Teachers and students connecting through distance teaching and learning
Faced with an unprecedented extended school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Upper Arlington Schools teachers have continued to deliver high-quality instruction and foster the relationships they have with students and families through distance teaching and learning.
“When we started developing our plans for distance teaching and learning, we understood that we wouldn’t be able to replicate the learning experiences that happen inside our classrooms, but we are excited about what our amazing teachers are doing for students in these unique times,” said Superintendent Paul Imhoff, Ed.D.. “We have many tools and resources available to us that are not available in other communities across the state and across the nation, and it’s important for us to keep that gratitude at the forefront.”
Since the end of March, K-12 students in Upper Arlington Schools have been connecting with their teachers and continuing their learning in all of the subject areas, primarily through the use of school-issued iPads or home devices.
“Being a one-to-one technology district, our students have a huge advantage when transitioning to distance learning,” said Kris Pavlasek, a third grade teacher at Greensview Elementary School. “They were already familiar with a variety of technology-based learning tools. I'm able to leverage the features in these tools to record myself explaining concepts, build interactive activities and provide timely feedback.”
During this time of transition and uncertainty for students and families, Alice Aichele, an American History teacher at Jones Middle School, has put a priority on two things: consistency and connection. “I tried my best to keep doing things the way we did them when we were together in our classroom at Jones,” she said. “I tied all of our work to routines and foundational concepts that students are familiar with.”
Student and staff well-being, a priority in the new Upper Arlington Schools strategic plan, has been at the heart of distance teaching and learning.
Hastings Middle School health teacher Allison Tomlin started the fourth quarter and the first day of distance learning with an entirely new group of students. Their first activity was “What’s on my mind?” — which she described as a creative assignment where students shared with her what was on their minds and hearts at that time. “It was a great way for students to share a little more about themselves with me, as well as for me to gauge how everyone is doing so I can provide the support they need during this distance learning experience,” she said.
Flexibility has also been a key piece of the distance teaching and learning plan. “Our students’ families have been incredibly supportive in making learning a priority at home, but we recognize and understand that our families have different life circumstances right now and we need to be flexible with our learning expectations,” said Andy Hatton, Ed.D., associate superintendent of learning and leadership.
Teachers are also going beyond digital learning opportunities to get students moving and creating as well.
Katie Benton, a fourth-grade teacher in the informal program at Barrington Elementary School, has been sharing “try this” activities — such as how to stack rocks at a creek, how to play marbles or how to make a “trick” video for April Fool’s Day. “These are not required school stuff — but fun and a way to connect,” she said.
The district’s youngest learners at Burbank Early Childhood School (BECS) are also continuing their learning through daily instructional videos. “Our children and parents have loved the short videos that our teachers are sending,” said BECS Director Kathy Lawton, Ph.D., BCBA-D. “We have received so many touching notes of appreciation from our families. Our school is deeply committed to supporting our families during this difficult time.”
Whether it’s by creating silly videos, leaving voice memos as feedback on their work, or simply holding daily check-ins or class video meetings that mimic their school routine, UA Schools teachers are using every tool they have to foster the relationships they have created with their students.
“This is a really difficult time, and I have had to accept that what occurs over the next however many weeks does not replace what would have happened in my classroom,” Aichele said. “My goal is to keep a connection with students and try to be the Mrs. Aichele they have always known because any little piece of normal is helpful right now.”