How teaching has evolved during the coronavirus pandemic
Classrooms around the world have been looking very different this fall. Between virtual learning, smaller classrooms, and split weeks, learning has evolved into a challenge for many. Here to discuss some of the changes, successes, and the future, are state and local leaders in education.
Welcome to education matters presented by the Public School Forum of North Carolina. I'm your host, Maryanne Wolf. Classrooms around the world have been looking very different this fall. Between virtual learning, smaller classrooms and split weeks. Learning has evolved into a challenge for many here to discuss some of the changes, successes in the future, our state and local leaders in education. I'm very pleased to be joined by David Spiegel, the deputy superintendent of innovation at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and Freebird McKinney, the director of legislative and community affairs at the North Carolina Board of Education and N C D P I. David, I know that you've been traveling a great deal across the state. And can you please tell us briefly what schooling now looks like during Cove in 19 is everyone knows education is the great equalizer system, regardless of your surname and where, what consider you live in where you're from, who your parents are, it's away. Uh, everyone has equal access and opportunity in an ideal situation. But during covert man we've districts have had to, and educators have had to reinvent education, we've had to take what worked in a building and a traditional setting that we control into a setting that we have very little control over looking. It's student needs the strength and monitoring their progress has to be different. Uh, instructing. Engagement has been different. There's even when we do have students face to face. The social distancing has caused teachers to rethink how they do activities and hands on instruction. I've been so pleased to see teachers and educators and principles breaking down the the parameters of this is our school building. This is our district. This is our community. There's a lot of collaboration going across communities, across buildings across sectors that normally wouldn't happen on. Probably what's been enhanced is a focus on the whole child needs. Those social emotional physical needs, the food scarcity, those type of things, teachers, air serving as parent teacher. As you know, Councilor, all the all the roles that are necessary to make sure that students have what they need. So I've been excited to see amazing things happening makes me more proud than I've ever been to be an educator. I know that you've also been traveling around the state and I feel like you've been in every corner of North Carolina. What innovative practices have you seen in action? This is a completely new way of looking at education. It's a a completely new way of looking and focusing on the social emotional well being of our students, providing support for them both in the classroom but also at home on I think this this transcends not just, um, that the quote unquote what we would call innovator, but just every aspect that we see in schools and and I can point to some specific examples that we were in prick Women's County and walked into a teacher's classroom and the fluidity between the students that were on the computer in a virtual remote setting and the ones that were in the classroom, the the teachers had worked and these small group teacher collaborative that day mentioned earlier and build out where they could. They're really on the same page at all times, and that allows them toe work on the students that are in class but also focused at home. They use multiple platforms. I've also seen this being done in music class with social distancing in Ashe County or ah, really special in this close to my heart. Daniel Scott, who's actually the Southeast Regional teacher of the Year and a band director there. Swan's Borough High School did an outdoor holiday band concert that was socially distance and cars could drive up. And so the students could still, you know, engage in that ability to provide a concert to the community but keeping safety and health regulations, just the innovative practices that each one of our district's air using. How are teachers air engaging, whether it's remotely, whether it's face to face. And, I mean, we could talk for for hours about just everything's innovative and everything's resourceful right now. I love that word resourceful, because I think it's exactly what we've seen from our teachers, our administrators, our students and families and our communities right now. So I appreciate you calling that out. David. I'd love to turn just for a minute. Thio as a previous superintendent and now in your state role, How would you describe what it's like to be an educator or administrator in our schools this fall? Principals and superintendents and directors and teachers by nature are very strategic, and they're thinking planning out 30 60 90 days ahead, planning out for a year or two years. Long term visions. The With Cove it has been so much more reactionary, the strategic and not because they're not wanting to. It's just been having to adapt to a new environment. Thio, uh, pressures externally, a new risk that come up. And so it's been a different role it's been It's called superintendents and principals to rethink everything. Things that have been in place had to be put on hold. New strategies had to be put in place on. And to add to that, in addition to the normal academic needs, in addition to all that, you want to focus on the whole child. There's been the hard but necessary work on addressing diversity and inclusion and equity within this district and in school roles that has risen to a level of deep focus and and it's always been there. But