How do you educate children when the school needs to be closed? That was the challenge faced by the teachers at Milpitas Christian School (MCS) when the coronavirus (COVID-19) began spreading in California.
After weeks of planning and training, it was now time to move teaching from the classroom to the homes.
“Our advanced preparation with technology specialists, teachers and parents allowed our school to be ready for remote learning,” explained Clark Gilbert, Head of School for Milpitas Christian School. “We were truly blessed when funds from our Annual Fund allowed us to upgrade many of our computers, network infrastructure, and software licenses to accommodate our new distance learning requirements.”
Preparation is Everything
“Following 2-3 weeks of intensive training before the closure, we were ready,” explained Debbie Castle, Middle School Teacher at Milpitas Christian School. “Teachers were up and running with remote learning within 36 hours of the formal shelter-in-place order. We picked up our lesson plans right where we left off and began working with students from their homes.”
On the last Friday before the temporary school closure, parents were asked to pick-up their students at the end of the school day. Depending on the grade levels and individual needs, students were also issued resource packs, textbooks, and Chromebooks.
Parents have been surprised how quickly and smoothly MCS transitioned into remote learning. “In the blink of an eye, everything happened so fast as if a whirlwind passed through our lives,” described one mom of an MCS student. “I have to say I was thoroughly impressed that MCS was one of the first schools in line to make announcements and have a full plan in place for the school closure.”
Typical Remote Learning for Elementary and Middle School Students
Each school day, students start their day with a homeroom meeting through Zoom video conferencing. After teachers greet the class, students have the opportunity to see and interact with each other. Students may break into smaller groups to think, pair, and share.
Daily lessons are posted in Google Classroom. The assignments may include:
- Watching video lessons that have been taught and recorded by teachers. When students answer questions embedded in the media, the teacher can confirm each one’s understanding of the material.
- Responding to challenging questions and quizzes.
- Uploading written work by scanning or taking photos.
When students need extra help, they may reach their teacher through email, Google Classroom or even arrange for a one-on-one time through Zoom.
The vast majority of middle school students are engaged and getting their work done. For some, it’s a learning process to manage their time and flexibility. With twenty years of teaching at MCS, Mrs. Castle notes, “MCS students have shown themselves to be very motivated to learn.”
One MCS parent with an elementary grade student commented, “Seeing [my son] in Zoom meetings and doing a full scope of computer work is quite the sight. He seems like a working professional. For his age, I am totally blown away.”
Teaching Younger Students
After refining the process for teaching students in the elementary and middle school levels, MCS began an ambitious plan last week to engage transitional kindergarten (TK) and primary school students. This week preschoolers began using Zoom video conferencing for the very first time.
“Our TK students are learning new skills,” described Tammy Terry, a TK Teacher at Milpitas Christian School. “These young ones start by learning when and how to interact with their classmates. When sharing during show-and-tell, the little ones are understanding how to keep their faces (not just their foreheads) visible on the screen. As they hold objects up to the camera, it’s amazing to see their response when interacting with each other over the video.”
Going Beyond the Classroom
In the days and weeks ahead, teachers will be gradually increasing video teaching time with the students. One significant advantage of recorded lessons is that students can replay any portion. This allows them to effortlessly confirm that they’ve heard something clearly and to take better notes. Recorded lessons also let parents see and hear how their children learn among their peers.
Remote learning adds a powerful new dimension for younger students. With a video camera at home, show-and-tell is elevated to another level. “So far, we’ve seen pets (dogs and cats) plus baby brothers during the sharing,” explained Mrs. Terry. “Several kids were excited to give a tour of their room and home, too.”
Since TK students learn by doing and watching, Mrs. Terry wanted to make sure her students could continue their full learning and development—even at home. After assembling packets with printed lessons and resources, she personally drove to the homes of her students to drop off the personalized bags. “I missed seeing my students,” stated Mrs. Terry. “When I rang the doorbell, some children answered the door with their parents, and we could wave to each other from a safe distance. For those with video doorbells, I could even leave a short video message for them.”
One TK parent, completely surprised by this special delivery, effused, “You are a Rockstar making these deliveries to families! Thank you for all that you do to go above and beyond!”
Milpitas Christian School will continue offering remote learning for its students through the duration of the shelter-in-place order. At this time, subject to change by the local health authorities, the Bay Area’s edict is scheduled to be lifted after May 3.Full Press Release
Tags and Keywords:
#distancelearning, #remotelearning, #coronavirus, #covid19, #zoom, #GoogleClassroom, #sanjose, #milpitas, #christian, #school, #academic, #privateschool, @MilpitasS