*The following is the full version of an abridged article from the Ichabod Crane 2020 Budget Newsletter
An Inside Look at Ichabod Crane Remote Learning
The past few months have been an unprecedented time for Ichabod Crane students, families and teachers as they shifted to remote learning. We spoke to a handful of our educators about the experience so far, how they’ve adapted teaching methods, some challenges of it and why parents/caregivers are more important than ever.
This is only a small sampling of teacher voices, but know the entire Ichabod Crane staff have gone above and beyond every day for our students during these times.
How did you prepare for remote learning when you realized schools would close long term?
Kara Abatto (Primary School Teacher/PS Remote Learning Support): “Principal Williams, Paul Caputo (IT Dept.) and I met to brainstorm ideas and digital platforms to best meet the needs of K-3 students. We had to consider families with working parents, plus younger and/or multiple siblings who’d need access to learning devices.”
Maureen Kuhn (Middle School Teacher, Family/Consumer Sciences): “We began preparing Google Classroom lessons and identifying online resources. Special Area teachers needed to schedule Google Meetings around multiple Middle School teams and lesson schedules to avoid conflicts. We met with students for Google Classroom and Meet tutorials, discussing how to check in daily with teachers on them.”
Kelly Bins (Primary School Psychologist): “I gathered tools and resources from my office that I knew I could share remotely with students. In addition, gathering files and information to prepare for the Committee on Special Ed. meetings, Child Study Team meetings and information to collaborate with our outside service providers.”
Anthony Marturano (Middle School Co-Principal): “All within a span of about one week we set up Google Classroom professional development for all staff and created a resource list of websites and apps. We also surveyed students to determine their needs for reliable home internet and technology devices. For those that didn’t, we quickly established plans to ensure those students would have access by providing them with Chromebooks and wi-fi hotspot devices.”
Susan Jermain (Middle School Teacher, 5th Grade): “Our priority was ensuring every student had online access to where the “classroom” would now be. We reached out daily to students, parents and the community until we knew we could “see” every child. Ichabod has always made technology accessible and now with this unexpected jump into a different kind of learning we could be there for students and families.”
Greg Miller (High School Teacher, Science): “The Friday before the first two weeks of closures, it was clear we needed more time with students to plan. Administrators created a well-thought out plan to do this the following Monday and Tuesday. We spent that weekend finding online resources and creating materials to give students during those last classes before closures. I and other staff on the Instructional Technology Curriculum Committee also gave our colleagues remote learning training.”
Berit Erickson (Primary School, Special Ed.): “We planned weekly team Google Meet sessions and created a structure for the coming weeks. Mondays would be for planning the next week with the grade level. Tuesdays would be planning days with my co-teacher. At the end of the week, my co-teacher and I would look over each other’s lessons, making changes as needed for future lessons.”
How was the experience in those early weeks?
Kara Abatto (PS): “Teachers, children and parents were in a situation we never could have imagined, but students seemed excited to have a new way of learning. They started becoming comfortable with it as the days and weeks went on.”
Kelly Bins (PS Psychologist): “I organized a routine with students and colleagues. The message from several families was they were overwhelmed, so early communications with them involved finding a routine that worked for them, behavioral issues they might see with their children during this time and embracing positives when they happen.”
Anthony Marturano (MS Co-Principal): “The first few weeks were about troubleshooting and developing the best system under the circumstances. Interconnectivity is critical when you can’t meet as a group. We came up with a system for teachers to share “Meet” times as well as a list of students not getting work in and who needed to be contacted. Overall, staff and students did an excellent job adapting to these new conditions.”
Maureen Kuhn (MS): “It was stressful and there was a learning curve for students, parents and teachers. Grade 4-5 students (and families) were unfamiliar with Google Classroom and Google Meet. Grade 6-8 students had used Google Classroom before, but not consistently across the student population. Also, some students have family who are healthcare workers which added more stress to their new reality.”
Susan Jermain (MS): “As is said, it takes 21 days to embed a habit. As time went on, we started seeing more active participation and lesson completions from students.”
Greg Miller (HS): “Similar to the first week of a new school year, it was challenging, inspiring, exciting and tiring. I created new classroom procedures and developed students’ comfort with new tools. I was spending hours filming and editing digital content for students. A 10-minute video might have 2+ hours worth of production and editing time.”
