Starting next week, OUSD elementary school students will be returning to the classroom for the first time in over a year. How can we take the lessons learned from remote learning to improve the classroom experience? For many students, “normal” was not working. The transition to remote learning provided an opportunity to rethink the way we approach teaching and learning to better serve the unique needs of every student.
We heard from a few Oakland educators as they reflected back on a year of remote learning and the ways they’ve learned to support their students, and each other, through it all. By centering the needs of students, being willing to learn together, and creating space for deeper connections in a socially distanced world, there were some bright spots in the midst of these incredibly challenging times.
Precious James – Teacher at Madison Park Academy Primary
The teachers and staff at Madison Park Academy primary embodied the spirit of collaboration to support their students as much as possible. Every student had a trusted staff person who checked in on their needs, making sure they had access to technology, food support, or anything else they might need.
In Ms. James’ class, students started the year off by going through their own goal setting process. They decided what areas of their learning they’d like to work on and what kind of support they would need. During class, students could choose their Zoom breakout groups based on their needs, whether it was more 1-1 teacher support, study groups with classmates, or individual work time.
By meeting students where they were and supporting them in their individual learning journeys, her students made incredible progress. In their January assessments, their reading scores showed improvements that Ms. James had never seen in all of her 12 years of teaching.
Ms. James reminded us that for our students, “We don’t have a moment to lose, every minute counts.”
Javier Cabra – Chief Academic Officer at Envision Academy
In the transition to remote learning, the Envision school community created student and teacher committees to find avenues for collaboration. The student committee shared how difficult students were finding it to keep their same daily schedule of six classes in an online environment. As a result, the online class schedule was restructured so that students could focus on 3 classes at a time that rotated throughout the school year.
Built into the learning modules was also time for reflection and self-directed learning, where students could have the space to explore other subjects of interest. Additionally, a mental health hour was built into the schedule to encourage time for self-care whether that involved more creative activities, physical activity, meeting with counselors, or simply taking the time to take a step back in the day.
Javier also shared that in addition to creating the space for more student and staff feedback, they’ve been able to collaborate more across school sites and look forward to continuing those efforts even when they return to in-person instruction.
(Latitude students lead an inspiration interview Dr. Heidi Garske,
Director of Clinical Education in Physical Therapy at Samuel Merritt University)
Lillian Hsu – Principal at Latitude High 37.8
The Latitude High 37.8 school community showed us the power of hands on learning in a virtual setting – without the geographic limitations. From students having the opportunity to conduct inspiration interviews with professionals in their career fields of interest, to working in collaboration with a class on the other side of the world in China, or embarking on their #RunTheTown challenge that sparked a partnership with Nike, Latitude high embraced the power of the internet.
In addition to these wonderful learning opportunities, Lillian also spoke to the school’s strong values of community connection both within and externally. Students and staff had the opportunity to connect at home and away from the computer through mural walks in Oakland’s Chinatown, community trash clean-up days with Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo, participating in socially distanced group hikes throughout the Bay Area, and much more.
Check out the #RunTheTown video challenge that started it all below:
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A year of remote learning was never ideal or one without its challenges. However, it’s inspiring to see what can be possible in our learning environments with some creativity and willingness to learn together.
Thank you to these wonderful school communities for sharing their stories with us. We hope that this serves as a source of inspiration as we continue to move forward from this with hope and possibility on our side.