COVID-19 part eight: Staff views of continuous learning

Starting March 30, students and teachers transitioned their instruction to online. Teachers were given short notice to produce assignments and teaching materials for students. Given these circumstances teachers have had to find a way to be able to have some kind of contact and communication with their students.
Along with this new way of learning, teachers and staff have expressed concerns such as internet access for students, students spending more than three hours on school a day and families of students being overwhelmed.
“One of the biggest challenges has just been making sure students have access to the resources that they need to be successful such as internet, a textbook, chromebook, paper, etc. The other challenge is just communicating. Google Meet has helped with this,” math teacher Mollie Mills-Weis said.
Teachers and staff use the Google Meet and Zoom platforms to continue to maintain communication through out the school. Staff meetings are held on Wednesdays at 2:15 p.m. and each department also has their own meeting held on one of the two platforms. Class video meetings depend on course demands and teacher preference.
“I enjoy being able to see and interact with students, even if it’s only for a few short times during the week instead of all day everyday. It makes this all feel a little more like normal school,” math teacher Eunice Nickel said. “I mainly use the as a time to check-in and answer questions for students. My AP Calculus class also has a weekly study session where we work on problems to prepare for the AP exam.”
According to the USD 373 continuous learning plan, teachers are to give students a manageable amount of assignments and learning challenges while also giving grace and flexibility to correspond with each family situation.
“Students might have limited access to internet, or have to watch their siblings during the day. Teachers are home now taking care of their own families, grace has to be given,” assistant principal Blake Smith said.
Not only are students needing grace and flexibility teachers are also having to juggle their homelife while also being a teacher from home. According to Nickel, finding a schedule that works with being a teacher and a mom to little kids helps being able to balance both roles.
“It’s always been easy to do school at school and family and home stuff at home. Now I’m having to do all of it from home, which can feel chaotic at times,” Nickel said. “So that’s been an adjustment, the hardest part is connecting with students and knowing how to help them when we’re not actually together at school.”
Although teachers cannot report attendance in the traditional format, they still record student attendance in a weekly report. Principal Lisa Moore said her main concern is students not engaging in their academic studies. Not only did teachers and staff have a short amount of time to transfer all classrooms to online platforms, the professional learning (PLC) team had to create a continuous learning plan for all students and teachers throughout the district.
“We are keeping weekly attendance for all students\; some students have engaged more because of the online platform. Students who had previous attendance issues continue to have attendance issues,” Moore said. “I cannot give a big enough shout out to our teachers, they have truly been resilient through this whole learning curve.”

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