Berit Erickson (PS Special Ed.): “I spent a lot of time learning Seesaw (Primary School’s remote learning platform) but once I got the hang of it, it was fun to use. The most challenging part was creating lessons that moved students forward but still simple enough to complete.”
What have been some unique remote learning challenges? How do you face them?
Kara Abatto (PS): “Younger students aren’t as independent and “tech-savvy” as older students, so they often need parents nearby to help finish work or with troubleshooting.”
Maureen Kuhn (MS): “Balancing user-friendly instructions and Google Classroom resources with a diverse student population. I use lots of visuals and interactive resources to keep students engaged and rely on feedback from administrators, parents and students to inform and improve my teaching.”
Anthony Marturano (MS Co-Principal): “Providing services for students who don’t have the same structure and resources at home. For some, it’s impossible to transfer the school day structure into the home. We’ve made sure to reach out to families by phone or email to make sure they’re aware of all the different ways we can help them through this time.”
Greg Miller (HS): “Some students have younger school-age siblings and share one device or they care for them while parents are working. To accommodate, I give a weekly work outline and daily benchmarks with ample time to complete them. This lets students work at times best for them while allowing time for questions and help before work is due.”
Berit Erickson (PS Special Ed.): “I send weekly newsletters to parents outlining expectations and speak with them throughout the week via email, plus I give them my number to call anytime. When students don’t log on I reach out directly to see if they need help logging in or walking through things.”
Are there advantages to remote learning?
Kara Abatto (PS): “Seesaw lets teachers assign activities with multiple ways to respond, so students can do work in a way that works best for them at their age level.
Maureen Kuhn (MS): “Remote learning prepares students to be “college and career ready” by challenging them to use multiple technology platforms, practice time management and be responsible for their own learning. Work is mostly submitted electronically in college and they’ll need time management skills regardless of their path after high school.”
Greg Miller (HS): “The resources I’m creating and curating could be useful for future students as extensions of units/activities, plus the self-discipline seniors are developing will help greatly after high school.”
How important have parents and caregivers been throughout?
Kara Abatto (PS): “This was uncharted territory and working as a team with families made this transition go smoothly. There’s always bumps in the road when encountering something new, but we’ve been working with them ensuring learning continues at home.”
Maureen Kuhn (MS): “They’re enormously important and part of the educational team. They have direct access to students and make sure they understand our expectations. Teachers teach the content, but parents and caregivers are managing students on a daily basis.”
Kelly Bins (PS Psychologist): “At the K-3 level, children need them to be their daily assistants! Our students aren’t independent learners yet and my communication starts with the parents. They’ve stepped in to be the physical presence that we can’t have through a screen and they collaborate with our staff on how students are doing educationally and emotionally.”
Anthony Marturano (MS Co-Principal): “They’re playing a critical role. They set up students with their technology, check in that they’re doing their work and contact us if there’s a problem. That said, we know so many of our parents are still working and they can always let us know if they need extra help from the schools.”
Greg Miller (HS): “Even the most dedicated students struggle with self-discipline and the parents/caregivers provide the redirecting students need. I thank all of them for helping keep students on track and always being willing to help.”
Berit Erickson (PS Special Ed.): “Communication with parents is important and I let them know when they should guide them through the lessons or check work before submitting. We try to make the lessons so parents don’t need to be there every time but many students do need their modeling for computers and keyboards. ”
What are effective lessons or tools you’ve used?
Kara Abatto (PS): “I’m using videos of math lessons we would do in class along with a digital version of the math workbooks students worked on before closures. My class Google Meets once a week so students can connect, tell me exciting things and just to all be together.”
Kelly Bins (PS Psychologist): “Google Meets are my go-to. Effective work begins when the students are engaged on a call, so I start with games and talking about their interests before leading them through the agenda.”
Maureen Kuhn (MS): “I’ve been teaching life skills like finance management using interactive websites where they’re directly engaging in money management simulations.”
Greg Miller (HS): “My Applied Physics class worked on Marble Coasters, connecting concepts of Energy, Momentum, Forces and Engineering. Students uploaded pictures and videos of their Coasters as the weeks went by. I’m also so thankful for video conferencing – still seeing the students really helped everyone adjust to the new routine.”
Berit Erickson (PS Special Ed.): “I love Seesaw. It’s easy to adapt and individualize assignments. I tape lessons students can rewatch as needed. They take pictures of work and can communicate in their own words what they’re thinking. I see what they know, who needs reteaching or where I should go next so I’m not unnecessarily repeating lessons.”