Virtual Learning is Not for Everyone

We are teaching in a pandemic.  I am teaching first graders who are learning from home. I have decided to use the SOLC as a place to reflect on this experience.  I hope this reflection will help me become a better teacher, a better learner, a better literacy coach, and a better person.  Maybe it will help others too.

31 Things I’ve Learned from Being a Remote Grade 1 Teacher

Most of my students are really doing OK in this remote setting.  Honestly, most of my students are thriving!  They are listening to the lessons, trying out the work, taking risks, practicing at home after class is over, posting Flipgrids and completing assignments on their Google Classroms, and growing academically, socially, and emotionally.  They even score well on the assessments that we give to our students who are in school (and the parents are no longer hanging around and helping). 

I will give a big shout out to my families here.  The families of these students are extremely supportive.  They have helped their children develop some fantastic habits.  These parents used to help their children take a look at my Daily Overview slide each day before school started to make sure they had all of the supplies needed for the day, and then again each afternoon to make sure they knew what schoolwork was to be completed in the afternoon. My kids now do this (for the most part) on their own.  These parents check in off and on (without interrupting or helping) to make sure their children are on task.  They send me work when I ask for it.  They drop off and pick up book bags every other week.  They call me if they need something.  They return my calls if I need something.  They attend conferences.  They read newsletters. We are a close knit team.

But distance learning is not for everyone.  And distance learning is especially hard if you don’t have a supportive family behind you and your student.  I can think of one of the students I had this year.  She had actually started in a distance learning class in the fall, then returned to in person learning after a few weeks, and then the family decided to try distance learning again, but wanted a different classroom.  (She has since returned to in person learning.) And so this student arrived on my grid.  She struggled.  She didn’t want to come to the computer screen, so often wandered around her bedroom playing with dolls while I was teaching.  When she would come to the computer, she would often be singing, but would refuse to mute when I would ask her.  She was easily frustrated when she felt the work was hard.  In the early days, she would scream and cry if she didn’t want to do the work.  And a parent was nowhere in sight.  She completed almost none of the work after our Zoom time ended. The only work we could get done was when we were one-on-one.  Then she was willing to try.  Willing to take some (small) risks.  I emailed and called the mother on a regular basis.  She said she would try to help. I’m sure she did her best, but the struggle continued.  

Things improved slightly over time.  She came to the screen more often.  She would engage more actively with the class.  She would answer some questions. When asked to please mute, she began to say, “OK!” and mute herself (at least for a short time).  We made time after the Zoom meeting ended to do some one-on-one work.  She grew a little.  Eventually the family decided she would be better off in school again.  So she returned.  

Distance learning can work, and work well, but it’s not for everyone.

5 thoughts on “Virtual Learning is Not for Everyone”

  1. I wish distance learning were for everyone. Like you, I see the benefit of being able to interact with people in Zoom sessions. In some ways, it’s actually easier. Some people just need more one-on-one. Most importantly, I thank you for your beautiful writing. So inspiring!

  2. I love your posts. I love your teaching. I Iove you friend. I could talk for hours about this topic. My current theory is that remote learning mostly works for kids who in person school worked for. If in person school was not really working pre-pandemic, chances are not great that remote learning will go well. Can’t wait to talk.

  3. What I love most is even though you knew it might not be the best, you kept at it. We have to make kids grow even a little.

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