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Educating Through a Pandemic

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November 15, 2020 By Sally Allen, Clarksville Academy

It was an average spring day in March when murmurs of a new disease made their way through the hallways of schools across Tennessee.  No one knew much about this new coronavirus, but all were confident it would quickly pass.  Administrators met to formulate plans for a short shutdown to assess their sanitation practices and a possible pivot to a short-term online learning system. Most thought it would last a few days, maybe until after spring break, but we would be back to a traditional setting soon enough.  

Educators quickly learned that would not be the case. This was not a short-term leave, and it would have historical effects on our educational system. Students from Pre-K through college would feel the impact of the spring semester of 2020.

The classroom looked a little different from March through May. No more did students sit at desks, eat lunch with friends, or experience social interaction with their peers. Gone were dress codes and uniforms, as students and teachers began learning and teaching from their homes in loungewear.

This setting, although comfy, brought with it a sense of anxiety for many. In a world where everything was different, students searched to find as much normalcy as possible. Many schools offered various options for the new school year: traditional classroom settings with modifications for physical distancing, remote learning options, and hybrid school using a mixture of both. While none of these options provided students with the classroom they remember, they offered students ways to engage and return to learning.

In Montgomery County, we saw over 40% of our student population opt to enroll in remote learning. This option provided peace of mind for families who were not ready to return to a traditional classroom. According to Independent School Management, all students need an environment that promotes learning and growth. There are five critical elements of effective learning that can be replicated at both school and home. Positivity, predictability, support, challenge, and connectedness are imperative. While these are more easily achieved at school, it is possible to create this learning environment at home.

Following these guidelines will create an environment ripe for learning. Students should experience positive reinforcement in their educational process, which helps to reduce stress and motivate learning. Predictability refers to the climate created where children feel confident in what they can expect from their teachers. Supporting a child means letting them know you are ready to help but resisting the temptation to ‘fix’ everything. Challenging a child keeps them engaged and satisfied while reaching new goals. Finally, connectedness may be the most important and difficult to achieve while participating in remote learning. Staying connected to one’s school, classroom, and teacher promotes positivity and perseverance.  

Local parent, Katie Lee, has three children enrolled in Clarksville Academy’s CA at Home experience. Each of her children has a separate workspace, specifically designed for their success. Students enrolled in CA at Home log on to participate in Zoom sessions unique to their daily schedule. Lower School students are taken from academic courses to enrichment activities such as science lab, Spanish, art, music, and even PE via the classroom iPad. They are taken to lunch with their classmates and often get to choose who they will ‘sit’ with. Intermediate and Upper School students log into Zoom classes throughout their daily schedule. They are integrated into the traditional classroom and held to the same standard as their traditional student counterparts. Teacher iPads are set in the front of the room so virtual students may see the class and the class can see them.

Mrs. Lee commented, “my children had an opportunity with the CA at Home program to develop skills they would not have without this experience. They had to learn time-management to make sure they were not late to class. Without the natural flow of students changing classes, they were responsible for watching the clock during breaks and making sure they were logged in on time. As a result of not being on-campus, they had to learn how to speak up and ask for what they needed. Without a classmate sitting next to them to answer a question, they had to pay closer attention to the teachers and ask for help. The CA at Home experience allowed them to become more independent learners and develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills.”

Over the next few months, mandates and guidelines regarding this pandemic will adapt. These changes may affect our educational system once more. It is vital to continue to advocate for your child and their educational needs. Whether you choose a traditional classroom setting or remote learning, research all options available.

For more information on Clarksville Academy and its programs, visit our website at clarksvilleacademy.com or call 931-647-6311.

 


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