coronavirus · educational equity · remote learning

NYC Parents & Teachers Reveal What Worked In Remote Learning and What You Should Demand For Your Child

In response to my June 15, 2020 post, Are All Teachers Equally Good? What Parents Can Learn From Watching Their Child’s Remote Instruction, a mom wrote: 

I’d love a column on what is working with remote learning, meaning specific examples of what teachers are doing that they think is working great, as well as examples of what parents think is working. And please highlight teachers in both public and private. It’s hard for parents – especially those of us with only one child – to advocate for better remote learning/teaching when we don’t know what is being done elsewhere.

Parents Helping Parents is the NY School Secrets motto, so when I asked NYC’s moms and dads for examples, you definitely came through (as did teachers): 

Teachers: 

What worked the best in our classroom was maintaining our meaningful connection with the kids, and putting more of an emphasis on talking with and helping each other, rather than pressuring them to complete assignments at the rate we would ask of them in the normal classroom. The easiest way to do this was to have several Zoom meetings a day (Morning Meeting, Small Group Midday Meeting, Closing Afternoon Meeting). We understood that not every household had the number of devices required to be on Zoom this often, and that some parents would be unable to help with assignments, so we made it clear that it was not the end of the world if a meeting was missed or an assignment was turned in late. While it was a little more difficult for us to keep track of finished work in our files, in the end nearly every student completed everything they were supposed to, just in their own time. We would do ‘Themed Thursdays’ and ‘Question of the Week’ activities to bring some fun into our Zoom sessions, but also let the kids work together and show another type of creativity.  We used Seesaw and Google Drive to assign work, but the platforms also enabled us to leave comments, voice comments, and stickers on their assignments. Google Drive was a big help because we were able to work in real time with them on editing essays and projects. Once they realized their relationship with us was stable, and that they were able to see our faces for most of the day if they needed, they became more confident in navigating the technology, and completing challenging projects. 

I’m a teacher. I found for my K/1 combo last year that posting everything on Sunday and giving parents the flexibility to get it done on their schedule worked best.

I’m a teacher in a private school (early childhood). I think not having a one size fits all approach worked. I had a google drive with asynchronous content (videos/ lesson ideas) that was updated weekly. We had a group time twice a week (mon/fri) that was live (30 min) This was meant to connect/ socialize. It was not for teaching content. I also did live 1:1 zoom check-ins with all of my students once a week. These ranged from 15-30 min depending on the student. This time was whatever the child needed it to be: social emotional check-in/ academic/ games, etc. I also made time available for parent check ins in the evening. Google drive content remains open the whole summer. There are science experiments on there, crafts, read alouds, puppet shows, favorite classroom songs, etc. Any activity idea is clearly explained with step by step instructions as well as the why behind it. There’s also a huge folder of resources for ideas for “at home activities” divided by domain: ex) fine motor or pre-literacy skills. 

Parents:

My daughter’s preK class did some interactive learning games like “find as many items in your house/apt as you can that start with the letter C”.  Also drawing or arts and crafts lessons that relate to a larger story have resonated well. 

For my prek kid, he has a synchronous class every morning which has gotten better over time as she has kept it short (15-20 min) and included a read aloud which the kids love. They also do a small break out session once/week with 3-5 kids on zoom which has been wonderful. It’s about 15 min as well and has one concept (riddles, a math problem, whatever) but the kids are more focused with less “zoom” distractions.

Had experience with 2 DoE schools-Anderson and ps. 158. 158 was good, at least for Pre-K.  Had daily Google meet group sessions and then 2 weekly small group sessions.   Anderson took a while to figure out the right mix (started with no live sessions, which parents complained about, then moved to live sessions for main subjects a few weeks in, followed by enrichment class live sessions). Once live sessions were established, the process became pretty seamless.

Public G&T kindergarten at PS 33 done extremely well: 5x week full-class instruction for morning meeting, read-aloud, and phonic lesson (30 min) and 4x week small-group instruction based on ability level (2 days a week reading/writing and 2 days a week math).

Success Academy Kindergarten took a few weeks but once they got going their offsite learning for covid was *fantastic* Several hours of live training a day. Interactive, dynamic online classes. Lots of homework. Raising hand to go to bathroom. Typical Success sorta aura. Interesting, we got to watch how the teachers teach which made us like the school even more.  Previously we had thought we didn’t like some aspect of one of his teachers but after having watched her we better understood and grew to love her style (which we previously thought we didn’t like).

I am really impressed with the work that the 1st grade teachers at PS 166 did to transition to remote learning. All the 1st grade teachers worked together and broke the curriculum into reading, math and writing blocks. There were videos every day in all of these subject areas that prepares them for the assignment that they have. There was feedback from the teacher on a daily basis. I can’t imagine how much coordination it took to get this accomplished but they pulled it off within a week and with no complaints. Our classroom teacher hosted a Zoom meeting with the students 4-5 times a week. This provided our son with consistency with his teacher and his friends. I feel that remote learning worked well, because the teachers worked as a team and the parents supported each other with all the challenges that we encountered.

To answer your question on what is working: live interaction and instruction in small groups.  Having my child follow along with a lesson, and do the work with a pencil and paper, to figure out the problem kinesthetically as he follows along with the teacher. That’s the only thing working for me.

My daughter is a 5th grader at Success Academy Bed Stuy Middle School. School is on summer break as of last week, but she has been having consistent live lessons from 9am to 3pm every day. The school also started offering early mornings specials classes. She had tests throughout the learning period, culminating in finals at the end of the school year. Attendance was compulsory and teachers let me know by text message if my daughter wasn’t logged in. I believe there were also classes in the afternoon for kids who needed some extra help. I’ve got to say, it was pretty impressive how quickly they got this running. There were a few technical hitches, but on the whole, I really think that the school did the best that it could. 

It’s not perfect but my son is at Hunter 7th grade and his remote learning has been pretty good. They had synchronous classes, their teachers taught the material Instead of just sending links to videos and worksheets like my 6th grader at lab middle (love that school but remote learning has not been great). They had  a normal schedule from 8-3 and had breakout sessions where kids could work together in their own zoom session. They also respected holidays and spring break which was a great break for my son.

Morning meeting to engage the kids and give a sense of community. A daily video issued to parents and kids hosted by rotating school staff to give school news, announce birthdays, etc. A mix of synchronous and asynchronous learning, with math/science/social studies/language arts all before noon and (sadly) optional complement classes from 1-3pm. There was an actual weekly schedule that was followed. Breakout meetings for small groups or pairs engaged in a project. Peer editing. Daily office hours from their teacher. Occasional “boys” or “girls” lunch with their teacher. (Not sure what the girls did; the boys played a virtual game of Werewolf.)

I have one son in private and one in public. The private had my son follow his regular full day schedule, every day. He has not lost any academic ground and has in fact advanced in math. I feel like having him do all his classes every day was the best thing for him and he never felt disconnected from school. My son in public, on the other hand, has 2 or 3 classes a day and has been experiencing loneliness and a great deal of sadness. His classes are good but not enough of them to keep him “connected “ socially.

Got more suggestions to add so that your fellow parents can lobby for remote learning techniques proven to work? Let us know in the comments!

What do you think?

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