As we move into Remote Learning Phase Three for the rest of the year, we’re finding a daily rhythm of homework, Netflix, and Animal Crossing. Our new way of living is monotonous and foreign, and hours seem to pass without a sense of accomplishment. We’re on Zoom constantly, we miss our friends, and staying at home is not without its logistical challenges. So how should we proceed with the rest of the year? How are teachers thinking about our learning? Why were the decisions that were made on remote learning decided the way they were? And what if this is to be part of the new norm for education? To answer these questions, Tatler interviewed Dr. Stewart, Ms. Maillard, Ms. Rockwell, and Ms. Wilks.
Originally, synchronous remote learning was to start at the beginning of the third week away from school, but got pushed back to the fourth week because of tech issues. Upper School Director Ms. Wilks said, “I was actually really sorry we delayed it…by the time we got to the end of week three, I think kids were really craving more interaction and a more regular schedule.”
Tech issues aside, however, teachers find that this unique time teaches essential skills outside of academic ones, particularly independence and self-discipline. Science teacher Dr. Stewart noted, “During that asynchronous time, kids found either it was very successful because they could self-pace and they could motivate…it was very unsuccessful for other kids if they just shifted their sleep schedules or couldn’t find the ways to motivate themselves to get the work done. And so I think having that freedom and that space is useful in terms of transitioning from high school to college because in college, you won’t necessarily have your classes every single day and it is more an independent learning environment.”
Visual Arts teacher Ms. Rockwell, known to her students as Jodi, also notes the benefits to online learning, and thinks that it may even pave the way for a new style of learning: “I have been pretty excited to learn about the technology involved in teaching remotely. It’s not something that I would’ve chosen to do, but because we’re forced to do it, it’s pushing us to all learn and try it and make the best of it. In fact, over time, we would thrive under this situation.” She mentions that she does miss the community space, but this time at home has also allowed her more freedom and less stress, and she also appreciates the many benefits to the ecosystem. She concludes, “I hope that [remote learning] would [become a new normal] and not replace being together, because moving forward with technology and the advancements of AI and all these other things, the important common denominator is humanity and continuing to be human together.”
The potential in remote learning is not without its challenges. Dr. Stewart commented that the adjustments to technology have been a learning process: “In sciences, we like to do labs and we like to do things that are hands-on and so when everybody is in their own house, it limits how we can do those hands-on activities and it limits how we as a teacher can interact with you as you do those activities.”
Because of Lakeside’s abilities and resources, however, teachers find that learning loss during remote classes (dubbed the “COVID slide”) can be minimized. Ms. Wilks says that “we are really able to track individual kids and see what’s going on, and if the challenge is something we can help with…so I’m not concerned, because we’re small enough as a school that we can get our arms around everybody who’s having trouble.” French teacher Ms. Maillard, known as Céline to her students, adds, “I think [learning in languages] lose even more than others, because in subjects like English, people will keep reading over the summer…We’re all planning on doing a bit of review at the beginning of next year, just to make sure that everybody’s prepared, that we’re at a similar level to what we were before, but I don’t think we have fallen behind.”
To ensure continued academic progress, teachers are focusing on the essentials of their curriculums, as well as meaningful, new ways of assessing student learning. Céline commented, “I think [remote learning] also, as teachers, is forcing us to focus on the essentials, which may be positive…less work or more focused work on what you really really need.” Dr. Stewart agreed, saying, “We are definitely paring [the curriculum down]…we are trying to come up with other ways to engage with the material, so in that transition is a trade-off of time.”
Additionally, teachers are rethinking assessments: Dr. Stuart said, “Our PD, professional development, day was centered on how to think about assessing [students] for understanding in a new way. So rather than just doing tests and grading those tests, how else can we have [students] display [their] understanding in a meaningful way…think more in terms of projects and videos.”
Balancing schoolwork, health, meetings, family, and relationships is complicated, and in addition, there may be growing pressures to be doing something or fear that one is “falling behind.” However, Ms. Wilks believes that care for oneself and one’s own health is just as essential: “Everything is taking me longer–I’m in front of the computer a lot more, I’m getting a lot more emails, and I think people have to be kind to themselves…don’t put that pressure on yourselves; getting through this, making sure you’re sleeping well, eating well, taking care of yourself, taking care of your studies, that’s enough.”
Social distancing has been relaxing, boring, productive, awkward, confusing, stressful, and weird. We have had vast amounts of time and little guidance as to what to do with it. We have found almost enough ways to sate our boredom. And we have learned so much about ourselves by being isolated for roughly two months. Céline says, “I think you’re going to come out of this with more resilience and self-confidence in your ability to deal with new circumstances and unexpected situations.” Social distancing has made us incorporate technology into our education in new and innovative ways, which may be the very thing we needed to move forward in how we learn. In this time of isolation and remote learning, we are moving forward and must continue to do so, while staying happy, healthy, and safe.