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Learning at Home lets teachers engage with students in new ways

April 23, 2020   ·   0 Comments

“You’re strong. You’re smart. We’ve got this! If it doesn’t change you, it won’t challenge you.”

It’s a simple sentiment but a strong message in a time of crisis, and it is one teachers and staff at Regency Acres Public School have delivered to students as they – and their parents – grapple with the temporary new normal of learning from home, with teachers just a click away.

The message, each word and hashtag being held by a member of the Regency Acres faculty, spent last week making the rounds through social media channels and was the brainchild of Norma Moffitt.

Ms. Moffitt, who teaches Grade 7/8, was inspired to bring her colleagues together to reach out to students as the venerable school in southwest Aurora begins a new and unusual chapter in their six decade history.

“I wanted to send this message out that we’ve got this,” says Ms. Moffit. “We, as staff, came together on e-learning, the kids got on board, and it is really phenomenal when you think about how we’re teaching these days. It’s just going amazing. Students aren’t getting the social aspect of school, but I wanted to send out a message that we’re supporting out community, we thank them for working hard, learning in a different way.”

By the end of last week, Regency Acres had their Google classrooms set up, students who didn’t already have the technological resources at home to make e-learning possible received their tablets and other devices to get up and running, and new routines had been established.

Ms. Moffitt’s class, for instance, has begun a new process of touching base with each other each morning from 10 – 10.30 a.m. on Google Chat, where the teacher of 32 years shares videos and pictures relating to the lessons at hand, as well as tips to help students get through the day.

When the Province announced its new Learn from Home measures to respond to school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Moffitt says the new normal was thrown at them pretty quickly. There was a lot to learn to get up to speed, having to “embrace technology” and track down necessary resources in the span of a week.

Despite these initial growing pains, the positives soon became clear.

“It is a challenge, but it will change us for the better and I think how we have to see this new ‘new’ of teaching and learning, there are a lot of positives that will come out of this,” she says. “I’ve found I have a much better rapport with our students because it is more informal. I really, truly feel I am better able to address the majority of students because if I am on Chat with them and I am doing my work at the same time as they are completing their tasks, maybe the student who wouldn’t raise their hand, or maybe a student who really doesn’t understand and wouldn’t raise their hand in front of the whole classroom; in this forum they can independently shoot me a text and I can go back into their work and help them through it. In some instances it is harder, but for that it is great.”

The students have been rising to the challenge as well, encouraging each other along the way – online.

Kids, adds Ms. Moffitt, are also benefiting from getting “immediate feedback” which is sometimes not always possible in the traditional classroom environment.

“Another benefit is the kids really appreciate getting up on their own time and working through the activities,” she says. “I think in the first week we were overzealous and put too much in and were marking too much. For some kids, they like working past the 3 p.m. time and I have had submissions come in at 9 p.m. As long as they complete the tasks at the end of the week, that’s what we’re shooting for.”

Students and teachers are not the only community members that have had to adapt to this temporary situation. Parents also have the challenge of making sure their kids are doing the work at home. Ms. Moffitt says that parents have been “really supportive and appreciative” of the efforts this far and have been writing the Regency Acres community to share their experience.

“It is amazing how much collaboration, teamwork and positive attitudes we, as an Aurora community, have,” she says.

By Brock Weir



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