Sunday, September 6, 2020

Virtual Learning


History is truly in the making all around the world in every aspect of our lives. Today, I want to write about education. I could not agree more with the statement that the best way to learn is with the teacher in the classroom. Some districts had to make tough choices about how to do this. Each one had their own decision based on their schools' situations. How many children are in the rooms, is there space enough to socially distance, how do they get from one room to another, are there enough custodians to keep sanitizing the bathrooms and classrooms on an hourly basis, children will eat in the classrooms because that would be too many bodies in one closed in space? The details of being able to pull in class learning go on and on. 

There really is not a right or wrong answer. It is based on how the superintendent and his board feels their schools would be able to handle the safety of the students and staff. I would like to commend two true leaders in our area, however, I have read about others all around the United States. Rhodes College and Shelby County Schools came out and stated that until the number of COVID cases go down to single digits, there can be no safe way to implement in classroom learning. These were two great leaders who weighed all of the facts before they made the decision. So, with virtual learning, we now have history in the making. 

Thankfully, many school districts are working very hard to help out in virtual learning. They are giving out laptops, setting up mobile wi-fi, having on line training for parents or those who will be at the home helping out the students, along with getting neighborhood centers set up for parents to drop off their children if they must go to work. These centers will have adults trained to help with the school work.

I know many parents now are saying that teachers just don't get paid enough now that they understand just how hard it is to teach. And, they usually have 1 - 3 in their home to teach. Imagine having 25-30 and holding their attention? Mind boggling! Plus, many of these parents are trying to work from home at the same time. 

After the first week of actually being in the virtual classroom, I have read some very funny comments of how it is going. I am not trying to diminish the importance of a good education by sharing a laugh. Most of all, I am trying to show that from the friends that wrote something to me or on social media from all around the United States, they all understand it is just the first week. Even in real time school the first week or two is utter chaos. Younger children crying, the drop off and pick up lines  are like driving in utter chaos, even though the rules were sent out earlier. (I can remember being in the pick up line for our granddaughter mid year and my husband and I messed up the flow - not on purpose, just had the car seat on the incorrect side of the car and not able to strap the seat belt around her. And I was an administrator there!)  So there will also be some hiccups along the way to the new virtual learning set up.

It does take a village to come together, even virtually, and having a sense of humor will help ease the stress. Stuff happens. Moms and Dads are doing their best and just share in laughter, even when your child calls you out on an answer or technology issues. You may need to request a parent teacher conference with yourself. If you found yourself thrown into virtual learning just do your best to remain sane. These are not normal times, so just be kind to yourself and your kids. Teachers are trying to show some ways to connect individually with each student when it is possible. I know some teachers see a dog or cat or baby brother or sister on the screen, takes note of it on a notebook nearby and when it is chat time and not learning time, she can then ask that child about what she saw. There are many ways to pull kids out of the screen. Calling on kids who do not have their hands raised will definitely help to keep more on task. Over lunchtime, some teachers are opening up the chat rooms so that the children can connect with one another over lunch. 

Definitely there is no one right way to do things. Experiment and share with other teachers ideas that worked or failed. And as I read in an NPR article about some advice from the founder of Khan Academy, Sal Khan, "...if you fail, fail forward. Learn from it, tell your friends what worked and what didn't work and then try a new iteration."

One parent posted and shared this:

How is Virtual Learning Going?

1. Two students were suspended for fighting

2. Another student is requesting to transfer to another school.

3. The Lunch Lady quit the first day.

4. The Custodian has never had to clean so much messiness.

5. A teacher was fired for drinking on the job.

As I said before...we are all in this together so let's have a sense of humor and carry on. 

Alice Cooper had a hit record called School's Out. Well, it may be out for a lot of families now but once this Covid virus is better under control, we can return with safety precautions. School will not be out forever, even if Alice Cooper sang that.

Some of the stories that I heard the first week of virtual learning, I would like to share with you. They are events that friends from my area, to Texas, to further north even have shared and are able to learn and grow, as well as continue to teach.

  • Background noise sometimes is really loud and one teacher overheard a child saying that she was ready for a nap. (Honestly, the teacher was too, and this was at 10:45 in the morning.) Very challenging teaching the children to mute their computer when told to.
  • In the real world classroom, teaching kindergarten students has been described as being like herding chipmunks all together to the circle time. Well, when they are off separately, it takes a lot of patience to keep them all together and with you.
  • Another teacher had a student put his chicken up on his desk and introduce this hen to the class. 
  • Yet in another household, while the child was on the computer, her Mom walked by in a towel during the reading lesson. The teacher was hoping the students were on speaker view and didn't notice.
  • A student walked away from the computer when it was break time. She did not come back but the house cleaner was at the desk, feather dusting and cleaning. Quickly, the teacher put that computer in the"waiting room."
  • When a teacher was calling on a student and discovered that she had turned down the sound and proceeded to go over to her bed and jump up and down for 10 minutes of the lesson.
  • A teacher enabled the closed captioning feature and the way that it translated her southern accent was with some inappropriate words or topics, so she quickly disabled the captioning.
  • One high school teacher reported that a student actually lit up and started smoking on camera. 
  • In a kindergarten class, a teacher was asking what letter does juice start with, stressing the "j" at the beginning. Finally, from the background a male adult voice answered, "J!"
  • Another funny situation happened, when all of a sudden a loud motor type noise was coming on line. The teacher asked all to put their sounds on mute but one little girl said that she still could not hear because she was outside and the gardener was blowing the leaves with his leaf blower. The teacher patiently asked her if she could carry her computer inside for a moment while he was working in their yard.
One story that I heard was a young student could not figure out some of the technology so the teacher wrote to go and get her Mom. The little girl said that she could not because she is asleep. Before we judge, perhaps this Mom had to work at night. Perhaps the teacher could communicate with the Mom later to find out if this is the issue or not. If it is, maybe help her come up with a back up plan for when she must sleep?

Parents and kids and teachers have been amazing. They literally troubleshoot each other when there is difficulty with the technology. The good news here is that the village is coming together. Slowly but surely we will get there.

It is rather like watching or hearing about a skit from SNL. You can't make this stuff up. 

All I can say is that we have one granddaughter going through virtual learning now. This past week was her first week. Leading up to the first day of school she was not happy about it at all. In fact, the drama queen that she is, everything was blown out of proportion. Ah, but in her eyes it was something to worry about. Her Mom had her decorate a Worry Box. (an old shoe box) Then she told her to write down a few things that she was worried about. She did. Then she was told once they go in the box and the lid is closed there the worry will stay until she actually goes through the motions of what she was worried about. Amazingly, she grasped this concept and it worked.

Each day after school, she FaceTimed me to tell me about her day. Each day she was more excited than the day before. I asked her what was the 'high' of the day. She spewed off all of the fun things that she did and learned. Then I asked her what as the 'low' of the day. She looked at me as if I had lost my mind and said there were none. It was all good. 

On Friday after school, one of her teachers wrote to me that our granddaughter sent her a praise in a chat box. The teacher asked me how does she know how to do these things? And then another said that she wants her to come to her class to show her.

What could be an issue is that she knows things like the Alexa in the room can answer questions for her. Our daughter moved the Alexa. 

It makes me proud to know that our granddaughter and her teachers, as well as her parents are going to make it through this. I will most definitely have that on my Gratitude Board.

What she could come up with next? Virtual Homework!

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