Educators step up to distance learning methods
While schools remain closed due to COVID-19, teachers are finding innovative ways to adapt the traditional classroom to a new environment.
RAPID CITY, S.D. — The last seven weeks or so have been far from ordinary for the school system. As teachers have transitioned to some form of remote teaching, the learning curve has been steep.
For many teachers, the abrupt switch to online instruction has been a new and somewhat daunting experience, but they have stepped up to the plate to meet the needs of the students to achieve success by providing education and maintaining relationships.
David Swank is an alumnus of Teach For America, whose role is to shine light on inequities in school by providing resources to address issues. Swank is also the Principal at Canyon Lake Elementary School, he says that one of the remote learning challenges is that not all families have access to the same resources.
This is especially true for Rapid City kids in low-income communities, who may have a particularly difficult time learning at home.
Swank says, “Kids who come from lower income families are more likely to have challenges in connecting, especially at the elementary level.”
Because if both parents are working outside the home – that may be taking away from some of the opportunities they have to maintain the schooling.
Dr. Lori Simon, Superintendent of RCAS, says, “Many parents are still working their full time jobs and trying to homeschool children and so are our staff and so it has not been easy on anyone, just given the environment we are in it is already stressful enough.”
Canyon Lake School is providing laptops for their students, but the biggest adversity Swank says is providing internet service to all students.
The families who are not connected through digital means are provided hard copy materials.
Swank says that students are working at their own pace, with more of a personalized approach to learning, saying, “Where instead of prioritizing grade level and sort of batching students by their age, we meet students where they are academically regardless of their age and work with them at that point. So students have the option to sort of move at their own pace or an appropriate pace with teacher guidance.”
As the school year nears completion on May 28, some are tapering off the studies.
“Now that we have gotten closer to the end of the school year, we’ve started to see the participation numbers drop a little bit,” says Swank. We are still sitting around 60% at any given time, but the biggest challenge is the synchronizing portion of it. We are just not seeing as many kids face to face, that’s a much lower percentage.”
Principal Swank also mentioned that the baseline of the distance learning is connecting with students and maintaining those relationships.