“We are in a very tough situation with a worldwide pandemic. What makes me proudest as a community leader is that regardless of how people have felt as individuals, we haven’t faced any division or conflict, our community has come together in support of our learners,” stated Mrs. Fisher, BYMS Principal, during an interview with the Matador Messenger about how online school is affecting learning.
Due to this pandemic, all students, teachers, and staff are forced to resort to online school. In many aspects, online school does have its benefits. For instance, the advantage online teaching has certainly been the peace of mind when it comes to the safety of our society. Furthermore, online instruction meets the needs of many learners, as it allows students to process information, go back and review, and in many cases, the various platforms are visually appealing, so students find it very interesting.
Although the online school has many positive aspects and can be beneficial to many students, we also face many challenges. According to Mrs. Fisher, “The biggest challenge to online teaching is that we miss seeing our students in a face-to-face environment. We have also found that it is natural for there to be several technical issues related to online learning (lag time depending on the internet provider, difficulty holding connection, repairs needed on devices, … ).”
But there are many solutions to these problems regarding technological drawbacks. When a student notes their computer is broken or having issues, they can swap out Chromebooks for another that works. Also, if the internet connection is failing or if families do not have access to Wifi, the district will provide hotspots. Finally, several online tools that help students access their instruction in more efficient ways include Zoom, Google Classroom, Nearpod, Gizmos, Desmos, etc.
Sometimes, students may have trouble adjusting to these sudden changes, but Bernardo offers several services for these individuals. Mrs. Fisher stated, “We have added an “8th-period class” called “Critical Reading 1” to each student’s Aeries portal/schedule. This allowed students to have direct access to teachers/staff in the office who can support them with issues. We have a “Distance Learning Re-engagement Team” on-site at all times. Depending on the need of the students, our site DLRT makes contact (phone, email, or home visit according to strict district protocol safety guidelines) to support students and families as they need it. Additionally, each Tuesday, I meet with parents through a forum called “Parent Advisory Sessions.” This allows parents to give feedback to the school on what is going well and what needs to be improved related to remote learning.”
As students may have trouble with technology, some students may have trouble focusing during zoom, as they have to sit for about 55 minutes, with only a certain number of 10-minute breaks in between. The staff uses a myriad of strategies to ensure students are paying attention and listening. One of these strategies teachers often use is calling on random students during Zoom calls. They also provide access to chat or ask questions through email/Google classroom. Teachers may also email students when they notice they are not participating. Additionally, the office staff monitors attendance daily, to make sure students are actively participating in every class.
Although it can be difficult to manage hundreds of students with technology issues, students that need reassurance, or other problems, Mrs. Fisher has been in a vital role of keeping the community together and ensuring everybody can carry out their assignments and tasks. She concluded, “Just as I am proud of our students and teachers, I am also so very proud of our community. Our community has come together in support of our learners. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Each time we are met with a challenge, our community has responded, “How can we help!” or “How can we make this situation better for our learners despite our challenges.” We are a community of problem solvers!”