Teacher Interview Regarding Distance Learning 2020:
Question: Here at Epoch Education, one of our main concerns is maintaining equitable practices within the classroom environment. Now that we have transitioned to the format of distance learning, what have you done to upkeep your inclusive practices?
Answer: In our district, we are definitely making sure that everybody has access to a Chromebook. We were quickly, frantically giving them out at the beginning, but these were older Chromebooks. One of the things we did not realize is you cannot just update them from home. So this created the problem that some students were not able to use some of the applications and programs that their teacher was using. So we decided we could not use them and ultimately had to switch out all of the old ones for newer versions. Also, our IT department has had to make sure to make hot spots available for everyone who does not have access to Wifi. This is what we are doing from a technological standpoint.
The biggest thing to do for me personally, is keeping communication with the parents as well as making sure students know we are there for them. One of the things that our task force discussed at the beginning was if students need to have their cameras on. I am so resistant to that because middle schoolers are such delicate souls, you can accidentally give a funny look due to something happening around you and then the student could internalize that as them upsetting you. I mean I want to see their face when they log in but they can just wave and then turn their camera off. Then when they want to ask a question they can turn it back on. They can even put the question in the chat box if they want.
I really beg for teachers to be flexible. For them to try to not be so “it must be this way”.
One of the biggest concerns I have heard from parents is they heard their child will be marked tardy if they are more than five minutes late to their call. I am hoping teachers can have some grace around this. Try not to assume so quickly that students are purposely not logging on.
I hope that for the students that are not engaged, we definitely make contact and find out what it is that they need. We have to be looking out for their social and emotional needs. Everybody is overwhelmed right now.
Question: What are some positives we can take out of this experience of distance learning?
Answer: There is so much innovation in education. People are discovering all of these new wonderful ways of teaching like Bitmoji classrooms and different interactive powerpoint presentations. At this point it’s like, go for it. Whatever makes you happy, do that. So many cool programs are popping up that can make learning more interesting for students. I feel like using this technological platform for learning is an even better way to get immediate feedback of what our kids know and how to reach them if they don’t know.
Interview conducted by: Bailee Bennett-Andrade
Interviewee: Stephanie Woodhams from Thomas Russell Middle School