With the start of the next school year just around the corner, many school districts are releasing their plans for reopening. Some will be in person, some will be virtual, some hybrid, and some will have tiered phases. There is certainly a great divide on the implementation of distance learning. School districts had a test run with this, after the last quarter of the school year was abruptly cut off due to the coronavirus outbreak. Teachers quickly rose to the challenge, turning to unconventional methods to deliver instruction to students, communicate with parents, and strengthen their classroom community.
Despite this period for growth and research, many students, teachers, and parents are unsure if this model will work in the new year. Distance learning has been plagued with a negative outlook, with a widespread feeling of uncertainty and distrust in the model. On the contrary, there are some advantages to online learning, with students describing this time as one for “personal growth and motivation,” University of Maryland College Park student Naomi Bilesanmi said.
The Informer spoke with Prince George’s County Student Member of the Board of Education, Ninah Jackson, and educator Kristin Camper to better understand what students and teachers may experience with the transition:
WI: What can you do as an educator to ensure that the new school year runs smoothly for parents, students, and yourself?
Camper: I will definitely be utilizing the exercises I learned during my Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) training this school year, which includes check-ins, one-on-one conferences for student wellbeing, and meditative and breathing exercises (which students can also use with the rest of their family members). One thing that will really help is the combination of asynchronous learning (meaning students can complete this work at any time) and small group sessions to meet the needs of all my students. There are also tools like Remind that will help me keep parents up to date on assignments. Finally, I will stick to the schedule I’ve created to maintain a better work-life balance (again, asynchronous learning will help with this a lot).
WI: As a student, what tools, resources, or habits helped you in making the transition into online learning?
Jackson: As a student, I tried to focus on maintaining a consistent schedule to work on my time management. With virtual learning, there’s so much more freedom — and for some students, that is great, but for others, that can be used as a means for procrastination. I set a schedule for myself and set aside specific times for studying, reviewing material, organizing my space, and getting work done. My greatest tools and resources were my agenda planner, my wall calendar and whiteboard, and my digital calendars.
WI: Did you have any barriers to learning online? If so, how did you overcome them?
Jackson: My biggest barrier with online learning was getting used to not having in-person assistance with topics that I’m struggling to understand. One of the ways I worked to overcome this is by forming study groups with my peers. We would occasionally host a group Zoom to assist each other with work we were having trouble with, or even just to check in with each other academically.
So, distance learning may not be perfect, and as with many things has flaws, but if your school district will hold classes remotely it is important to be prepared for a successful year.