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 Detail Makes the Difference in Remote Learning

5/26/2020 12:00 AM

​Ask any teacher during remote learning: Engaging with students takes time, effort and ingenuity. But it can all be worth it.

Ambre Martin has among the highest student participation rates at Constance Lane Elementary School. To stay connected with her third graders, she laminated and mailed a Bitmoji of herself to each student’s home. Her inspiration was “Flat Stanley,” a character in a children’s book who becomes flat in an accident and uses the misfortune to experience things he normally wouldn’t have.

Ms. Martin also mailed supplies to her students so they could make 3D tulips for Mother’s Day, a craft they did together during a virtual session.

Although remote learning has been tough for many students, one of them has flourished – an English Language Learner who barely communicated prior to the school closure. Now, she’s recording and posting on her own to the school blog about how she valued her teacher, her family and her classmates. She’s also made TikTok videos and showed her classmates how to make a face mask out of socks.

“She explained it the whole time too. It was pretty exciting,” Martin said.

Ms. Martin has created a space for virtual read-aloud sessions that looks like her own house. She even included her dogs – Yonu, an Australian Cattle Dog, and Niyaah, an Australian Shepherd. She is driven to help her students because of her own difficult childhood, growing up not far from the Lane school.

“I know what it’s like to be stuck at home with someone who doesn’t want you there. I feel like a lot of my students are battling things and it makes learning very difficult, especially when their place of refuge is taken away. I just want to be that light in the tunnel for them,” she said.

She’s not alone. Below is a sample of how other elementary teachers in Rockford Public Schools are connecting during the pandemic:

Jennifer Herrera, a second grade teacher at Two-Way Language Immersion at Barbour, has three children at home. So she knows what parents are facing, trying to stay on top of their students’ learning on devices shared with other family members. When distance learning was new, Mrs. Herrera noticed a lot of parents texting her through Class Dojo: “This link didn’t work. Or, where do I go for this? Where do I go for that?” So she created one place to go with specific instructions on Google Drive and one shareable link on Class Dojo. “It’s all together and there are no questions,” she said.

Dana Long, a kindergarten teacher at Spring Creek Elementary School, was no technical whiz before remote learning. With the help of Susan Uram, educational technology coordinator, she created a virtual classroom with attention to detail – down to the polka dot rug students sit on. “They call it paper dolls for adults,” she said. “I didn’t know the reaction I’d get from the kids. They loved it.” Fifteen years at Spring Creek and 21 years as a teacher have given her a perspective she hopes will be helpful to parents who are worried they are not doing enough. “The most important thing you can do is read to your children. If you can only do that, you are ahead of the game,” she said.

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