Distance Learning

Teachers Unite: An Open Letter to Schools from Sophie Murphy

  • Sophie Murphy

Navigating the new school landscape during school closures. Supporting teaching and learning and well-being during the Covid-19 crisis.

It gives me great pleasure to provide a weekly online blog for Big Ideas Learning and National Geographic Learning. I may have met you over the past two years when traveling across the United States with Big Ideas Learning and National Geographic Learning or at NCTM, NCSM or CAMT where I presented keynote presentations in 2018 and 2019. I have loved coming from Australia to work with the Mathematics community globally at such impactful events. It has been such an incredible journey collaborating with Big Ideas Learning and National Geographic Learning and continues to be an exciting new project to support you all during this unprecedented time.


I have previously written and presented on the importance of instructional practice, moving from surface to deep to transfer, teacher talk, and questioning student voice. You can find an outline of this in the Big Ideas Math textbooks, together with learning intentions and success criteria on every learning sequence.


Big Ideas Learning author, Laurie Boswell, and I will be working closely to reconnect with you all and reach out and support many more of you. Together, we will be providing weekly learning opportunities. I will be connecting with you through a weekly blog, short video and a Facebook Q and A with Laurie.


Laurie will be running two learning sessions a week to support you in teaching Math, starting with K-5.


We hope that this connection to both of us directly, together with BIL and NGL, will support you as we navigate through a time that has impacted our classrooms and changed the landscape from school to online support at home. As you know, our world has changed suddenly and significantly with the COVID-19 virus globally. It has meant that as teachers, parents and learners, we have all had to make dramatic changes to our pedagogical practices to support our students and community.


As you spend time at home teaching students online, redesigning lessons to take place in virtual classrooms, we are here with you. We will not only work on teaching Math but support each other and take the time to nurture ourselves as we take a collective breath and continue to educate and support our students.


I am providing a few suggestions for staying calm and nurturing ourselves amid the COVID-19 crisis, while still supporting our students:



Remember that physical distancing does not need to mean social disconnection. Receiving support and care from others has a powerful effect on helping us cope with challenges. Spending time with supportive family, friends and colleagues can bring a sense of comfort and stability. Talking through our concerns, thoughts, and feelings with others can also help us find helpful ways of thinking about or dealing with a stressful situation. We will be here for you at this time, providing support and resources for you all to access and connect. There are many ways we can use technology to stay connected, and both give and receive support (remotely).



Begin by acknowledging the emotions you are experiencing right now and offer yourself kindness, care and understanding. You are accepting that this is happening and happening now. Then , acknowledge that you are not alone in this time of uncertainty. Knowing that so many teachers all over the globe facing this same overwhelming feeling I’m experiencing right now. It is crucial to recognize your “common humanity,” so that you feel less isolated and, ultimately, more connected to others. Whatever you are feeling right now, know that it’s okay to feel that way. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling.



It’s crucial to keep coming back to “what matters” most to you, again and again. And, more importantly, to seek opportunities to enact your values in small ways each day. We are here to support the teaching and learning of Math, but also to support you. Keep reaffirming your values. For example, you might see “perseverance” as a personal strength and value. How might you model that strength through your contact with students, colleagues, and family members? Perhaps you could share quotes and notes of encouragement that highlight this value. Think about how you can discuss this value and others regularly in your online lessons.



Mindfulness is another form of kindness. It’s taking time to be with your thoughts and feelings. In a time of isolation, one of the most important things that I have been reminded of is the essential things in life are not things; they’re people and experiences. And one of the most influential people is you. One of my favorite apps is called Smiling Mind. It’s an excellent app to help remind you to take a step back, breathe and make time for yourself.


If I haven’t met you in person yet, then I say a GIGANTIC hello from Australia, and it is lovely to connect or reconnect with you now. Please stay connected with Laurie’s Lessons, my weekly videos, weekly blog and Facebook Q and A with Laurie and I.


Take care of yourself and your students.


See you soon,



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