SHERWOOD — A decision by Central Local Schools to livesteam classes from its teachers to students who aren’t attending school in person this year may have led to more work for district educators, but those educators could not be happier with that decision.
Instead of taking classes online from a virtual academy, like most every other district in the area, Fairview students are learning at home from the same teachers they would have if they were attending classes in person. The teachers are utilizing the platform Google Classroom, which includes the livestreaming component Google Meet, to teach every student in the district.
Having the opportunity to teach all their students, those at home and those who attend in person, was very important to Fairview educators.
“Our intent was to work with (superintendent Steve) Mr. Arnold, with a general consensus from the membership (of the Teachers’ Association of Central Local Schools) that we wanted access to all our students, and to be able to teach them in the safest way possible,” said Ray Breininger, a STEM/computer science teacher at Fairview High School, as well as a representative of the teachers’ association.
“Last spring we experienced not having access to our students to meet their needs,” added Breininger. “It was important to us to have access to our students, because we know them and are invested in them. Although livestreaming our class to remote learners while teaching our in-person students has presented some challenges, we’ve embraced those challenges.”
Lisa Ford, a second-grade teacher, and Brooke Snyder and Taryn Monroe, fourth-grade teachers, admitted there’s a lot to do to make it work.
“The first thing was many of us had to learn how to use the technology, and speaking for myself, I hadn’t used Google Classroom or Google Meet that much so I had to do a lot of prep,” said Ford. “The second thing is getting the work (for remote learners) prepared, so there is a lot of thinking ahead in our lesson plans, more than normal. We prepare work for those kids at home at least a week at a time, so they have it at home when a new week begins.”
At the elementary level, parents pick up paper packets for their remote students on Monday, and turn in the past week’s work at the same time. At the middle/high school level, many assignment for remote learners can be completed through Google Classroom.
“Brooke and I are in a unique situation, we both teach fourth grade and teach the same things, so we got together a lot to help each other,” said Monroe. “Like Lisa said, because of all the prep that goes into this, Brooke and I worked together to have all our lesson plans finished through the first nine weeks. It was also nerve-wracking having a camera on us all day at first, but that is becoming second nature.”
Said Snyder: “Organization is definitely the key to all of this. We have notes we’ve taken, we make lists week-by-week, because if we weren’t as organized as we are, there’s no way we’d be able to keep our heads above water. The best part of this, I believe, is if school had to shut down again, our students would be ready to learn from home, because of all the training the teachers, students and parents have had.”
Jess Hotmire, a Fairview High School social studies teacher, shared that while there are challenges to executing remote learning in this manner, he’s been uplifted with the cooperation among educators to help each other when problems arise.
“While this has been working very well, it’s not perfect, and the stress level can be high,” said Hotmire. “I’m managing kids in front of me, I’m managing kids online, I have to record the class, I have to figure out where a question is coming from ... it’s not always easy and exponentially there’s a lot more work. But, from the teachers I’ve talked to, there is a spirit of cooperation because we all know the positives of teaching our students outweighs any of the negatives.
“I have been so pleased with the positive attitude of our staff through this, they deserve a lot of kudos,” added Hotmire.
Beth Bechtol, a seventh-grade math teacher at Fairview Middle School, explained the start of the year was all about getting kids educated on the technology.
“Our goal at the beginning was to get all the kids trained on how to do remote learning, in case school had to shut down and we had to go to full remote learning,” said Bechtol. “In the beginning, that was the stress, but at the same time, we knew if we could get them trained, a school shut down would be much better than last spring. If school were to shut down now, we will be in our classrooms teaching our kids, unlike last spring.
“At this point, I would say this is going better than expected, with everyone working together to get through the challenges we still face,” added Bechtol.
Said Ford: “At the end of the day, everyone here wants to do what’s best for our kids. A lot of work has gone into this, especially from our tech guys.”
Said Snyder: “What I like about this, is that if remote learning isn’t working for a family or families, our students can come back and be ready to go.”
Said Breininger: “I think all of our students are thankful to be connected to their teachers, to their friends and to be able to learn together. To go cold turkey like they did last spring was hard on them. Collaborative learning is important, because when they start their careers, they have to be able to work with others, and learning together at school definitely helps with that.”