (Heather Clayton)
NEW! Stop… in the Name of Learning 2.0 – 18 Practices to Rethink 
(Bruce Oliver)

Coming soon! Teaching, Learning, and Leading From Near and Afar
(Paula Rutherford)

To access an article, click on the title.


For some of us, the 2020-2021 school year started over two weeks ago; for others, there are still more than three weeks before the first day of school. For many of us, either the start date or the format keeps changing. For all of us, it is a mindboggling struggle to figure out the best approaches to balancing the academic growth, the physical health, and the social emotional well-being of our students, our colleagues, and ourselves. Given all the uncertainty:

  • How in the world do we welcome and mentor teachers new to the profession and/or the district?
  • How in the world do we and our new colleagues support and partner with parents who are most likely more confused than we are?
  • How in the world do we juggle our personal and professional lives and teach our proteges to do the same?
  • How in the world… add your own quandries to the list!

Okay, now that we have admitted that the conditions are not ideal, let’s take a collective deep breath and come to grips with some things that are givens:

  • There will be technical glitches.
  • It hasn’t been taught if it hasn’t be caught. (Vintage Hunter)
  • No matter what website and other marketing materials say, there is NOT one best way/program/app that will work for all learners all the time.
  • Identify goals and outcomes before selecting apps or activities.
  • 75% of people are “talk-processers;” student-to-student interactions are essential. (MBTI)
  • Whether print or digital, worksheets that require regurgitation (repetition of information without analysis or comprehension), mindless practice, or recall level thinking are a waste of time.
  • The best management program is a strong instructional program.
  • It’s what happens after the teacher stops talking that counts. (Vintage McTighe)

A quick read of the above givens reinforces our strongly held belief that good teaching is good teaching no matter the delivery format. For sure, the current conflicting priorities present us with a couple of steep learning curves and the need for endless bobbing and weaving, The good news is that when we are well-grounded by shared values and goals, the odds are that we and the new teachers we mentor and coach can continue to expand and refine repertoires that allow all of us to lead our students forward in their learning. Quite simply, we have to stay on that path.

To that end, the Just ASK Team offers you this month both newly curated tips and reminders about some of the most widely used tools available in our Mentoring Resource Center.

Top Recommendations for the First Few Weeks of School



Distance Learning Collection

See the list of articles at the top of the August 2020 Mentoring Memo. Click on an article title to access that article. The first day we announced this collection, over 10,000 people viewed the web page that listed the articles in the collection. The articles that have had the most readers so far are:

  • “Ten Tips for Enhancing Distance Learning”
  • “Tips for Creating and Using Instructional Videos”
  • “Maximizing Distance Learning”

My new favorite posted on August 12th is “Ten Tips for Promoting Engagement During Online Sessions.”


The Mentor’s Opening of School Checklist

Access a PDF of this checklist here. Over 1,700 people have downloaded the 2020 version of this checklist. We spent hours and hours updating it to match our current realities so we are hopeful that many are finding it useful. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check it out. (Please note that the August Mentoring Calendar is not included in this memo because it is quite similar to the opening of school checklist.)


The Big Picture

The Big Picture” is from the Mentoring in the  21st Century e-Newsletter archives. Several years ago, educators in Alexandria City Public Schools and Prince William County Schools in Virginia developed simple one-page planning templates for sketching out year-long schedules of support for new teachers and site-based mentors. While we want to provide differentiated support, there are certain areas of focus all need to explore in a timely manner… especially this year. These templates have withstood the test of time.


New Teacher Needs Assessment and Goal Setting Tools

This 21-page resource has two generic assessments and nine area specific (i.e., planning, assessment, positive environment) assessments. You can actually use any of these tools now and then use them again later in the year.


Mentoring in the 21st Century Online Tools and Templates

You do not have to own a copy of The 21st Century Mentor’s Handbook to access the 65 reproducible tools and templates found in this collection. There are tools for new teachers (including even more self-assessments), mentors, peer observations, and instructional planning.



Messages for New Teachers

This five-minute video features messages from teachers who have just completed their first year of teaching. These inspirational and often humorous messages are set to music. There are six such collections of messages and or quotes set to music in the Mentoring Resource Collection. They may be just what you can use to provide a lift to an exhausted new teacher or colleague.


Several years ago I wrote and still believe that one of the characteristics of great mentors is that we must be role models: “Accepting the responsibility of mentoring adds to our professional responsibilities in many ways. As mentors we are not simply tasked with assisting new teachers in their first years, we are also the face of the profession. We have model professionalism in every way… the way we dress, the way we speak, and the way we treat students, teaching colleagues, the administrative staff, support staff, and parents. When we accept a mentoring position we implicitly agree to support school and school district initiatives in ways that not only promote student learning but also help new teachers understand the rationale behind these initiatives and how the initiatives are interrelated. When we ourselves do not understand the rationale for and purpose of decisions or when we have differences of opinions with colleagues, we must model professional approaches to learning more and/or resolving conflict so that we are seen by our protégées as members of a larger team and so that they have models for professional interactions.” Wow! This description is both still important and extremely challenging right now.

We can do this… and we must!




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