Everyone expects high school students and some middle school students to do fine with virtual learning because they have reached a stage of independence. The students may not enjoy it, but they can do it.
The students who could have some challenges are young, developing learners, but Bellwood-Antis teachers say their students have made the adjustment, though the situation isn’t ideal.
Teachers at the Myers Elementary School are doing their best with grades K-4, from the principal to the lunch ladies, office staff, and custodians as well.
On December 1, 2020 the Bellwood-Antis School District went virtual because COVID cases were rising in BlairCounty. During that time the school board decided to send all students to virtual. It wasn’t easy, but Myers teachers have met the challenge in a number of ways.
Teachers in kindergarten are creating instructional videos and activities to further learning during this time of virtual learning. They load their videos and activities into the Seesaw app for students to complete each day.
“Most students are completing all their assignments on a daily basis. The students are able to listen to the videos and then complete these assignments,” said Mrs. Weinsickle
The students who have a little help at home or daycareare getting the work done and having videos to tell them what to do is very helpful.
“ The majority of the kindergarten students have assistance from parents or other caregivers. Some assist them when reading sight words, completing writing assignments, or other activities just as they would when our students’ complete homework,” said Mrs. Weinsickle
Once the assignments are submitted, the teachers look at what the students have submitted. They are able to provide a lot of positive feedback for what they have done well and also give guidance if the students struggled completing a task.
Mrs. Weinsickle said there are definite challenges during virtual learning. “I don’t think that you will find a teacher who prefers this setting. We would much rather see and teach our students face to face.”
Everyone is aware of the challenges that this model has presented for the parents, especially where both parents are working, so all parties, including staff at the school, students, and parents are looking forward to the time when we are all back in the classroom together.
There are even questions about how sustainable a virtual approach is with young learners.
Mrs. Naylor, a second grade teacher, said, “I am not sure how long learning in a virtual format can be effective. I worry about burnout of all involved. I miss my students already and I would much rather have them here. Of course they need to be here. It certainly would be better for their education for us to be in person learning. But I also care about the health and safety of everyone.”
Mrs. Naylor said she is willing to make this sacrifice in hopes that the end is in sight and we will all come out of this as stronger more appreciative individuals.
Teachers agree that in-person learning is better, but for the safety and the health of the student and staff virtual learning is the best decision.
Attendance has been impressive so far in virtual learning, which Mrs. Naylor said was a testament to students’ families, who face many hardships in keeping their children online.
“Students get distracted easily at home. Not all families have the ability to adjust their routines during school hours. Some families have multiple children and family members trying to use their internet and it doesn’t always work,“ said Mrs. Naylor
Everyone gets distracted, but at home it is worse because you really don’t have anyone to get you on track and you have access to your phone, game systems, and other electronics.
Mrs. Naylor said, “So far I have had perfect attendance in my guided reading lessons, and near perfect attendance for Fundations live-streaming. They are also completing SeeSaw assignments to meet deadlines. Those who have not been able to fully participate have reached out to me and are participating in alternate ways.”
Virtual learning is not ideal but the students and teachers know this is what we have to do top get the cases down and keep everyone safe and healthy. If the student have any trouble they contact the teacher and the teacher helps in anyway they can.
“I am currently live streaming guided reading instruction and Fundations. This allows me to read with small groups of students at their instructional level several times a week,” said Mrs. Naylor. “It also allows me to see my students, continue growing our relationship, answer any questions they may have, provide feedback to them, and on occasion chat with the adults who are there helping them.”
Live streaming is good for students because teachers can instruct them and they can ask questions for the teachers to help immediately.
Mrs. Naylor said she is using Google Slides, Explain Everything, Nearpod, and SeeSaw to create and /or upload instructional videos and learning activities.
As a unit, t second grade team utilizes IXL, xtramath, Kids A-Z, EPIC, Kahoot, Nearpod, and Seesaw.
“The parents and caretakers of my students have been doing an incredible job getting involved, helping the children learn and complete their assignments, and reaching out to me with problems, concerns, and even support. They have adjusted their own routines to allow for live-streaming lessons as well. I really appreciate each one of them,” said Mrs. Naylor
Mr. Stinson, the Myers Elementary principal said the Myers community has done a remarkable job with virtual platforms. “Our attendance has been extremely high and teachers have been reflective on their instructional approaches,” he said.
”Our teachers utilize a blended learning approach using instructional videos, live-streaming, and office hours to meet the needs for our learners. Our virtual instruction is not designed for an extended period of time, but rather a short amount,” said Mr. Stinson
Mr. Stinson said the goal is to provide an educational experience as close as possible to the one students would receive in the classroom, and it couldn’t be done without help from adults at home.
“Our parents/guardians have done an amazing job and we appreciate their efforts very much!We have been working on a plan to bring the students back to school after the New Year, while still following the Department of Health’s new guidelines,” said Mr. Stinson
“The teachers and staff worked hard to keep us face to face through the month of November. We will continue that same effort as we look to focus on maintaining a safe learning environment for students and staff. There is no doubt we want to see our kids back in school!”
Mrs. Kelly a fourth grade teacher said one big challenge is engaging students who are working from daycare facilities as their parents work. On top of that, teachers are not able to respond in the moment, in general; much feedback is delayed; internet connection can be faulty at times on both ends.
“We are relying so heavily on technology, which doesn’t always do it’s job when we want it to,” said Mrs. Kelly. “As educators we know that we provide the best education to our students in the classroom. Unfortunately, with the new guidelines placed on schools and our substitute shortage, it’s not possible to be face to face right now.”
Mrs. Syznal, a first grade teacher, said it has been a team effort for her and her young students.
“My first graders and I are learning how to navigate virtual learning together. We are using the SeeSaw platform, which is geared toward younger learners,” she said.
Mrs. Syznal as emphatic in thanking parents for the effort they have put into keeping their children on track during this difficult time.
“I am so grateful to families for their efforts as I know how difficult this can be,” she said. “All of the families I am working with are so gracious. They have been flexible, patient, and kind. As for effectiveness, this forum will certainly NEVER replace face to face learning.”
Virtual learning will never be as good as face to face learning for a couple of reasons, Mrs, Syznal said. The first reason is Virtual learning has a lot of distractions; also, the teachers can’t actually be there to show kids how to do it; and the third reason is people of all ages, even adults, need social interactions and in virtual learning you can’t have that.
“Screen time is always a concern and the social/emotional component of school is GREATLY missed. Since we are missing that so much, we have started to do live morning meetings as well as live reading sessions in small groups.” said Mrs. Syznal “We also try to make our videos using our voices and faces so that we can stay connected. Again…nothing will ever replace the “in school” experience, but this too shall pass. I can’t wait to have the Szynal Kidz back with me!!“ said Mrs. Syznal
The B-A school board has set January 11 as the date for students to return to in-person learning, so kids will still have a week of online classes following Christmas Break.