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Back to School

When this pandemic ends, will we do things differently?  Specifically, will we educate children differently?  School days for some teachers and students have been like never before.

            Because I wanted to understand remote learning better, I went back to Mrs. M’s virtual classroom.  Back on Zoom with 2nd grade students for a math lesson.  Mrs. M greeted students after their one-hour lunch break and then said, “To practice three-digit subtraction, we’re going to begin with Kahoot!” All nine students cheered and I frowned. What is Kahoot?

            Mrs. M launched Kahoot, an application of quiz-based games presented with cartoon drawings of kid-friendly characters.  The first problem was 133-85.  Within two minutes, the students had worked the problem in their notebooks and used Chat, a message board, to write and send their answers to Mrs. M.  Only she could see their answers. 

            “I see you dancing!  Yes, get up and move when you finish,” Mrs. M said.  “Turn down a corner on the page where you worked the problem.  Your parents will take a picture and send it to me.  I want to see what strategy you used.”  Mrs. M then asked Annie, “What strategy did you use?” 

            Annie answered, “Plain old standardized algorithm.” She explained each step as Mrs. M worked the problem for all to see.  “You can’t take 5 from 3 so make the 3 in ones a 13 and the other 3 a 2,” Annie began.  She and Mrs. M talked through the problem saying the words regroup, borrow, and rename.  Mrs. M and her students talked about other methods: draw pictures, count up, and use a number line. 

            Remember working problems with yellow chalk on a blackboard while the teacher and classmates watched?  Are there advantages to remote learning?  Mrs. M has seen quiet, shy children become braver; maybe because only the teacher could see their answers. Mrs. M can meet with a student during lunch to give extra help while other students are offline.

            There is more parent-teacher communication that is easier and immediate.  When one student was confused, Mrs. M asked that his mother to stay on-line after the Zoom meeting so together they could figure out how to help this child.  Mrs. M says she can communicate with parents daily.

            As a retired elementary teacher, I’m thankful I never had to teach remotely and I admire Mrs. M and all teachers who are.  They are working double-time, some even teaching in their classrooms and remotely. 

            Is virtual learning here to stay?  Remote learning has been an option for high school students for years, but I don’t think virtual learning is the best learning environment for young children. 

             “If I were in Charge of the World” is one of my favorite poems.  And if I were, students and parents would have the option for a do-over.  Students who are in second grade now could be in second grade when the 2021-22 school year begins, no matter where they are spending their school days this year. 

            And they would all have a teacher like Mrs. M.

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