with all this happening around us in the world, it's all wait. It's risen to a higher level of internships, apprenticeships, field based experiences that had to be different. It's not necessarily good or bad, it's just different, and students have been great to react to it into adjust. It showed the resilience that our students can can exhibit, and we probably not given that enough emphasis how much they are resilient, I will tell you. The biggest challenge to me is sometimes the principal. The superintendent in this environment has had to be a mediator between competing interest parents, community political leaders, media peer district's around them boards, their own personal convictions. It's a lot, and it Z I wanna make sure that we we continue to lift them up. All of our educators lift up, I will tell you, the community have effort to me community say the educators have been magnified their role of providing some normalcy during some of this chaos at time. Their role in making sure their Children have everything they need has been magnified mawr than normal, and it's exciting to see that. But it is a it's a it's quite a challenge for administrators. It's quite a challenge for superintendents, but they stepped up in a major ways. They've stepped up the complexity of what's happening. Um is just really unbelievable and also the day to day changes and just so appreciate you lifting them up. We've always said the schools were the hubs of our community, and it is true or now more than ever. So I so appreciate that, um, Freebird, I wonder if you could share just briefly with us a few of the things that are being done. And when you've been around the state to ensure that students are able to access high quality education during the pandemic, I want to start off with saying that, you know, these were these were two really big challenges for our district's, uh, the devices and the broadband connectivity. And these, as David pointed out earlier, this is our first line of defense to making sure that we're providing that equitable access and opportunity education and and our district's have done a tremendous job and working toe. Hand out those devices Post House built in 43 building out and understanding what are the needs and the devices, Um, and then going back to the heart of your question, you know, how are we making sure that high quality education is occurring? The professional development that was, uh, that was provided to educators to support our teachers and our school in our district To adapt to this new schooling environment on transcending the impact of Kobe 19 has also been an incredible outreach program, and there are multiple examples of this. Um, there's also been a great partnership with the N C V P s, which is supporting that transition to more remote virtual learning for teachers. They've been in, you know, doing this for almost a decade now and a virtual setting. So the partnership that that's that's been developed there, and I feel like the more and more we travel around the state, the more and more we see this we could. I see this in an art class in Wilkes County, where students are not only learning about co vid on its scientific effects, but also what it looks like. So then they're going and designing out that their idea of what? Kobe 19 We actually stopped by Representative Elmore's class, who is an art teacher in Wilkes County and saw that in play. You know, I've talked to so many, and they're putting so much more work into the remote instruction pieces. Their work has been really elevated, and they've they've risen to the challenge. I've been so impressed to see this just at the classroom level in our final minute, I wonder if you each have just one or thio words of advice for educators and families out there. As we look into the New Year, I want to stress that what this has done, what what cove it has forced us to do is to revisit how we structure education. There's no one size fits all personalized needs assessments and support our vital. We have the potential now to free from some traditions that may have bound us some, uh, their old joke is, if you know, people came back from 100 years ago, walked into the classroom, it wouldn't look drastically different than it did when they were students. We have a chance to change that in the has change. We have the ability to be more innovative, that true paradigm shift. So I think when we come out of this on the other side and we say those two words, remember when and we look back on this, I hope when we remember when it will be the pivotal point that we used to say. That's when we began the new direction of public education and our new paradigm shift where we meet all students in different ways, and I want to echo that as well. Just that the level of flexibility and resiliency that is that is, um, really arisen from how are teachers, how our families and how our students have responded to Koba Nineteens Impact, I think, clearly is an indicator of what our students, what our teachers and what our communities air capable of doing. And I agree 100% with David. While this is shed light on many of the inequities that have always existed in our North Carolina public school system, it provides a true opportunity. I really do have hope that that this is allowing us to transcend the challenges and and re envision and reimagine what is possible. Well, I just want to thank both of you for your leadership and the role you're playing and for making sure that we're aware of what's happening in every corner of our state, but also just the experience you bring. You know how different this is and how much our educators, our administrators and our kids are doing right now. So thank you so much for being with us after the break. We will hear some local perspectives from the new handover County School Superintendent