• May 27, 2020

Teachers adjusting to virtual pre-k - Odessa American: ECISD

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Teachers adjusting to virtual pre-k

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Posted: Thursday, April 9, 2020 3:35 pm

At Carver, they have coined the phrase pop up classrooms which Principal Sherry Palmer said basically means a classroom where it’s needed. Some teachers have set up at their kitchen or dining room table and others in a closet or laundry room.

“Of course it is not the same as you would anticipate in a classroom because they’re not sitting right in front of you, but our teachers have to use everything from an application called Seesaw, where they can give live instruction with the kids watching and can even respond to them. We have some teachers that in the past have even created Zoom classrooms with a few kids so that they can see one another and hear one another. That is really cute. The thing you couldn’t control, they were so excited to see one another …” Palmer said.

Although teachers can’t have that face-to-face interaction with students, they created relationships with those students and their families before COVID-19 hit, which Palmer said has been helpful.

She noted that in the past few weeks, the school has been able to contact all but a few of the 535 students who attend it. The school also has been able to reach into some homes at a level they might not have otherwise if it weren’t for the pandemic.

“I have to say one of the positive things that has happened is some of those families that we had sort of minimum relationship with have really fostered and bloomed and we’ve been able to nurture it in a different way because some of our families are beginning to understand the work that we did … with their children. Now that it’s happening through pop up classrooms and packets that we might send home, parents are beginning to understand the job is big and that they weren’t just sending their kids off to three hours of daycare, but they were sending them off to three hours of quality instruction,” Palmer said.

She added that they are beginning to see some parents who are quite talented as teachers.

Packets were sent home for parents, in addition to manipulatives, scissors, glue, crayons and markers. Activities are also sent to parents where students can use manipulatives they can find around the house.

“Then the week after that, we started mailing out packets for two reasons: No. 1, as we began to social distance more and more and try to really protect one another we decided that rather than parents driving through that we would mail packets. Not only that, sometimes with the loss of jobs that we had it’s becoming more and more intense. Some parents might have not have the gasoline to run in and to pick up packets, so we just decided … for community spread and for convenience of our parents that we would start mailing those packets. Those packets, yeah they’re paper, but they have activities that kids color and glue and cut and work on their scissor skills, as well as other kind of skills that we know are really important right now,” Palmer said.  

To show evidence that the children have completed their assignment, parents are asked to snap a picture of the work and send it to the teachers.

“That’s another creative way we’ve tried to bridge the gap between the classroom in the school building and those pop up classrooms,” Palmer said.

At first, Palmer said, the virtual classrooms were overwhelming as teachers tried to recreate the same passion and intensity as they would live.

The pop up classrooms are an attempt to reach into every one of those spaces and to teach our kids with the same passion and intensity as they would if they were sitting right in front of us.

“But with each passing week, we’re getting better at it and the kids and the parents are getting better at it, too …” Palmer said.

General education prekindergarten teacher Lori Evans, D’on Paquette, special education co-teacher, and Maria Cabrera, bilingual teacher for our dual language, never thought they would find themselves teaching prekindergarten in this way. 

Luckily, Evans said she redid a room in her house at Thanksgiving and cleaned out a closet. She put a little desk in it where she was going to do her lesson planning and that’s where she has her class. Evans said her soon-to-be 2-year-old son has popped up in a video.

“I do not have a way to see them while I am teaching them. We have I have asked my parents if they were interested in Zoom and I haven’t gotten a whole lot of response. I think maybe three parents have been interested in it, so I have not suggested that we do a Zoom meet so the kids can see each other. But I used the Seesaw platform so my kids are able to send short videos of themselves. I send videos to them all the time. That’s how I’m doing my teaching. I can do voice messages on there,” Evans said.

She added that teaching this way is unprecedented for her.

“It’s definitely out of my comfort zone. I even wrote a note to my parents when we began and I let them know. I said parents please give me some grace. I’m used to being a complete goofball in front of your children and I’m totally fine with that, but I’m nervous as all get out trying to be goofy in front of you guys knowing that you’re watching it, so please take me with a grain of salt,” Evans said.

Evans said this will hopefully give her students a sense of normalcy during this time.  

Paquette is working out of the den in her home. She tried to bring as many items home as she could to make her den look like a classroom that was so familiar to her students.

“At first they told us we are going to be teaching from home, so our jaws dropped because pre-k is nothing you can really teach online. They told us to grab and go what we needed, and before you knew it, we were making several trips and carrying out giant easels and curriculum and lots of books. … We ended up just setting up a little area in our house. It looks like a classroom. It really does. I took a picture of mine and put it on the Carver Facebook (page),” Paquette said.

With general and special education children in her class, Paquette said she posts something for everyone and then goes back to make something harder for a child that needs more enrichment.

“Or I’ll do something and I can just assign it to a few children that maybe need it a different way,” she said. “I’ve talked to all the parents and I’ve given the parents’ ideas on how to make the lesson fit their child.”

Cabrera is teaching from her dining room.

“It’s a bit different. It’s something that you kind of have to get used to — a different way of doing things. The difficult part is leaving all the things that you use normally at school because you have your manipulatives, your paper, your scissors, your glue — any type of manipulative, such as cubes, little animals and things like that. I usually run up to school, until they tell us not to anymore,” Cabrera said.

She gets what she needs, brings it home and then takes it back because she doesn’t have room for it at home. In addition, she’s had to adjust to the technology as other teachers, parents and children have.

Cabrera has two young children herself that she is home schooling.

“It’s an adjustment period for all of us, so we have to teach them how to work all the apps and technology that their teachers are using,” Cabrera said.

The district technology department can help the teachers so the teachers can help the parents. Palmer gave a “big shout out” to ECISD because the technology was quickly put in place.

“It’s a lot different than what we’re used to, but we’re making do. It’s getting better and better,” Cabrera said.

She has discovered that Facebook live lets her record herself for the time she needs, but she cannot see her students.

“It’s kind of difficult to find a platform that would let me upload videos of myself for long periods. There’s a lot of apps for educators that you can choose from, but they limit you on the video length and so that’s been a little challenging … so I started using Facebook and it’s worked well for me. It has the Facebook live option and also you can record yourself with pretty long videos and it will upload them. That’s kind of helped me teach my lessons, as well as stay in touch with my students, my parents and record them. It’s something that most of my parents are familiar with. Everyone pretty much has that, except for a small group,” Cabrera said.

She does miss seeing her students live.

“I’m kind of talking and there’s nobody there to talk to me back the way we’re used to, so that’s what I miss,” Cabrera said.

She also misses the children’s interactions and the stories they tell.

A positive is that her parents will comment on other students’ work and get ideas from each other. Carbrera said she also gets ideas from parents.

“It’s opened up a whole new world because they’re watching everyone trying to teach their own child. Parents will upload videos on how they taught and everyone gets to watch if they’re sharing them on our group. That’s been really nice. I think that’s a big plus to everyone. Everyone learns from it, including myself,” she added.

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