Two weeks ago, I wrote my second post about the novel coronavirus that leads to COVID-19. As I predicted, that was not my last post on the subject. At the time of my last post, my kids Spring Break had been extended by one week. Later that week, the school district announced the schools would close through April 3. And now that date is April 24.
While there was no learning the week after Spring Break, the teachers and staff at our school jumped into action. One of the first things our local schools did was ensure that students were taking care of. Some students rely on the schools for meals, so our cafeteria staffs put to-go breakfast and lunch packages served with milk or juice. These were available to any student under 19 whether they normally received a free lunch. The awesome lunch staff in our district served over 60,000 meals that week from the parking lot of 32 of our local elementary schools and quickly expanded the program to include weekend snack packs. This past week they served 170,000+ meals and this is just in our school district. Counselors were also made available to the students through the phone or conferencing with Zoom. What a way to make sure the kids physical and emotional needs were met.
As for the educational part, our teachers just had a few days to prepare for “distance learning.” While staff hurried to prepare laptops students could borrow, the teachers set up Google Classrooms and prepared videos, PowerPoint slide shows or informational documents for the students to learn the material and then assignments to ensure their understanding. They also had to create paper packets for those students who didn’t have internet access.
Distance Learning puts a lot of pressure on all of us – parents, students and teachers. As parents, we have to partially be the teacher – more so if you kids are younger. Not only do we have to help them understand the topics/assignments, we have to learn to manipulate the tools they are provided for learning such as how to turn in an assignment on Google Classroom or make sure the sound and video are working for a Zoom conference.
Students at our middle school were thrown off as they no longer were attending their 8 classes each day. With online learning, they can pick and choose which class they want to do first. Each class is only going over one topic for the week but there is the reading material or watching video as well as questions and projects that are due at the end of the week. They can attend online tutoring and can email their teachers, but it just isn’t quite the same as being there in person.
And as I said before, the teachers are throwing this together quickly. They are testing out new ways to get the information to their students and then test their knowledge. Some assignments are done on Google Forms or you upload a document or photo in the Google Classroom. They must make sure their students (180 to 210) are all having their questions answered and needs met. That’s no easy task when you no longer see them daily.
This virus has thrown our lives in turmoil, but I think we are doing well. The kids will adapt to distance learning for the next four weeks. And hopefully, they will get to finish off the rest of the year back at school.