MAUSD stories, Part 4: Discoveries
Editor's note: This is a project of the Mount Abraham Unified School District's Community Engagement Committee (CEC). The Addison Independent is hosting this content as a service to the community. Names of the interviewees have been withheld in accordance with the commitments made by the CEC for the project. (Click here to read more about this project.)
Part 4: What have been the biggest surprises or discoveries you’ve made in shifting the way you work?
Well, at first I didn’t even know what the coronavirus was. I thought this might be something good. Now I know it makes people very very sick and sometimes they even die. I thought I was just going to need to be super careful at my school, like washing hands, so when they said we had to be at home, that was a big surprise.
One of them is that at first I didn’t know that we had to do schoolwork at home — I thought this would be a time when we just had time off for a couple of weeks. I was really surprised that it would be for the whole rest of the school year. I am learning — but not as much as at school. I got more directions at school — like how the math goes.
I like the flexibility we have now. It’s nice that I don’t have to get up at 6:15 every morning. I’ve also been spending a lot more time in nature. Our science assignments right now are about mutation and genetics, and we got to go outside and collect things that represent this, which is cool. It’s also really great to hear about all of the things people are doing for one another during this time, like taking care of neighbors, making signs for essential workers, hearing about the people in NYC who are clapping for health care workers every night. Hopefully we will continue to be kinder to each other and less self-absorbed once this is over.
Being able to build my own schedule has been great. I can find time for the things that I want to do. I have had a lot more time to get outside, and more time with my family. My sister is home from college. And getting outside to play soccer, which I usually do not have time for.
Elementary Teacher – Grade 1
One of the surprises I talked about earlier: that we could actually unroll something like this. Everyone just kicked into gear. How hard everyone has worked together to get remote learning up and going! If someone had asked me back in January if I thought I could do this, I would have said “no way.” It has made me be in some ways a much stronger teacher, more creative, tapping into more of the unstructured play, how to guide families through learning through play, using less materials because parents do not have access to all the materials we have at school. I am surprised by the whole thing and in awe of the whole COVID-19 pandemic we are in. I’m wondering what will come next? I think there are more surprises to come.
Middle School Teacher – Grades 7-8
We have been asked to narrow the number of learning targets we are addressing during distance learning. I always thought I prioritized going deep as opposed to glossing over multiple standards. However, the necessity to move at a slower pace during distance learning has made me realize how much deeper/slower I really can/should be going normally. Because I am moving at a much slower pace, I feel like a greater proportion of my students are showing deep comprehension. I feel like they are really going to retain what they have learned even if they are not exposed to as many different things.
High School Teacher
The one that really surprised me right away and still surprises me is: the students that this works for. There’s a population that … they’re doing more work than they’ve ever done before. They’re communicating with me more than they ever had before. Although email has always been available, these are students who never emailed me before ... and yet, they are now. So they’re checking in. For some kids, I really feel this is important info for me to carry forward for next year ... that this works for some students. When we talk at high school about flexible pathways, talk about individualizing and personalizing our programs, I think it’s important to see how easy it was to adapt to this piece of doing some remote learning. How can we make that work next year? I’d like to be part of a group to see that through and follow up on that.
The biggest surprise has been which kids have really taken to this, and really taken off, and which have really struggled. They’re not the same list as you can say in schools. Any kid who struggles in school because of social anxiety is doing much better at home, and on Zoom. It’s been really interesting to clarify that element of certain kids’ learning. Kids who spend so much of their energy trying to deal with the people in the room, and their emotional reaction to being in the room with other people, now are free to learn stuff. There have been some real surprises there.
High School Principal
There are not enough hours in the day! Everything takes 2-3 times as long to complete and is twice as hard working remotely. I have been surprised at how much we informally collaborate throughout a single day. Working remotely, everything has to be planned, nothing is ad hoc. You can’t drop by a classroom or office to get a quick answer to a question. You have to actually schedule time to touch base on a 30-second question. When you schedule the time you have to tack on additional time to just connect as humans. We are all craving our social connections, even the introverts, so it’s important to take that time to breathe together, check in on one another to make sure we are doing OK. Lastly, the biggest learning, and something we work hard at is keeping things simple. Simple planning, simple instructions, simple explanations, simple communications, simple and manageable expectations. Everyone is coping differently and simplicity makes planning and providing instruction manageable regardless of our situations.
Perhaps not a surprise, but a highlight has been how everyone has really risen to the challenge. People are stepping up and doing remarkable things, figuring it out and making it happen. This has been a great opportunity to witness the best in people. People are choosing to celebrate what’s going well, and I hope that’s something that sticks.