05/14/20

Zoom Calls and Virtual Zoos: Persisting with Distance Learning

By Erin Kenny, IMS Teacher

At the beginning of each school year, I share a quote to empower my students as we embark on our learning journey together. This year, I shared with them a message of persistence that Teddy Roosevelt often liked to quote: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Despite our recent lives having turned down a different path, this quote is still applicable–in fact, it could not be more appropriate–as we now learn and grow together through distance learning.

The first week of distance learning was hectic, to say the least. As school buildings closed, many thoughts flooded my head: “How will I teach my students? How will I meet their learning needs and continue to bring them challenging and engaging content from my home?” I worried about our school community as we began to adjust to this new “normal” of working and learning from home. Quickly, like many teachers across the United States, we at St. Thomas Aquinas had to dramatically restructure what learning looked like for our students.

While nothing can replace our classroom togetherness, we have managed to shift our delivery of instruction to our scholars. “Zoom calls” are the new way we connect. This tool has been extremely helpful for holding daily check-ins, for reading some of our favorite books together, and even for undertaking live instruction! We work hard together even though we may be far apart.

I am amazed to see our scholars adapting to these new norms during both Zoom calls and independently on their own. Our scholars also utilize standards-aligned videos from Great Minds to support their mathematics and literacy growth. Having such great resources to share with our students has been essential in keeping our students engaged and motivated.

ClassDojo has been an instrumental resource for deepening my interactions with both parents/guardians and scholars! This platform allows me to post daily updates and assignments, to communicate and offer feedback, to highlight pictures of completed activities and even to display those key instructional videos. All of these allow students to better understand challenging content.

ClassDojo allows us to have fun together, as well! We have played “distance-learning bingo,” travelled on several virtual “field trips” together, and enjoyed spying on animals in the San Diego Zoo.

While distance learning has become the new normal (for now), and while we are adjusting and succeeding as best we can, nothing can replace the daily interactions we used to have. I truly miss having us all together, learning together, working together, and having fun in our classroom.

I miss our goofy “brain-break” games, building science projects, and frankly, just being together. As we continue to navigate this challenging time, one thing that remains is the love we at IMS have for our scholars. All of us–students, faculty, families–are surely embodying this year’s quote: “We are doing the best we can with what we have, and where we are, all while never losing sight of that higher goal–to serve children and to encourage them to continue to flourish and succeed!”