Tag Archives: Covid-19

Time to Chill

This has been a year like no other, and this summer teachers need to first take care of themselves and then prepare for next year. This is the first of a series of posts about how to plan for SEL and PBL as we hopefully return to face-to-face learning next year. We will begin with the immediate pressing need-take a break!


Most teachers in the United States are on summer break. Some of you have been out of school for a month or longer. For me, the school year ended a week ago but I have been busy with workshops so this feels like my first chance to catch my breath.

First let me say congratulations on this past year! You made it through Covid! Whether that meant social distancing, hybrid, virtual, or most likely a combination of all of them, you survived. You tried projects, connected with kids, and focused on SEL. I am sure there were many moments when you doubted yourself and your value as a teacher but you gave it your all so give yourself a pat on the back.

Now it’s time for some downtime to recharge. I blog a ton about SEL, but Social and Emotional Learning starts with the teacher. If you want to be your best in the fall then you need to take care of your own SEL needs now. Taking a break means different things to different people. For me, I like to be active physically but free from mental stress of deadlines. I have been spending time with family, enjoying the outdoors, exercising, landscaping my yard, reading fiction, watching baseball and doing puzzles. Please take the time to find whatever relaxes you whether it is a hobby, playing games, movies, house projects, travel, or cooking. It’s also a great time to just sleep. Don’t do anything. Lay in the sun. Relax by a campfire. Hang out with friends and family. There is no wrong way to rest as long as it works for you.

Mental Break

Early in my teaching career I needed supplemental income to pay my bills. Before I became a teacher I worked in concrete construction so it was a natural fit to grab my trowel every summer. My main motivation was extra money, but I soon realized a side benefit. Working construction actually helped me detox any stress from the school year. Finishing concrete is not relaxing. It can be back-breaking physical labor. But the change of pace was therapeutic: hard labor for my body, but free of the mental stress of teaching.

I would compare running a trowel machine to mowing the lawn (my favorite chore). You are busy, working in a pattern, but your mind is free to wander. There is something restorative about working your body while clearing your mind. By the end of the summer, I was physically tired, but mentally fresh and ready to engage a new group of students. This reminds me that I spent too much time sitting in Zoom this year and need to be more active. Now is a great time to start healthy habits.

For some of us, rest may not be adequate. I like the continuum that John Spencer created. Do you need rest, recovery, restoration, or rehabilitation? Rest may not be adequate for the trauma you experienced this year. Honestly evaluate if you need more serious mental help this summer. Intentionally take care of yourself.

If you need to rest all summer and never make it to the next steps in this blog series then that’s what you need to do.

There should be no shame or guilt if you take the entire summer to recuperate with your family. You are not being paid for this time, and you are under no obligation to plan for next year. Everyone of us needs to determine for ourselves what we need this summer and do it. No excuses or apologies needed.

So quit reading education blogs and take some time off! Next week we will talk about reflection…

Interested in how you can create a positive culture by developing SEL skills integrated in your classroom? Check out my virtual workshops this summer! I am also booking workshops with schools across the country on PBL and SEL.

100 Driving Questions and 25 Final Products Related to Covid-19 Pandemic

Disclaimer: This post assumes that you are already doing responsible online teaching: checking the social and emotional state of your students, giving meaningful feedback but NOT grading their work, and not overwhelming them with too much work.

What should PBL look like for crisis distance learning? It should include lots of student voice and choice exploring content through their passions. Without the pressure of standardized testing and curriculum requirements, now is the perfect time to try PBL with your students.

So where should you begin? I made a list of some Driving Questions that could launch student inquiry. I would not recommend giving students this entire list to overwhelm them, but perhaps a subset that are age appropriate. I considered organizing them by subject area, but most integrate multiple subjects so use this as an opportunity to break down those false silos that we call content. So without further ado, here are 100 Driving Questions (link to PDF) to spur your thinking:

Driving Questions:

  1. How do we balance individuals rights and social responsibility?
  2. What form of government is best situated to handle a pandemic?
  3. How has Federalism led to tension/problems between the federal and state governments?
  4. What should be the roles and responsibilities of each branch of government in an emergency situation?
  5. What are the roles and responsibilities of local government in an emergency situation?
  6. Who should make decisions about quarantines, closing schools and businesses?
  7. What should be the consequences, if any, for people and businesses who ignore quarantines orders?
  8. What is the role of police in emergency situations like coronavirus?
  9. Who should be responsible for an adequate stockpile of PPE for hospitals?
  10. What is the appropriate federal response to the economic ramifications of the pandemic?
  11. Who should receive bailout funds and how much? (Small businesses, large corporations, unemployed, etc.)
  12. What requirements should the government mandate for aid/bailouts?
  13. How does the government stimulus package compare to past government initiatives? (New Deal, Bailout of banks in 2008, etc.) 
  14. Should the government raise or lower taxes and for whom?
  15. Should the government pay for all healthcare during the pandemic as proposed by
  16. Since it is an election year, how has the pandemic become a political issue?
  17. Who should be held responsible for the spread of the pandemic? (WHO, China, US government, etc)
  18. Will the federal government expand its powers and budget after Covid-19 like it did during the New Deal and post-9/11? (new agencies, PPE requirements, social distancing laws)
  19. What is greater, the rights to person freedom or the safety of emergency workers? 
  20. What is the role of the media during a pandemic?
  21. How is quarantine different/similar to the domestic front during war? (Compare to WWI, WWII, and the Cold War)
  22. Why does the United States have such a high percentage of the Covid-19 cases compared to the rest of the world?
  23. How does the high percentage of African-American deaths due to Covid 19 reflect inequity?
  24. What is the purpose and role of the CDC and FDA in potential treatment and vaccine for Covid 19?
  25. What is your daily life like right now?
  26. How has your family’s life changed due to the coronavirus?
  27. Compare your daily life right now to _____________(letters or diaries of people in other important historical times such as the Great Depression or occupation during war).
  28. What should be the requirements before large events like concerts and sports return?
  29. Who should be prioritized to receive coronavirus testing?
  30. Who should be prioritized for access to ventilators?
  31. What is more important, public health and safety or economic growth?
  32. Are the shelter in place orders constitutional?
  33. What future laws/policies should be enacted to protect ourselves from a pandemic?
  34. Should doctors and nurses be able to refuse to work in hotspot areas if they are not provided adequate PPE?
  35. How does the coronavirus show class inequality?
  36. Will our economy rebound? How fast or slowly? What should the government do to help?
  37. Should people be allowed to go to church or other places of worship during a quarantine?
  38. How will coronavirus shift cultural norms? (handshaking, hugging, dancing, group socializing)
  39. Should people be allowed to protest and demonstrate during a quarantine order?
  40. Should the government be allowed to temporarily close businesses during a quarantine?
  41. If a vaccine is developed for Covid 19, should it be mandatory for everyone?
  42. Do you know someone who has died from Covid-19? If yes, how are you handling it?
  43. What is the psychological effect of quarantine?
  44. Describe how your family is growing closer or distancing during quarantine?
  45. What are the similarities and differences to other historical pandemics? (Black Plague, Smallpox to Native Americans, Spanish Flu)
  46. How should schools change in response to crisis distance learning?
  47. Should price gouging be legal in a capitalistic system?
  48. What are the limits of capitalism shown during coronavirus?
  49. Should the US enact tariffs against China due to coronavirus?
  50. What is the role and responsibility of the United States toward other nations during a pandemic?
  51. Should the federal government have the power to nationalize private businesses?
  52. Should the president have the power to declare a national quarantine?
  53. Should the U.S. restrict immigration during a pandemic?
  54. How should the U.S. respond diplomatically to China’s lack of full disclosure of the pandemic?
  55. How should the U.S. prepare for possible future pandemics? 
  56. What is the balance between individual freedoms and the public good?
  57. Should the government have the power to define “essential” businesses?
  58. How has quarantining affected the environment and climate change?
  59. What “new” quarantine habits should we continue after Covid-19?
  60. Why do most plagues originate from animals?
  61. How do viruses make us sick?
  62. How do vaccines work?
  63. How do viruses mutate?
  64. What should be the conditions before “reopening” society?
  65. What is more important: maximizing health or maximizing the economy?
  66. Are government bailouts effective?
  67. Should prisoners be temporarily released?
  68. Why has Covid-19 heavily impacted the Navajo community? 
  69. How does the philosophy of flattening the curve work?
  70. How is the spread of Covid-19 exponential?
  71. How does social distancing slow the spread of a virus? Bonus: entry event
  72. How does the body fight off viruses?
  73. What country has had the best response to Covid-19?
  74. What dystopian novel relates to this pandemic?
  75. Should the federal government “bailout” schools?
  76. How does housing density affect the probability of contracting the virus? 
  77. How does exposure time out of your house affect the probability of contracting the virus?
  78. What is the impact of living in the city vs. living in the country?
  79. What demographic features are most susceptible to Covid-19? (sex, race, age, social-economic status)
  80. What is the acceptable risk level to re-open society?
  81. How can we predict “hotspots” to prepare ahead of time?
  82. Why do people hoard?
  83. Why can’t stores keep toilet paper in stock?
  84. Should the government enact and enforce PPE laws?
  85. How should “essential” businesses be defined?
  86. How should people maintain their physical and mental health while social distancing?
  87. Should we move to mandatory absentee balloting?
  88. How does the pandemic affect global trade?
  89. Should home internet access be a right?
  90. How does the pandemic impact future job markets?
  91. Which companies benefit/suffer from the pandemic?
  92. What is the best response to mass unemployment?
  93. What should be in a pandemic survival kit?
  94. How long does coronavirus live on different surfaces?
  95. Should the federal government let states go bankrupt?
  96. How do we balance federal bailouts and the national debt?
  97. Should we loosen FDA requirements on experimental medicine?
  98. What is the impact of less driving on the environment and the economy?
  99. What will be the permanent economic effects of remote shopping?
  100. What should school look like for 2020-21?

Final Products:

What should students create or make as their final product? The possibilities are endless, but here are some ideas that mesh with the DQ’s above:

  1. Simulation where students are the government handling the pandemic
  2. Mathematical charts, graphs, statistics
  3. Diary of your quarantine experience
  4. Dystopian short story critiquing an aspect of the response to the pandemic
  5. Lab experiments to design tests
  6. Economic opinion podcasts
  7. Sketchnote video explaining different government roles
  8. Pros/Cons website
  9. Public Service Announcement targeting greatly affected groups
  10. Proposal for equitable law change
  11. Infographic advocating for behavior change related to physical, mental, or public health or the environment
  12. Quarantine garden or cookbook
  13. Art piece 
  14. Propaganda poster
  15. Digital scrapbook of Covid-19
  16. Poetry about quarantine or the psychological impact of the pandemic
  17. Debate on Zoom or Google Meet
  18. Plan to help a local business adapt and survive the pandemic
  19. Tutorial video on hygiene
  20. Photo essay of your community
  21. App for social distancing
  22. Editorial
  23. Letter to your future self
  24. Regulations for businesses to reopen
  25. Cost/benefit analysis

Questions? PBL and SEL Consulting?  I can be found at my blog michaelkaechele.com or @mikekaechele onTwitter.