in a Durham Public Schools Teacher Education matters is brought to you each week in part by town bank serving, others enriching lives. Wear. So pleased to be joined today by Dr Charles Faust, the superintendent of New Hanover County schools, And Jessica O'odham, a teacher in Durham Public schools. Welcome to you both. Thank you. Thank you for having thank you so much, Dr Faust. I'd love to start with you. You became superintendent of New Hanover County schools in September and stepped into a new position in a new state in the middle of a pandemic. Maybe you could share with us what new handover is doing to ensure that kids are learning and safe during Cove in 19. And what does that look like every day? People in our buildings are doing a great job. I'll just say that. Start there. They're doing a great job. We have to go back to what I call the foundations of education. Um, where we talk about what we have to do and what the reasonings. Why we do certain things. So I believe that is one of the cornerstones that we have to activate, um, to make all individuals, all employees, understand that we appreciate them. So it's a little more, um, you know, the the appreciative nous, those things, Because individuals, I'll say they're they're they're nervous. Um, it's a lot of work were playing be at this point where we have to students who are remote and those who are in person. And so we're still feeling our way through that, and it's not perfect. And that's what we're looking for. A perfect. At this point, I told everyone, It's like, You know, you Onley done it for about six weeks right now. So you have to think it's like if you were first your teacher, what was your first six weeks look like? It would not look like, you know, your 23 year veteran. That's a great point. And Jessica, listening to Dr Faust makes me really curious to hear from you as a high school teacher. What is teaching like during Cove in 19, Like so many educators across our state, um, we were thrown into a virtual classroom almost instantly. We have very little preparation for what does that look like and we have been fortunate to see so many online resource is sort of, um, emerge almost instantly once that shift to a virtual learning environment was established as necessary. I'm completely virtual right now, and I look forward. Toa logging into zoom to see the joy on my students faces Thio see each other. This connection with students fills not on Li like more personal at times because we're invited into their homes and their invited into my home space. But I look forward everyday to logging to zoom just to see them. Mhm. I wonder if you could share a little bit more about how you're continuing to build relationships and connections. Do you have some specific strategies? I know that's something that we keep hearing teachers were trying to do, and it sounds like you've done a lot to make that possible. Well, I I just want to shout out that I work in the English Department, um, who is committed to making sure that we're connecting with our students. And so I have tremendous support from other English teachers and I have tremendous support from leadership at my school. Who is pushing us Thio as teachers to find that balance between showing care, showing grace and also like growing our students. And so, um, what I've realized over the last four months teaching through Zoom is that this virtual learning tends to skew towards like independent learners, um, students who value kind of learning on their own versus ah, lot of my students whose values are more related to like the communal learning experience. It's a much tougher, um, challenge for them because they're not in a classroom with 30 other of their peers. And so when things we've done is create like more games within our classroom and so spending some of our synchronous zoom time like playing games, they love just seeing that kind of interaction. But adding more games that don't have to be content related, just like building, um, that into our synchronous learning has been something that I didn't usually play a lot of games in my classroom. I play a lot more games. I enjoy playing. Get to know you games now. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing those specifics. Um, Dr Phalluses, you look into the New Year and knowing that you have many many teachers like Jessica being so creative and innovative and yet we know working very, very hard right now. Um, what are your main goals for new handover as we go into the new year? Of course. When we go into second semester, um, we've got to re evaluate where we are. Onda, we've gotta look in into some in depth. So we have a a A B B schedule, where on Monday and Tuesday we have kids face to face, and then on Wednesday, it's remote. And then Thursday, Friday we have our B group. That's in the buildings. Um, what has happened in that in our secondary schools are students have chosen to do more remote versus coming to the face to face Aziz, you've all probably seen across the state that we have, um a lot of students who were failing, Um, a lot of students who are, um, not participating fully in the learning experience. We have teachers who are teaching synchronous and asynchronous at the same time. So we're looking at how can we go into the second semester and make it better for everyone? And as, um Jessica was saying that teachers were just thrown into, you know, being a virtual teacher instantaneously, you know, one week or I'll say we were at when I was in Kansas. We were out for spring break and then we came back. We were virtual teachers. Were virtual school larger in the virtual district. Um, the part for me that actually gets the helping part was that I have a master's in instructional technology, so it wasn't a fear factor for me there. However, for several teachers, that is a fear factor. Because