By Tara Gibson - September 24, 2020
The past few months have been a whirlwind with K-12 schools across the country scrambling to figure out the best way to move forward amid the coronavirus pandemic. School districts in the United States have all been approaching K-12 education differently, with some welcoming students back with strict safety protocols in place, many adopting a hybrid learning model, and others choosing to remain completely remote. Parents, teachers, staff, and students have all been a huge factor in how the 2020-2021 academic school year will look.
Schools shut down abruptly back in March 2020 sending students home to an entirely virtual learning environment. Educators discovered concerns, such as mental health challenges, technology shortages, and unsuitable remote learning environments which made the transition extremely difficult for students and teachers alike.
On the plus side, many in the K-12 education field can agree that this quick switch caused everybody to learn from the experience and prepare better for the fall. OnFocus asked several teachers the following questions, and here are some of the responses:
Jordan Rayburn, a business and information technology teacher in Pittsville explained he felt that both teachers and schools learned what works and what doesn’t work for virtual schooling. He continued by saying, “We realized every student’s learning needs in a virtual environment are different. I think teachers and schools learned more patience and flexibility when it came to meeting learning goals.” Rayburn also noted that there were clear challenges and limitations of the technology required for remote learning, which was acknowledged by the schools in that area.
Chad Eichstadt, an English Teacher in Owen-Withee told OnFocus that they learned how important it is to be in “contact” with each student, and how tricky this process becomes when you’re unable to see your students regularly. He explains, “While some of the students did very well virtually, others did not interact with their Google Classroom assignments or emails because they did not maintain that needed “contact” with their teachers.”
In response to this question from OnFocus, Nathan Dahl, a science teacher in Edgar explained that he and the rest of his school staff have adjusted well and are taking the new procedures in stride. The school staff has quickly familiarized themselves with new safety protocols for in-person learning and continued by saying, “It is refreshing to have in-class communication and interaction. I was truly missing that this spring.”
Eichstadt also agreed that he and his staff have made the needed adjustments for this school year and have taken on many changes and challenges to make learning work for all students whether remotely or in-person. He told OnFocus, “Teachers are taking temps and recording each student entering the school in the morning, eating lunch with their homeroom students, teaching students in the classroom while also teaching others virtually and making this happen so we can reach every kid where they are at currently.”
Rayburn followed up by explaining that he and his staff have become much more consistent in the way in which they handle attendance and homework deadlines. They’ve all worked increasingly hard to ensure students are provided the same learning opportunities whether they are in the building or not.
Shannon Tibbetts, a Wisconsin Rapids social studies teacher, told OnFocus that her school is operating with a hybrid learning model and her students have proven to be extremely resilient. She explained that her students have respected the social distancing guidelines and have followed school expectations all while being extremely excited to be back in the classroom and engaged with their teachers and peers.
Eichstadt echoes much of what Tibbetts said, adding that “Many of the students have come to appreciate being “in school” from being forced out last year.”
Kristen Lucas, SPASH Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher, said to OnFocus that for students in her district that have opted for 100% online seem to be struggling a bit. Teachers have been spread thin, trying to teach three different cohorts of students, and unfortunately, fully online students don’t appear to be doing the same caliber of work. Some don’t have access to printers or don’t understand the assignment, which makes it difficult. Overall she believes her students are doing well, although they certainly miss the way school used to be and look forward to being back in school full time.
An overwhelming message we saw from the teachers interviewed by OnFocus was that everybody is in this together. The school administrators, staff, teachers, students, and parents or guardians are all navigating the new school year amidst the challenges and concerns brought forward by the COVID-19 pandemic. Communication between everybody involved is essential.
With a mass notification solution, schools can send important messaging home to parents and students regarding new safety procedures and policies put in place. For schools embracing a hybrid-model, a solution that allows for targeted alerts with specific groups will make it easier to communicate to different cohorts of students and their parents to effectively streamline day-to-day school operations.
Parent communication has always been important, but is now more important than ever, especially with some schools allowing students to remain completely virtual. Because there have been noted concerns about remote learning and the social and mental health impacts on students, school administrators should regularly communicate warning signs to look out for amid a virtual learning model.
Internal communication among school staff and teachers is also of paramount importance. A mobile panic button allows staff to communicate internally, send out wellness checks to school staff, and of course - if any emergency arises – with the click of a button can be immediately in contact with 9-1-1, first responders, and staff, to communicate what’s happening, what to do, and who needs to respond.
Tara is a Marketing Coordinator on the Rave Mobile Safety marketing team. She loves writing about all things K-12, State & Local, Higher Ed, Corporate, and Healthcare, and manages the Rave social media channels. When she's not working, she's taking care of her smiley, shoe eating, Instagram-famous fur baby, Enzo!
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