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Dropping into a School Classroom

The second-grade students entered their classroom quietly, one at a time.  Their teacher, Mrs. M greeted each child by name and in a happy voice said, “Good morning.”  Some children responded with a wave; some nodded; some replied with words.  Some smiled; some frowned; some appeared too sleepy at 8:15 a.m. to show expression.

            This school day began just like mornings when I greeted students as they came into my classroom at Capshaw Elementary School.  But these children didn’t walk past their teacher.  They were at their homes, and their teacher was in her school classroom, and they came together on a Zoom conference call.

            I’ve wondered about remote learning.  How does it work?  Can young children learn while at home sitting in front of a computer?  Mrs. M, my former teaching colleague, agreed that I could join her Wednesday morning class, or as she said, “Be a fly on the wall.” 

             Wednesday was the first day back to school after a four-day break so Mrs. M said, “What did you do while you weren’t in school? Type one thing in chat that you did.” Immediately my computer screen was filled with the students’ responses: played Pokeman, built a snowman, played with my dogs, played video games.  Mrs. M responded verbally to each student and then asked, “Cindy, how are the goats?”  One student raised her hand, and Mrs. M told her to unmute herself and gave her permission to talk about Princess, her cat. 

            Then Mrs. M introduced me and explained why I was there: “Just to see what we do in class.” 

            I smiled when Mrs. M told her students, “Sit up, nice and tall, and ready to learn.”  Students sat at a desk or table or on a couch or an upholstered chair. A blank paper appeared on my screen at the same time Mrs. M said, “Let’s write today’s date together.  You write on your paper as I write on mine.”  She wrote and asked students to show their papers and they held their papers so that we all saw them.

            Together Mrs. M and the students checked morning work.  They wrote and said words that have the same vowel sound as in the word globe and solved the equation 9 + _ =17. Students held up fingers to show missing numbers and they checked their work.  After checking and correcting a whole page of work, Mrs. M said, “Mark this page so parents can take a picture and send it to me.”

            For three hours, I observed much more than I can share in 500 words.  In a nutshell, I saw teaching and learning in a completely different environment and format than I used during my teaching days, and I observed the same teacher-student connections, the same instructions, the same mix of students.             During a follow-up FaceTime conversation, I asked Mrs. M what has happened during remote learning experiences that was unexpected.  Her response and some of my other observations will have to wait for another column.