When the California governor closed down all schools due to coronavirus, Arborland Montessori Children’s Academy embarked on a remote learning journey. Teachers were re-trained, parents were asked for support, new methodologies were created, and different technology was put in place. But one question remained: How could Arborland offer all their students, regardless of age, the same caliber of daily learning experiences miles away from their beloved teachers?
Though the elementary students thoroughly enjoyed playing online games and browsing the web, remaining online for the entirety of the school day would require a huge transition.
When school was physical, a 2nd grader only needed to be dropped off and then the rest of the day would ensue. Now, just to successfully access the online classroom, the students needed to check their email, click the link from their teacher’s conference call invitation, and click on the audio and the video to begin. If the internet signal was weak, the images would freeze and the audio would be cut off. In addition, dogs would bark, cats would join, mom’s voice could be heard while she was engaged in her own work meetings. Home used to be where students rest and relax. Now, home is their classroom too. Though confusing and complicated, the students now needed to play a larger role in their own education. They became responsible for their learning.
Ms. Shepard, a lower elementary teacher at Arborland, knew that she faced unfamiliar technology and an adjusted remote curriculum. She knew that it would be difficult retaining a 2nd grader’s attention for an entire school day. So, she asked her students for help. “We asked our students to be our teacher assistants,” she says, “whose jobs were to get dressed, eat breakfast, prepare school supplies, and get online on time. If the students showed up early, they could start their day by chatting in the chatbox with friends. It was an incentive for everyone to get to class before class started.”
The newly appointed paraeducators also needed to remind themselves to keep paying attention, actively engage in the lessons, remain on-screen, mute/unmute themselves when necessary, and continuously help their teacher out.
“The new classroom is a mental state of concentration rather than a physical location.,” Ms. Shepard continues. “It was a new concept for all of us. We as the teachers try to continuously give feedback with audio and visual cues and the students became more responsible for their own active participation.”
The teachers had to become more creative to keep lessons fun and engaging. Students not only learned math and language arts, they continued to learn Spanish, Chinese, PE, art, and music lessons all remotely.
Student performances were the biggest change. No longer in front of a large crowd, the students learned how to perform skits live via Zoom. They became as professional and confident as TV anchors.
It was incredible to watch them put on a show full of singing, dancing, and public speaking. Though each one of them was in their own home, they came together to give a cohesive performance.
“I thought it was fun! It felt like I was on TV,” one student gushed.
How could Arborland offer all their students, regardless of age, the same caliber of daily learning experiences miles away from their beloved teachers? They did it with the students' help.