Navigating Virtual Learning
What is being done behind the scenes for a smooth transition into the new school year due to Covid-19?
Shavanda – At the high school level the plan is to protect the academic integrity of the students. Focus on compassion vs compliance and there were many Zoom meetings daily to brainstorm ways on how to support the students.
Dionne – Similar to the high school approach, preparing the students for different expectations, attendance and holding students and parents accountable.
Eddie – For elementary the emphasis is on how to teach the students how to learn and interact virtually. All the systems are in place moving forward to access virtual learning when there is ever another emergency. Extra support by teachers providing office hours.
Stephanie – Offered students resources for support. Making the transition as easy as possible. The leadership team over the summer made sure their students had science and math kits for parents to pick up for lessons that required these items. In addition to textbooks and laptops.
Nikki – A lot of attention was paid to all the deficits and needs of students. Putting parents and students at ease is the focus. Teachers and Administrators working hard to address these needs.
How can families support at home?
Mandisa – Pre-K students’ participation on virtual programs – limit their online time, due to the limited attention span.
Renata – Elementary student parents’ expectation is just to support their children. Most beneficial to make sure the student is prepared. Communicate with the teachers regularly. Read to your children and introduce audio books. Be very patient with your children.
Eddie – Parents check in with the students and check their work and make sure it is being turned in and homework is being done. Making sure students are working in excellence. Parents hold their children accountable to track their learning.
Nikki – Limit children’s screen time for younger students. The role of parents, how involved would you be if you dropped your child off at school? Reading to your children. Math facts. Not looking for parents to be the teacher.
Stephanie – What works for elementary school still works for middle schoolers. Support is what the students need. Monday’s and Wednesdays are the only days the students have live lessons. Stephanie’s school district setup - Tuesdays and Thursdays have office hours built in for the students and other activities. As well as one on one sessions. Parents please make sure all contact information is up to date. Keep students on schedule. Schools have provided schedules for each student and parents can print a copy for reference. All about preparing the students for the return to brick and mortar.
Dionne – Focus on the social and emotional learning. In addition to Covid-19 there is social injustice and so much going on. Seeing a lot of anxiety going on with the students. The teachers went through some professional learning. Shared these activities with parents on the school website. Checking in with students and promoting empathy. CASEL.org and other resources have been made available to parents and students on the schools websites.
Nikki – Make sure contact information is correct and current.
Shavanda – Support for high schoolers. Levels of transition for 9th graders and making sure they adjust and transition from middle school to high school. Encouraging students to advocate for themselves and a greater independence for all students to build confidence. Focus and follow schedules, Seniors make sure they graduate. Keep up with their schedules and have completed all course requirements for graduation. Make sure they are reaching out to their counselors and other available resources. Colleges and universities are offering virtual tours.
Nikki – A lot of ownness of the students. Parents support their independence. Keep up with schedules. Make sure seniors will graduate and next steps.
How parents can create an ideal learning environment for their children at home?
Shavanda – Making sure students are not in their beds or on the floor. Good posture so they are sitting up and ready for school. External structure. Good internet connectivity. All materials necessary are available
Dionne – Students are following schedules. Using correct names for login. Do not use inappropriate language and conversations in chats. Also, ensuring students are not on other websites.
Stephanie – Many children doing virtual learning, and parents working in the same space. Can be a distraction. Making sure everyone has their own space. Students should have their materials so that they do not get up during the lesson. Reminder that schedules do have breaks built in.
Renata – Younger students should have appropriate screen time. Use the break time to step away from the screen. Get up and move. In school the students would be moving. Do not create an expectation for them to sit the whole time. A yoga ball to sit on possibly if age appropriate.
Nikki – Moving around is great advice and making sure there is a space for them to sit up straight for school. Possibly prepare breakfast and lunch prior to the beginning of the school day. Take advantage of schools providing breakfast and lunches to virtual students. Plan out the school day.
Technology? What devices best for the students and challenges to overcome?
Stephanie – Younger students work best with touch screen. For older children, a combination of touch screen and keyboard. Some may need a mouse in addition to the keyboard. The right device for each student for the best learning experience.