technology is not there. Go to, um, there in face to face. I wanna be able to see how the learning is taking place. Um, what is it gonna look like? And when you have one day, you have six students. The next day you have five students, and you're supposed to have, you know, 30 in there. That becomes a little frustrating, I would say for the educators, like, Okay, I'm being held responsible for students, but they're not actually even coming. So what do we do? So we've got to hear New Hanover reevaluate, um, our presentation style. We've got to re evaluate what we are actually asking our students to do um and you know, so I would say, stay tuned. We have we have a game plan that will, You know, I'll say it won't work for all, but it'll work for the 80%. We're all learning every single day, and we're and I love that you're reflecting and assessing and figuring out what we need. And Andi, I think that's the key, right? We have to just keep trying because this isn't over yet. And so I really appreciate appreciate you raising that And, like, you know, we'll want to hear more about what that looks like for you as we go into the new year. And, um, Jessica in our last few minutes, um, you know, I would just love thio here from you if you have any advice for other teachers or parents when it comes to providing learning opportunities, You and Dr Fausto both shared some of the important aspects, and, um and I wonder if you just have them advice for them so that they could make 2021 more successful for students building trusting relationship. Our classrooms are different. We're now in our homes sometimes, but the way in which we create environments that air high trust, low stress for students, it's exactly the same. It starts with talking students showing that we care for students showing that it's not just about. Did you learn the content of The Great Gatsby for my class? It's How are you? How's your family? What do you do this weekend? Like those air still the same effect teaching strategies that we can do even through Zoom. We all wanted to be teachers because we love interacting with the youth of our communities, and we love the content that we teach. And so this is not what we signed up for when we decided we want to be a teachers. But we know the value of being a caring adult for your son or your daughter. And so that's still our commitment. That's still art focus, even if we're not inability with them right now. Well, I'm so grateful to both of you for sharing what it's really like out there, but also your focus on social and emotional learning for our adults and our students and the grace needed right now. Eso Thank you so much for joining us, and after the break, our final word mhm educators who serve our state in a variety of roles shared with us today. That's how school looks very different. During Pyramid 19 across North Carolina, students and educators are continuing to engage in remote learning in person learning and some ah, hybrid of the two. And while there are so many challenges that students, families and educators continue to face, what has struck me most during these past nine weeks is just how incredibly resilient, nimble and innovative we have all become during this very difficult time. On that note, I want to share with you some examples of innovation, some of which we have highlighted on social media, along with many of our partners. During our weekly moments of hope, we'd like to shout out to Ed NC for helping create thes as they travel across the state. At Newport Elementary in Carteret County, school librarian Emily Go lightly worried about how much screen time her students were experiencing during remote learning. To tackle this issue, she secured a grant to fund a read and ride project, something that she dreamed up to allow students to come down to the library during break times and peddle their wiggles out while reading books, giving them the much needed chance to get the physical activity they might be missing this year. Mr S, as the students know him, is a social studies teacher at Philips Middle School in edge Comb County. Is he embarked on leading a virtual classroom this year? Mr. S realized he wanted to make sure his kids could still connect with him in meaningful ways. So we came up with the idea to ads, logs to his classroom, keeping bloopers and all in these video updates that not only offer personal stories and lessons to students, but also show his kids that he, too, is a human being who is learning how to adapt to this new environment. We're all in in Chapel Hill, Carrboro City schools, which is where I live. Deborah Cox and art teachers and others. A car. Bro Elementary decided that this year the show must go on. A previously planned school play is being converted into a virtual performance, with more than 120 students engaged with an individual backdrop being created for each child home. David Steggall, our guest today and the deputy state superintendent of innovation and equity shared with us in a recent moment of hope that a colleague has rightly said for this school year, we are all first year teachers, counselors, principals, a PS and superintendents. None of us have ever experienced what we're going through. We were all in this together, and we must trust one another. Those words really resonated with me. And while I have marveled at just how resilient, nimble and innovative we have all become, the truth is thes traits air inside all of us, and during crises they tend to come out. It's with a sense of community and shared trust that those traits transform into action. And I'm proud to say that here in North Carolina, I'm seeing and hearing those actions play out each and every day in classrooms across our great state. Thank you for thinking and learning about education with us. That's all for today. We'll see you next week