Staying Connected — Teachers Penny Carnrite & Brittany Reid on their Teaching Practice

May 4, 2020

Teachers and staff across the District have suddenly had to re-think how we deliver, not only education to our students, but also how we interact with them, and one another. We need to stay connected, even though that may look differently than it used to. During these unprecedented times, our teachers and staff have been working hard to maintain the safety and supporting the health and well-being of our students. They have been delivering the Continuity of Learning Plan, while trying to follow provincial physical distancing guidelines.

So, what does that look like for our teachers and staff? As part of this new Staying Connected series, just in time for Teacher Appreciation Week, we got in touch with some educators, so they could share their experiences.

Penny Carnrite

Penny Carnrite & Brittany Reid

Grade/subjects: Humanities Teacher 9-12 & Humanities/Resource Teacher Grade 8-12
Langley Fine Arts Secondary

We began mentally preparing for the shift in learning during Spring Break when Dr. Bonnie Henry announced school closures. Upon “returning” after Spring Break, our school and department worked collaboratively to further refine and develop lessons and assessment which needed to reflect the content and competencies of the course while considering the learning needs of each individual student in an online environment.

Adjustments to assignments, tasks and assessments are being done on an ongoing basis as we learn from this experience and get feedback from both students, parents and other staff members. We reviewed the learning tasks we assigned, being careful not to overwhelm our learners. Because the tasks invite greater inquiry, our students are diving deeper into their learning.

Brittany Reid

In each of our courses we have created weekly lesson plans that allow for flexibility of student schedules. As teachers, we felt that it was important to be mindful that every household has different needs in the pandemic. Some students may have other family responsibilities, like looking after younger brothers and sisters, or they may not have access to technology when parents are working at home.

It was really important to provide flexible schedules for the students and parents. For the remainder of the year, we have decided to focus on essential curricular competencies. Each of the weekly lesson plans provides a space for the students to practice skills and strategies they are learning and to get constructive feedback along the way.

The learning needs of our learners are diverse. Students learning is assessed using learning pathways that are designed to provide an access point to the curriculum and to create individualized learning journeys. These pathways allow students to access lessons and activities at different levels. The new BC curriculum has been extremely helpful because it allows flexibility and adaptability.

We have stressed to both students and parents that communication is key and have received a lot of positive feedback from both. By keeping the conversation open, those involved feel safe to voice their concerns or to get extra help or direction. The Microsoft Teams Application has been integral in providing effective communication and will definitely be a tool that we continue to use in the future to help facilitate communication with my students and parents.

We are finding that students have different opportunities to communicate.  They are able to use the “chat” function to communicate to the teacher and get immediate feedback. If students have questions while doing their assignments, they can get them answered in a timely fashion, instead of waiting for the next school day.

The software we are using to communicate with our students is Microsoft Teams. This is the platform our school district has selected because it is safe and secure. Our District and school administrators are mindful of the need to provide a safe and professional community. The program has been amazing in allowing us to connect with our students in live or pre-recorded video, messaging chats and email.  As mentioned above, Teams has been a really great way to check-in with students. We are finding that students who may not have checked in before are now doing so.

Students are using Microsoft Teams to meet. For example, the environmental club at Langley Fine Arts, The Green Team, has continued weekly meetings on Microsoft Teams. Students are using the platform to create social change. We meet to share news and initiatives that they are planning and are currently implementing. The Graduates of 2020 are also using this platform to meet online and provide support to each other.

Brittany and I have noticed that we are spending more time planning, teaching, and communicating. Our job as teachers have always reached beyond the school day. During this time of remote learning we are switching off the computer much later than we use to. We are saddened by the stories of struggle and loss. The trade-off is that we are collaborating more with each other and our departments. We are kind to the environment by using less resources like paper.  We are having meaningful and heartfelt conversations with students, administration and our colleagues. We are slowing down our teaching and our learning. We are noticing  Indigenous Principles of Learning which celebrates the balanced and generational learning  taking place in the homes of our students. We are finding out our students and parents are grateful for the extra time we are spending doing our job. But most importantly, we are learning what we truly value as educators: the children and each other.

Next time, we’ll talk to educators from HD Stafford Middle School.