ALBEMARLE CO., Va. (WVIR) - Educators across the nation were tasked with the ultimate challenge this school year: teach during a global pandemic. Several educators from Albemarle County Public Schools said they’re surprised at how much they’ve learned about teaching during the first half of the school year, despite the obstacles that come with mostly virtual learning.
“Just like adults who are learning to work from home these days, our students have had that same learning curve, along with teachers, of ‘How do we use all of the technology that is available to us?’” said Stephanie Passman, head teacher of the district’s Murray Community Charter School.
Passman said the transition to virtual classes have made her, and her students, more tech-savvy. In some cases, virtual learning has benefited her students more than normal in-person classes.
“Sometimes in the virtual world, we’ve discovered new tools and techniques that ultimately serve the purpose even better for us,” Passman said.
What Passman’s student learn online are put into action offline. For example, her students were able to virtually collaborate with artists to create a mural on the side of the Meals on Wheels Building off Rose Hill Drive.
Ida Mae Craddock, a librarian at the charter school, said she and other teachers found ways to keep their students connected while working from home, like starting a book club for all students in the district to take part in.
Craddock said the virtual learning experience, whether it be working on a project or joining a book club, is most effective when students can have fun.
“Making your classes fun with online game plays like Pictionary, Assassin, whatever it is that you’re playing on Zoom is important and fun,” Craddock said.
For other teachers like Dom Morse, communication and clear expectations help keep students on track.
“Maybe in certain schools you might have, each teacher sending out emails where we try to say ‘Here’s your checklist of everything you need to do for the week,’ so it’s just trying to be more streamlined for the students and the parents,” Morse said.
Passman said, if anything, learning to teach in a mostly virtual environment has taught educators and their students, how to roll with the punches.
“Being flexible is a lifelong skill. It’s something that perhaps COVID-19 has precipitated and we are looking forward to being able to apply through projects, through life experiences, and I think our students will be stronger as a result of that,” Passman said.
Albemarle County Public Schools started their first week of the new semester virtually. The district is still planning on reopening in Stage 3 on Monday, January 11. Stage 3 of the return-to-learn plan means allows for optional hybrid learning for grades Pre-K through 3, as well as expanded in-person access for grades 4-12.