Local Institutions Offer Distance Learning Advice for Teachers and Families
By LILY TINOCO and SARAH SHMERLING
Since Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner announced on July 13 that campuses would remain closed at the start of the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and families have begun preparing for round two of distance learning.
The Palisadian-Post caught up with Marquez Charter Elementary School’s very own Lindy Bazan for advice and tips on tackling the upcoming academic school year for teachers. This will be Bazan’s 20th year teaching and her 13th year at Marquez.
- You have got a whole new group of students! As we usually do in the classroom, give your students and their families time to learn the routines and procedures.
- Whether it’s the usual “My name is Lindy and I love lollipops” icebreaker or an “All About Me” activity on Seesaw with the students creating a personal video introduction, building community is what we do as teachers.
- Creating a class community or family is definitely possible in the virtual world. I taught summer school with 27 amazing kindergarten through second-grade students from across Los Angeles. We only had 17 Zoom days (one hour per day) together, but we bonded as Jr. Polar Explorers and we were so sad to say goodbye. Some of the families are still emailing me, even today.
- Ease into the school year and only introduce one or two learning platforms or apps to begin with. Allow the families to build confidence in the login process, as well as maneuvering through the features, before layering on additional apps with passwords. We don’t want to overwhelm or cause frustration. Keep it simple. For example, I plan to start with Zoom meetings. You can create a Google Slide Deck or a PDF with information to address “Things to Know About Zoom.”
- Communication with students and families is critical. I like to provide information in multiple ways. For example, my parents need links to Zoom, my YouTube playlist and the class website to be quick and easy to find. In addition to emailing the families, I added these links to my email signature and the class website. Parents received an email every Sunday with the schedule and assignments. The information was also on the class website. Consistency and easy access will be appreciated.
Tatyana Yukhtman, director of Groza Learning Center, shared that even though a lot of our perception of “school” relies on the buildings, classrooms, desks and pencils, the reality is that school is about learning and growth.
“Though we may not have posters of the presidents lined up along the ceiling at home, we can still build an environment that suits our children’s specific needs to ensure that they can dive into the schoolyear ready to learn,” Yukhtman explained. “With a little ingenuity and attention to your child’s learning style and study habits, you can create an effective and exciting school within your own four walls.”
Yukhtman recommended that even though your student may not be getting up, getting dressed and getting in the car to travel to school, they can still “travel” to school in your home.
“Make sure they follow a routine as they would in the mornings before in-person school,” Yukhtman shared. “Encourage them to put on school clothes and eat a healthy meal before attending class. Some students may even benefit from putting on shoes. Then, when they’ve finished, let them know they can change their clothes and have a snack to help transition out of the school day.”
Yukhtman added that it is also important to designate one specific space in the house that will serve as the student’s “classroom” and to make sure it stays the same every day. This will create a sense of stability and ensure they are able to focus during school time.
Comfort is also key: Yukhtman recommended avoiding hard chairs, odd angles and hunching over.
“If your student is tactile and likes to move positions, consider a yoga ball or a swivel chair that will allow them to stay somewhat active within the space,” Yukhtman said. “Make sure they have access to layers for when the weather changes throughout the day, and that there is plenty of light so they don’t have to strain their eyes.”
It’s also important that the classroom area is in a distraction-free zone, clear of televisions, gaming systems or toys. Then, allow your student to personalize the space with things like posters, calendars, a cup of highlighters, or photos of friends and family.
“Creating a school-away-from-school will help students immensely in maintaining focus and motivation,” Yukhtman concluded, but for those who need a bit more help navigating, Groza Learning Center offers a K-12 accredited homeschooling, “pod learning” for small groups and subject-specific tutors, with services available online, in-home or in-center.
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