Collaboration, Preparedness and Creativity Are Key to Remote Learning

“It’s not easy for anyone,” said TK Curriculum Director Kim Chausow. “We are making it work and I think this time it has gone very smoothly for the most part.”

Unlike last spring when the shift to remote learning came without warning and without preparation, this time teachers and families knew much more what to expect and were ready for it.

“Teachers have planned for and created instructional materials to continue instruction in a remote setting. Students have been taught how to navigate Seesaw and Google Classroom and Google Meets to be able to access their instructional materials and assignments at home. We knew there was a very strong possibility we would have to return to remote learning sometime during the school year,” Chausow said.

Paper packets were supplied to all K-5 students and to 6-12 grade students who requested them because of lack of Internet availability. Video lessons have been prepared and ready for students to view either online or via a flash drive supplied to them by the schools. Chausow said there have been tremendous amounts of collaboration among teachers to present uniform messages to students.

“The Lee Elementary teachers  and support staff worked extremely hard to have a consistent platform in Google classroom, engaging video lessons, organized hard copy packets, and virtual class contact to make remote learning as successful as possible. I am proud of the work of the Lee Elementary staff as well as the dedication and cooperation of our Lee students and their families,” said Lee Elementary Principal Angie Jefferson.

Some parents have also said this transition has been much smoother. “It’s been wonderful. We have videos from different teachers and even if it’s not our daughter’s regular teacher, it’s teachers she sees every day in the halls at school.  They are familiar faces,” said Erika Cowell, the mother of a second-grade student at Lee.

Cowell said she was worried she would see another rapid decline in her daughter like she did last spring, but so far, that hasn’t been the case. “It’s been especially helpful for our daughter to be able to pause the videos and go back and replay them so she can hear some things more than once and catch up. The tools we’ve been given are very user friendly. I applaud the staff and faculty with being very organized and very well equipped and prepared.”

McFall Principal Jon Washburn agreed the remote learning experience last spring can’t compare to what’s happening now. “This time is much more rigorous with new learning for our students,” he said.  “The staff has been preparing for this since before school started. I think our staff did a tremendous job making the work packets parent and student friendly. It was very detailed and structured and easy to follow from day to day.”

Like the other elementary schools, Washburn said staff showed tremendous collaboration. “They each took different parts of our new learning and created outstanding instructional videos for our students. They worked unbelievably well as a team to give our students and families the best opportunities to learn.”

At the same time, Washburn said the staff recognized the hardships families faced with remote learning. “We really tried to balance the amount of new material to make sure we didn't put any undress stress onto our students or families. While we want our students to continue to grow and learn, we are also aware of the unique dynamics for each of our families.”  

Lee Elementary also continued reading intervention and special education services. Autism Spectrum Disorder students were also able to attend half-day sessions for three days in order to maintain continuity of the program.

Jefferson said she’s encouraged by the positive responses from families. “We are very impressed with the student engagement, participation rates, and overall experience with our remote learning,” she said. “We’ve heard a lot of very positive feedback from families.”

Middle and high school students have also seen great collaboration from teachers who have been creating videos of all lessons and having them available for students. Some teachers have taken creative measures to reach and engage students.

English teacher Tricia Rickert said her ninth-grade Honors English class was just preparing to read Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” together. So one morning she decided to get creative.

“I put on my “Juliet” hair and then Cary Saxton (High School English teacher) and Barb Hubers (TK Librarian) came and helped act out the fight scene. It’s such an important part of the story and this was just a way to have fun and help students visualize it. If I can do something fun like that to help my students, I’ll do it,” said Rickert.

Their online audience, which also included Saxton’s 11th-grade class, loved the performance. “It was great to hear them cheering just to have some interaction with everyone,” said Rickert. “This is tough for high school kids. They want to be with their friends so much. We want to be back in school but we need to be safe.”

High School Principal Tony Petersen said he will be happy to see students return to school Dec. 9. “Remote learning is hard for a lot of high school students who rely so much on social interaction. It’s challenging. They miss being at school and some are struggling to stay engaged.  Teachers are doing an amazing job of finding creative ways for students to stay involved. More students are engaged this time around, but the tolls of not being in school are still evident,” said Petersen.

“Ultimately we want our TK Students to have in-person learning, but COVID-19 has put many challenges to traditional school learning. TK will continue to do its best to provide in-person learning and remote learning that mimics it as closely as possible. We will also continue providing the TK Virtual School – an option where students continue on their virtual school course for a full semester,” said Chausow.

All in-person TK students are expected to return to school Dec. 9. Students have a half day of classes scheduled Dec. 18 and then two weeks of vacation for the winter break.