We have officially been back to school for just over a month, and what a month it has been. Teachers, students, and staff have all been tackling numerous challenges as we all try to keep our community safe from COVID-19. The combination of in-person and remote teaching has, at times, posed some interesting and frustrating dilemmas, but one month in we are beginning to find some normalcy in this new system.
“I think it’s truly amazing that we can teach people in person and remotely simultaneously,” said MHS English teacher Laurel Hanson. “It’s a lot of moving parts, for sure, and it wouldn’t have been imaginable even 10 years ago. It’s truly a feat of technology and a testament to teachers’ juggling skills.”
That’s not to say it has been easy. Across the board, teachers say that the biggest challenge is daily preparation. For teachers at the middle schools and high school, who are teaching in-person and remotely, getting all the technology ready while also attempting to disinfect between each class group, and greet their incoming students requires a great deal of speed and precision.
In the case of performing arts courses which must take place outside, the tech set up becomes even more laborious. “The whole process of preparing for period 1 [in order to teach band to in-person and remote students] currently takes about 40 minutes,” said Music teacher Andy Forster. Despite the lengthy process and the frustration that can ensue, Mr. Forster is grateful that his students are back to playing music together.
Upper-level teachers are also working hard to find ways for remote students to still be able to interact with students working in class. MMS Math teacher Martha Farnham sets up Jeopardy reviews with teams that are a mix of remote and in-person students. MMS Science teacher Amanda Ripa recently juggled an iPad and a hot spot to take her remote students outside with her in-person class for a lesson. “It was very rewarding to see the outcome,” said Ripa. “ It’s a bit of a circus but I’m getting used to it and not letting it limit my teaching.”
In the lower grades, remote teachers are appointed to grade levels with students from several schools across the district. “Before the school year started, I was nervous about building a classroom community from a distance,” said Shelly Moody who has been teaching remote fifth grade. “ I have students from three different elementary schools in my class so I wanted to prioritize the opportunities to build relationships. What once made me nervous has now become the most rewarding aspect of remote teaching.” Moody said that over the last month her students have really bonded through their classroom morning meetings and discussions around the books that they are reading. “I’ve been so impressed with the way they support and encourage one another. They’ve also supported me as we’ve explored many new technology tools together in our lessons.”
Waiting in the wings to assist with learning curves and technology glitches was our amazing tech team. Our district tech gurus have been dealing with help tickets at a fast and furious rate. “Troubleshooting remote student technology issues without being there and seeing what is going on can definitely be tough,” said Tech Director Adam Murray. “My team is doing a phenomenal job. We are reaching out to parents more than ever.” He wants parents to know the tech team is there for them. “The number of help tickets are starting to level out now. We’re still getting a lot but much less than a month ago.”
The way that teachers and staff are going above and beyond to make this work could not speak more loudly to their dedication to their students. It’s not a perfect science yet, and everyone looks forward to the day when they can all be together again. In the meantime, RSU 18 educators continue to push themselves to go even further than that extra mile to provide the highest quality of education possible to every student, everywhere, every day.