A teacher describes her distance learning day
August 20, 2020 | View PDF
The Richland School District had planned to begin in-person schooling on Aug. 6, but that was before Governor Newsom restricted school districts to distance learning in counties on the state's watch list. That made it necessary for Kern County schools to teach via the internet.
While distance learning presents a series of challenges, the Richland School District has made the learning a positive experience by integrating lessons with sessions that allow the students to communicate with one another, even if it is not face to face.
The school day begins for sixth-grade teacher Candie Springer by logging on to their classroom, while the students log on to join the class, followed by roll call. Roll is taken by the students un-muting their microphones announcing "here," with their picture popping up on the screen. Each student is equipped with a laptop with a camera that enables them to see their teacher and each other, giving the students a sense of togetherness.
The class has reading time where Mrs. Springer leads the class in reading their book together, then answering questions about the book. Springer created her lesson plan aided by programs in Google Classroom, as well as tests that she created for the class. In the curriculum, there is English, Math, Reading, as well as Social Studies. Each student went to their school site before the fall semester began and was given a packet that included their textbooks for the year and workbooks. According to Springer, the students can use the actual textbooks in class or can opt to use the book that is online.
All assignments are done online. The school day runs from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with a break for lunch. While Springer is not teaching the entire day, with the students doing their assignments during independent learning time, she is online the entire school day to answer questions, as well as lead different reading groups. If a child has a question, there is a hand icon the students use to "raise their hand," which shows up on Springer's screen. Springer said there is a certain amount of time during the classes to let the students communicate with one another, just as if they were sitting around a table at school.
"I think it is important for the kids to get a chance to talk to each other, with a lot of them not being able to communicate with each other as much as they do during a regular school year," she said.
Springer said that because the sixth-graders they have had more experience with computers, it is easier for her than for some teachers of the lower grades. "I am blessed to have a wonderful class who know how to use the computer and are engaged the entire day," she said.
To make sure the students are not just online for roll call and then logging off, Springer can see on her computer those students who are not just "here," but are engaged in the lessons. She can tell on her screen which students are working on assignments by their activity on the computer and also the assignments they turn in.
Once a student finishes an assignment, they click on the "turn in" icon and the finished assignment is sent to Springer's inbox. She can then grade the assignments online.
The students can look at their daily assignments by clicking on that day's schedule, which details everything to be done that day.
Springer said that next week the Physical Education teacher will begin teaching a class that includes exercises and physical activity.
As for students in the lower grades, Springer said she knows they have a different set of challenges. "I would think that those students below the second grade would have to have a sitter, with them not being able to log on to their computers by themselves. It is very difficult but we have been training on this system are equipped to help our students get a quality education," she said.
Springer said she had some reservations when she first learned they would be distance learning, but that with the program that they use and the training they received, it is going very well. "Even with the fact that the kids are not together, with the way the classes are set up, and the ability of them to participate in the class all together, it gives them much needed connection with each other," she said.
Next week: A student's view of the distance learning experience.