Coming back to school in the fall was a dream come true for many teachers across the Fort Wayne – South Bend diocese. Getting back to in-person instruction was something they had longed for since the spring school closures.
During the summer it was not clear how the next school year would start. Administrators and faculty members spent the months planning and strategizing in order to get teachers and students back into the classroom by the fall, and their hard work paid off.
When the pandemic began, everything came to a halt. Teachers had little to no notice that they would be scrapping their lesson plans and recreating them three quarters of the way through the school year. They had to quickly learn how to use brand-new programs and platforms to keep in touch with their students and engage with them like they would in the classroom. Going all virtual wasn’t easy, and students and teachers alike had a trying transition period.
Maggie Javins, freshmen math teacher at Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, shared her story on how she and her students transitioned to hybrid learning and how they managed.
“Virtual instruction was very challenging as a teacher last year. All the little things you take for granted in the classroom were gone.”
One of those challenges was encouraging students to stay focused without being able to see her students’ facial expressions, to see if they understood the material. “I just asked as many questions as I could … and prayed they were understanding what we were trying to do.”
Using EdPuzzle, Microsoft Teams and Canvas, a course management system that allows teachers to post assignments, information and grades online, Javins was able to create videos and hold conference calls as a class. This allowed students to ask questions and get clarification on assignments.
Though the programs were helpful for continuing the students’ education, the plan still had holes. Hybrid learning made it easy for students to rush through work, miss class meetings or not login at all. “I had students that would show up to each and every meeting and students that would not show up at all” said Javins.
By the end of the summer, teachers were ecstatic to see the inside of their classroom and have it filled with students.
The difference between virtual learning and in-person learning is the one-on-one interaction students get. It helps them to learn better when they are physically present, according to Javins.
“In-person instruction is extremely vital … students readily admit that they perform better in the classroom. … I spend a lot of time rotating around the classroom and watching students complete practice problems. Right then and there I can see the errors they are making and can help to correct them” she said. She went on to say that the type of partner work that can be done in the classroom is difficult to do virtually.
When it was determined that students and teachers could be back to school in-person, the excitement was contagious. At Bishop Luers, the voices of students laughing and catching up with their friends echoed through the halls. Teachers had their classrooms ready to start learning with the smart boards ready to go.
Javins could not contain her excitement to be with her students once again.
“I was most excited to be with the students. No one decided to be a teacher because they wanted to sit in front of a computer all day. We all got into this noble profession because we love being around students” she said.
Without the teamwork and cooperation of faculty, students and parents, the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year could not have gone better, given the circumstances. Students were able to go about their extra-curricular activities by following school, state and local health department guidelines, and teachers have been able to interact with their students, leading to academic success for many.
Maggie Javins would especially thanks parents for helping to make this school year a brighter one.
“Our parents have been amazing. They have been with us through this crazy journey and have been patient and supportive. I know it was scary for many of them to send their students back to school. The trust they have placed in us is humbling! We are so blessed to have them.”
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