Remote Learning Doesn’t Have to Feel So Distant

For those of us with children who have ever used glitter on a school project, or decorated a Homecoming T-Shirt, or even used it as make-up, knows that even if we’ve cleaned up a hundred times, it will randomly turn up in the future. It is next to impossible to get rid of glitter! This is how a doctor-friend recently explained the  Coronavirus to me when we were discussing stay-at-home orders, social distancing, and remote learning.

This “glitter” is responsible for changing how we exist as a community, city, state, country, and world in just a few short weeks. It was not too long ago that the Super Bowl was being played in front of 60-plus thousand fans in Miami and millions of others in living-room parties all over the world. College campuses were vibrant and full of life. Shopping malls were bustling with activity. Restaurants were handing out pagers for those waiting for a table. Bars were crowded, loud, and full of active millennials and Gen-Xers. Life was, well, full of life.

Families also had their routines. Get up, get children off to the bus stop or in the car to get them to school, go to work, and gather once again at home after the teachers spent the last seven hours educating the future leaders of tomorrow – your children. It was so routine, we took it for granted. Then, in what feels like an instant, school as we knew it, was turned on its head and the term remote or distant learning began to circulate.

Schools, from the quaint little pre-kindergarten school to the largest high school were now forced to “do school differently,” and do it quickly. Some very good schools were caught off-guard and were unable to pivot and provide their families with a meaningful school experience. What may have been vibrant and engaging classrooms for students over the course of their seven-hour school day, now is a three-hour check-in and minimal homework. Or worse yet, not even a check-in from a human being!

If you feel that your child has been thrust into this uninviting, new way of doing school, I have some good news—remote learning doesn’t have to feel so distant. There are a handful of innovative schools courageously exploring new and exciting ways to engage students in meaningful lessons, collaborative environments, and caring community-building learning.

You may be wondering, how this is possible? Especially if your children are enrolled in one of the best public schools in the state, and they haven’t been able to figure this out. Well, keep reading, because the schools I described above are ideating ways to make their students’ remote and eLearning experience something that parents are raving about!

What exactly are these schools and teachers doing?

  • Creating an on-campus-like schedule and personalized plan. The schools having the most success in middle and high school in this space are keeping a schedule very similar to what the students experienced on-campus. Classes start at a certain time, virtual attendance is taken, and then ends 60 or 90 minutes later. This structure proves to be invaluable as students are navigating the lethargic pace of staying at home.
    For students in kindergarten to Grade 5, personalized plans and detailed communication with parents has proven to be the formula for success. Parents need flexibility to provide guidance, yet teachers must be able to pivot and provide families with a plan that works for them.
  • Lectures, group work, and more. Through various technologies, these schools have created classrooms with not just lectures and homework, but also breakout sessions where students can collaborate and participate in group work, games, and activities that keep the students engaged. These next-level teachers have researched, collaborated, and ideated with each other to bring a true and meaningful learning experience to their students
  • It’s good to see your face. Studies have proven that face-to-face interaction is essential for human beings to connect, engage, and feel.
  • Community is key. Successful schools are doing more than just teaching. They are building community. When students were on campus, schools were vibrant and full of life, full of community. Without the ability to gather, this has become very difficult. Productive schools are engaging their students in a virtual world. Teachers are having virtual birthday celebrations for their students. After-school activities are being offered. Everything from teachers reading to the younger students before bed, virtual gaming opportunities, virtual walks with the principal, to cooking with a staff member. The ideas are endless—and they are working!
  • Partnering with families. Successful schools are coming alongside their families and working with them for the success of their children. This is even more important when a working mom or dad is also trying to make sure their student is engaged in school and staying on track. A school that is willing to pivot and adapt to create win-win situations will be successful in overcoming the challenges of educating away from campus.

With these ideas in place, remote learning doesn’t have to feel distant. What may sound somewhat simple in concept is actually very difficult to execute. Successful schools are working countless hours, investing in infrastructure, and are motivated by what made them standout prior to this pandemic flooding our communities—having a desire to nurture co-creators of tomorrow.

If this type of proactive, collaborative learning environment is what you are looking for in a school, don’t delay. Make an appointment to take a virtual tour at Maranatha Christian Academy today and learn what an innovative school looks like during remote learning.  If we can create a whole new platform like this in weeks, imagine what we can do for your child over the course of a school year when we return to campus.

Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan is Head of School at Maranatha Christian Academy.