This school year has been very challenging for our schools across the province. Principals, teachers and school staff have been working extra hard to be innovative with their lessons in order to keep student safety at the top of their priority list. We had the opportunity to chat with some of our teachers to hear how they and their students are doing. They are all doing an amazing job and we are glad to be able to share their stories.
(Story submitted by Ambrah MacNeil)
Daily life through a pandemic is challenging on many levels. For teachers, who thrive and strive to connect with students in order to build a strong and trusting relationship, it is especially challenging. Teachers begin the year getting to know their students; their interests, their dislikes, their learning styles, their families, their social dynamics. When we get to know our kids and build that relationship, we know that more authentic learning can take place. When you move to virtual teaching and learning, it forces teachers to stretch their creativity in order to cultivate and maintain these important relationships.
I was lucky enough to begin the year in class with my grade 3s. On November 24th, chief and council, along with LSK administration, decided to be proactive instead of reactive and move to virtual learning starting November 30th. We received our Google chrome books shortly before this announcement so grade 3s got to login and become familiar with their new technology.
We had been using a variety of online platforms up to this point, which I think was crucial, because students grew comfortable with them. Our favorites are: Seesaw, Squiggle Park, Prodigy, Epic, IXL, and Teach Your Monster To Read. Seesaw is a great app, because it allows teachers to create assignments (as well as access a community library of other teacher created activities) that their students can easily complete and submit for instant feedback. This aspect is extremely beneficial while teaching virtually because you can see how well students understood a concept, and they love reading the comments teachers leave. The other platforms mentioned are also great, because students work on skills by playing games. What they may not realize is that I can design their activities to reflect the outcomes we are currently working on with many of these apps.
We have been having one hour long virtual live classes using Google Meet every day. Students really enjoy getting to see one another and we get to socialize while also trying to get some work done. Specialty teachers join us at scheduled times, so it is nice for the students to have some change up during the hour long class.
It has definitely been a learning curve to figure out how to best teach virtually. There are obviously still challenges, for example, some students having difficulty feeling motivated to get work done online for a variety of reasons, not having that face to face interaction where students and teachers can help each other directly. However, teachers have been resourceful, creative and have been helping one another, sharing videos on how best to use platforms. Everything from how to share your screen to how to post activities to Seesaw. EAs have been amazing, going to students’ homes to help them get online and engaged in online learning. Although teaching and learning virtually has been challenging, we have learned a lot and continue to do the best we can with what we have.
(Story Submitted by Leanne Foster)
Well after 20 + years teaching who would have thought I would again feel like a first day teacher. …I found last years’ jump to online very challenging and spent a good part of summer break researching and learning about teaching and learning online.
We had hoped to get out student chrome books when we opened however that was not possible. Instead we spent time in the classroom using the smart board to review and become familiar with Seesaw and Raz kids. The decision to go to online learning was made quickly in late November after being in class full time since mid September. I feel the relationships, bonds and expectations created in our 2 months spent in school have been key factors in any successes in online learning.
I spent time learning about Seesaw and focussed on creating an all in one daily schedule of all assignments and videos with all the links in the one assignment. I spent hours online learning how to make this template. I know all the applications and sites can be overwhelming for parents and wanted to make it as simple and straightforward as I can.
In the 2 weeks of online learning the class has completed 334 assignments on Seesaw. In class I was using Raz kids books for shared reading – sharing books on the smart board. This continued at home for the students. In 2 weeks of online learning the students have completed 248 listens, 143 reads and 185 quizzes .
Our school decided one hour of live lessons a day was appropriate for p-2. I began with a whole class session. The first week there were about 18 students online. This proved difficult to manage for a lot of reasons. I decided to break the group into 2 groups ( I have 21 students) and teach 2 half hour sessions a day. The other half hours have been filled with Mikmaq, gym, library and music so students still have live lessons for an hour. The smaller groups allow for more class participation and for more individual teacher feedback which they thrive on.
Live lessons are an ongoing learning process. Some days have been dedicated to language arts but most days I try to cover a mixture of math and language outcomes. We do have conversation but I find using whiteboards at home with students on mute to be the easiest to manage. It helps their mental skills but it also helps them practise writing their numbers and letters. The students can hear me clearly and it allows me to ensure everyone is participating and understands. They seem to help the children focus and I can give them individual feedback on their work. Live lesson attendance did decrease after the first few days but on average there are 10- 14 students participating. Online learning has also given me a glimpse into some of my student’s home environments. Getting to know who my students are is a such an important part of being their teacher and google meets has allowed home contact in a new and different way. Many of their homes are very busy. I am impressed the students are able to focus as well as they have. I know google meet times or online learning is currently not working for some families unfortunately. I miss seeing my students in person every day and believe at school learning is ideal for young learners however safety is the first priority. We just have to make the best of it. Every day I learn something new. I enjoy connecting with my students in the limited ways available in this age of covid. I have learned more about online platforms and using technology in the last year then the rest of my career.