Teachers say remote learning isn’t ideal but it is providing skills needed during pandemic school year, life

teacher reads book remotely from classroom
Randy Barber

Walking around the halls of many BVSD schools, it is immediately clear that this is not a typical start to the school year. While the lights are on and teachers are back in the building, in most cases you won’t see a student in the hallways, at least yet. They are, of course, there – virtually.

In some ways, schools feel a bit more like television studios these days, with teachers in front of cameras, working to connect with an audience through the screen.

“For me, it is really hard as a teacher,” said fifth-grade teacher Will Ostendorf. “We are trying to find a way to connect and be with them, but it is very challenging.”

While back to school is always a time of getting to know students and setting expectations, he misses the team building exercises that typically define the first days of school.

“Normally, I would take my kids outside and the first two or three days we’d be doing activities, team building – breaking down those communication barriers. Right now we have nothing but communication barriers, because it is one-way conversations so much of the time,” Ostendorf said.

There have been some headaches, including some technical glitches.

“To be honest, we’ve had smooth patches and we’ve also had bumpy patches,” Coal Creek first-grade teacher Erika Morreale said with a laugh.

She and her colleagues across the district say that nearly everyone is taking the situation in stride and that it really isn’t that different than any other start to a school year.

“We typically have kiddos who have tears because they couldn’t find their way to the gym or small things like that,” Morreale said.  

They say beyond the reading, writing and arithmetic, these “productive struggles” are actually an important part of a student’s learning. 

“Perseverance, grit and resilience are what are going to make our students successful, said Emerald Elementary first-grade teacher Kim Moroze.

She says that all of the strategies she is setting up will translate if students are able to return to the classroom later this year, as well as giving them an important foundation for when they have to return to Home Learning again, during what is sure to be a tumultuous year. 

Most importantly, Ms. Moroze says she is still able to build the most crucial bonds with parents and students. 

“We are really getting to know our students, through the work and through the Meets, more so that I might have originally thought possible,” Moroze said. 

The teachers say their work to improve consistency and communication with parents, as well as the energy and effort they are putting into the direct instruction, are being noticed by parents.  

“What I hear from parents is, ‘thank you for being engaging and thank you. This is so crazy and this is so different, but my kid is laughing and I haven’t heard them laugh for a long time,’” recalled Ostendorf.

The teachers say that they recognize the amount of work that parents are contributing to make this school year a success and they couldn’t be more appreciative for the partnership.

“Every time I see them or I send them an email, I thank them and say, ‘you are my teaching assistant. You are right there helping us,” said Moroze.

“We are grateful to the parents,” Ostendorf added. “This absolutely would not be possible without our families.”

Tips from BVSD Teachers: How to make remote learning successful

Here are a few tips that our teachers gave that will help make Home Learning a little easier.

  1. Create a student corral
    Have a student that is a bit distracted by toys or their surroundings?


“I coached her to get a big box and to make a corral, a student corral”
--Kim Moroze - Emerald Elementary 1st Grade Teacher

Simply use a large box or use a presentation board, like those that are used during science fairs. Let your student personalize it a bit and add important information and tips. Surrounding them in cardboard will help keep their mind on the lesson.

  1. Look and listen for the cues
    Many of our teachers are integrating visual and audio cues. Ms. Moroze uses a doorbell to let students know it is time for them to direct their eyes to her. She also has pictures that remind students to mute themselves or to listen closely.

  2. Time’s up!
    During remote learning teachers often ask students to return after a five minute break or spend 10 minutes on writing. If you have a younger learner that hasn’t learned to tell time yet, consider letting them use your kitchen timer.

    “I've encouraged parents to use a kitchen timer because not being able to tell time is difficult for our youngest students.”

 --Kim Moroze - Emerald Elementary 1st Grade Teacher
 

  1. Interactive screen time
    All of the teachers we spoke to said that they are fielding concerns from families worried about students’ screen time. They say the research around screen time was really around passive time (when children are sitting still just watching a program). They are working hard to make the Home Learning screen time interactive, as well as integrating frequent breaks.
     

  2. This is new for everyone. Let’s fail forward
    While our teachers have done a good job of improving Home Learning, this is still a relatively new mode of instruction for our educators. They will be trying different methods to connect with students.


“We are giving ourselves permission to try new things and connect with the kids in this new way. Not everything is going to be perfect. Not everything is going to go off without a hitch. Give us a chance. We are a week and a half into this school year. Let us be creative and try new things. ”
--Will Ostendorf, Coal Creek Elementary 5th Grade Teacher
 

  1. Working to find balance

Since this is a relatively new way to learn, teachers are working to find the right amount of structure, work and breaks.

“We are trying to decide how much work is too much and how much isn’t enough.”

 --Kim Moroze - Emerald Elementary 1st Grade Teacher

Each student and each family has different needs. Teachers and schools will be working to meet specific needs on an individual basis.


“It is goldilocks and the three bears. It is either too hot or too cold and sometimes just right.”
--Brian Munoz, Coal Creek Elementary Principal


 

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