Back To School 2020: Part Two
47 ABC – So far in the fall of 2020 almost everyone is back to school. The only difference is what that looks like.
From state to state, or even county to county, and in some cases even school to school things can vary as different areas made different decisions to return in person, online, or a combination of both. Regardless of what choice schools picked, the stress of making that decision along with everything that comes with it has weighed heavily on everyone involved.
“We’re trying to manage the stress of our staff and that’s everybody administrators, all the way down to our custodians, nutrition staff is doing an amazing job, but everyone is feeling stressed,” said Dr. Corey Miklus, Superintendent for the Seaford School District.
In Seaford, they’ve chosen to go hybrid meaning students are split into two groups. One group coming in person on Monday and Tuesday while the other group learns remotely. Then on Thursday and Friday, they swap with Wednesday being left for asynchronous learning. The new schedule has meant that teachers had to adapt as learned how to teach students both online and in their classrooms simultaneously.
“I’ve just been extremely impressed by this staff. They’re hardworking but, it’s hard, you know at the end of the day this is extremely hard,” Dr. Miklus said.
To make hybrid learning work teachers in the Seaford district have had to learn four to five new programs. And on top of learning it themselves, they have also had to get even the youngest students to get up to speed.
“We’re asking our kindergartners and first graders to do the same thing we’re having college students do when you really step back and think about that, that’s a big lift for our little ones,” said Dr. Miklus.
Even with help though for some younger students the reality is that the remote learning portion has been tough. For Melissa Ockels she learned that with her fifth-grader last spring when virtual learning first started.
“He struggles because you don’t really have someone live to ask questions, so even when you’re on the zoom you have several kids on there at the same time so he didn’t do well with that,” Ockels said.
With some kids struggling to engage online the burden has been placed on educators to get creative and thankfully, many have answered that call.
At Seaford High School Spanish Teacher Evelin Cameron has her desk arranged like something you would see for a professional YouTuber. She has two laptops, a tablet, an iPhone all going at once, and even a ring light. Each item playing its own role in her instruction.
“Here I can see the students over here, but here I can see what I’m actually projecting, and then here I can actually see what I’m writing, so it just works right now. So I’m hoping that it works for our students and that they’re able to have a better experience that way,” Cameron said.
On top of that Cameron has tried to meet her students where they are most familiar, social media by posting tutorials on places like TikTok and YouTube. But also using things like BitMojis which are avatars you can create through an app. Cameron says she has her students use them to create rooms where they can show off their interest by designing them with things they like.
“So they’re learning how to maneuver things, insert, take out. So they’re doing something fun, but they’re actually learning how to use Google slides which is something that we’re going to use every day,” Cameron said.
And it seems across the board on Delmarva, that’s been the key. When teachers put in that extra effort, students take notice and become willing to do more themselves.
“The teachers are doing as much as they can, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re not in person because a lot of teachers like to do activities and give you worksheets and stuff but they can’t really do that online so students have to grasp things and do a lot of their own research sometimes,” said 11th grade Dylan Gore, who is doing completely virtual learning in Wicomico County.
Whether or not their efforts will ultimately result in hybrid and online learning being successful remains to be seen. But what the message has been at least in Seaford, has been to ask everyone from teachers to students to parents to simply try.
“My back to school message to staff was I just want you to try. I know this is going to be hard and challenging and when you have two working parents, one single parent who works like this is challenging,” Dr. Miklus said.
And so far that’s what most have been doing, they’ve been trying.
“It’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure,” said Melissa Ockels. “But for me, I want to see my children succeed so I will make sure that I put every precaution in order to make sure that they are successful.”