Nikki – Headphones may work better. And or a headset with a mic. Some may have to upgrade the bandwidth due to multiple students and parents working from home. If the sound is lagging, turn off the camera and the system may work better.
What are some the social emotional issues students are having? And what about the extraverts that need the social interaction?
Dionne – A lot of anxiety in and out of school Cultural responsiveness is being empathetic. Using tips to teach empathy and really listening to each other. Challenging educators on biases they may not be aware of. For anxiety, mindful lessons, meditation, mindful eating (what it tastes like, feels like etc…) Youtube videos on meditation. Websites to connect with students from other countries, like a pen pal. For the extraverts, get them involved in extracurricular activities offered by the school and other resources virtually. Encourage them to connect with their friends outside of school.
Eddie – Middle schoolers are encouraged to get on Zoom or some other platform that allows them to connect. Sharing the screen for the group to watch a movie together. Or parents can set this up for their elementary school children. Parents create an outlet for their children to connect with their peers. To help lower their anxiety.
Stephanie – Encourage them to have conversations with their peers in a safe space. Encourage a “lunch bunch” peers get together with their teachers and have some social interaction in a safe environment for kids attending school.
What about students with special needs? IEP’s. How parents can advocate and support them? Communities can support families in need, including teachers? (i.e. materials, additional screens, laptops, and hotspots)
Shavanda – Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, for special needs students – state and federal laws on how students are supported.. Making sure support is in place for these students to ensure they are learning. Provide all materials needed to help them succeed. Making sure you are in touch with all the additional providers, (i.e. speech therapist, case manager, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and assistive technologies).
Mandisa – As a parent be an advocate for your special need’s child. Be mindful of your child’s online presence and their attention span. Find ways to keep them moving around, exercise at home.
Nikki – All parents need to advocate for their children. As much as possible in the virtual setting.
Safety in a virtual environment?
Nikki – Educators are mandated reporters by law.
Shavanda – All certified educators are state mandated reporters. Students are required to participate and may not all be expected to have their cameras on. It is different per district. Be mindful when the camera is on. Encourage students to let counselors or teachers know if they are being bullied. Cyberbullying is against the law and being mindful of it.
Stephanie – Platforms allow teachers to record lessons. For example, Zoom has features that allow teachers to shut down and or mute students if necessary. Emails and chats are being monitored to combat cyberbullying and taking the students safety and security seriously.
Dionne – As counselors they are making sure they are available to the students. Ensure that the students know the students are a resource. Make sure all students and parents have read over the code of conduct.
Renata – As parents being aware of what the background noise is. Make sure the background is a wall. No discipline on camera from the parents. Teachers must report these things and are not allowed to judge the instance. They must report it.
Nikki – Parents always be mindful that your children are attending with many children virtually. Away from busy areas in the home. If the children were in school, as a parent you could not walk into a classroom. Be as mindful as possible. Give your children the space they need to learn. Give them some privacy. Keep in mind the teachers are mandated reporters.
Anxiety and how it shows up in younger children. Avoidance, atypical behavior (stomach aches, too many rest rooms breaks, water breaks). Prayer life – learn the 23rd Psalm and feeding the spiritual side. Utilize the resources available. Public Library. Resources are offering virtual activities. Teachers are offering tutoring and additional office hours. Encourage students to self-direct and advocate for themselves. A resource list will be available on the Mosaic Church website soon.
In closing, continue to be your child’s advocate. Tap into resources. Do not allow social media and peers to be your child’s influence. Lean on faith. It takes everyone, teachers, counselor’s parents, and the community as whole to support our students. Communication is key. Make sure the kids feel safe and are encouraged to keep moving. Go outside and be active. Be patient with yourselves and your children. Encourage families to get to know your kids. Find the balance between correction and connection. Take advantage of this time to spend with your family. Continue the conversations with regards to this pandemic. Give yourself grace, your children grace, and the schools grace.
A thank you to those who tuned in on behalf of the panelist and Mosaic Church. Wishing you all a blessed school year and leave it in God’s hands.