WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Some schools in New Hanover County are already back in session and one week into a fully remote learning schedule.
Year-round schools in the county started on August 6. With only about a week’s notice of the switch from a hybrid plan to a fully remote plan, teachers didn’t have much time to adjust.
“We’re just taking it day by day. There are so many families and kids who are overwhelmed.”
Snipes Academy fourth grade teachers Dayla Simon says the fully remote plan actually gave her the time to set up one on one meetings with families to figure out what each child needed to make remote learning work this year.
“We put devices in everyone’s hand” Simon said. “We had folders with schedules for every grade level, teacher letters, just resources that parents may need.”
With one week of school under her belt, Simon says they decided to start the year off slowly. For the first few days, she says they had fewer meetings and lessons to get the students acclimated with the technology.
“Instead of saying, ‘Hey, we’re going to Zoom from 8 to 2 today, our first day, we shared a schedule with the parents and said, ‘we’re going to take it slow. Wednesday, we’re just going to log in at 8 o’clock,” she said.
During the first few days, Simon says they laid out Zoom etiquette, classroom criteria and what they want their virtual classroom to look like. She runs her virtual classroom similar to a physical classroom where students have to communicate if they need to go to the bathroom or need help with something.
Simon says they’re gradually staggering in more live lessons and check-in meetings.
“So then tomorrow will be 8 o’clock morning meeting, 10:30 ELA lesson, and then 2 o’clock closing,” she said.
After the morning meeting, Simon shifts to a math lesson, then sends her kids off to work on their own until it’s time to check back in.
“And so just trying to keep them actively engaged, we literally incorporated a brain break today where it was doing a TikTok challenge,” Simon said.
With virtual learning, comes challenges though. Simon says they’ve, of course, hit a few bumps along the way with technology issues.
She says she’s also started checking in and asking her students where they’re working from. She says she has students who are working from a grandparent’s home or even a day care.
“Some of our students are in day cares everyday, so I know one of my team members reached out to one of our day cares and said, ‘Can you help this particular student log on or create a space?’ And it was instant,” she said.
Simon also says they gave devices to everyone who needs them, and hot spots are on the way. She even drove new to devices to students having issues at home.
“A teacher’s lens and a parent’s lens has allowed me to empathize with everything,” Simon said.
It’s a new routine, but Simon says it’s working. She says maintaining a sense of structure and routine helps her students feel like they’re still in a classroom.
“Those routines and just those practices into our days, I think that will allow the kids to feel comfortable,” she said.
Simon has her classroom set up to add more interactive lessons around the room next week, to simulate a typical class.
For students who are in need of hot spots, she says some have been able to use a cellphone or other device in the meantime.