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Insight: When The Doors Were Ordered Closed, A New World Opened Up For Students And Teachers

By Christina Chandler

Vice Principal

Tambearly International School

When Tambearly International School implemented Google for Education tools into subject area curriculum grades seven through 12 in 2017, we had no idea how valuable it would prove to be. Within 24 hours of the Prime Minister announcing school closing on March 16, the Tambearly team of teachers and administration gathered together classroom materials for families to have at home, created lesson plans for 30 days of a new way to guide our students from a distance, introduced an online platform to School teachers, activated150-plus tambearly.org accounts to get all Lower School families connected online - and crossed our fingers hoping for the best.

The first obstacle Tambearly staff faced was not being able to have the students and parents present to introduce the tools and Google for Education platform that would serve as their classroom for the coming weeks. The next challenge came realizing the difficulties in communicating steps for success navigating a programme some of our teachers were just introduced to one day before rolled out to the families. What came next, as all were in survival mode, was the realization that Tambearly teachers are so dedicated to making sure teaching and learning is happening that they will do anything it takes.

Forty-eight hours after facing the turn of events in response to the dangers of spreading the COVID-19 virus, the Tambearly teachers, students, and parents began to reap the rewards of TEAMWORK.

All of the Tambearly family was online by Wednesday experiencing instruction and communications between teachers and students with the emphasis on making learning happen. Continuing educational growth from a distance while maintaining structures established by the classroom teachers and providing human connections remains the primary goal with this transition.

A typical day begins with students logging into their Google Classroom each morning to receive their daily agenda. Some lessons are pre-recorded videos with their teacher guiding students with instructional content and guided practice activities, while other lessons are scheduled face to face classroom sessions using Google Meet. Independent practice takes place using many digital resources uploaded directly to their Google classroom and hard copy materials such as workbooks, textbooks, and handouts provided by the teachers. Images of assignments and activities completed by the students, as well as digital responses using Google docs are uploaded for marking and scoring, then returned to students promptly with feedback and opportunities for revision if necessary.

Understanding the students’ success is dependent on the support from parents, the Tambearly team has seen all families move mountains to help their children interact daily with their teachers and the materials each so thoughtfully prepared for them. Mrs. Alice Langford, founder/principal of Tambearly International School stated: “We won’t let the humps and obstacles deter us. We are all facing challenges we have never had to meet before but we feel our Tambearly Family has risen far above all others in the support and resilience shown keeping educational communication going and putting things in place for our children in our first days of this crisis.”

Pre-Kindergarten through Grade Three students and parents were submitting work through Google Classroom by the end of the first day of the programme being active. Images of our littlest ones tracing letters relating to the sounds shared in the pre-recorded instructional video from their Montessori teacher was the first glimmer of hope Tambearly was truly going to be able to enhance educational opportunities from a distance. Kindergarten parents quickly learned to use the Google tools to share videos of their students working diligently and then enjoying break time before starting a new task. Grade Three parents uploaded images of bridges built using many different types of resources as the assessment tool for a science class modelled from a live session with their teacher, and students shared math assignments following the instructional videos showing step by step instruction from inside their classroom. The excitement was contagious, like the first day of school all over again.

By Day Seven, the administrative team had witnessed optimal levels of student performance. Materials turned in showed students were serious about giving 100 percent to providing their best work. Google meet conferences revealed students were learning more and more about themselves and what type of learners they were. Leila Valerius shared: “I am a procrastinator and have to push myself. I learned I can prioritize and set goals to get my work done. Getting tasks out of the way that do not take as much time, then being able to put more time and focus on harder tasks. I feel I am being more responsible.”

Fotini Salpadimos, a Ninth Grade Tambearly student has seen an improvement in the time she gives to thinking through questions before responding. She found being able to control the time she spends on an assignment, not having to pack up and switch classes because the class has ended, has been very beneficial in having success with using critical thinking skills to provide well developed responses.

Tenth Grader Nicholas Astwood agrees more time to complete classwork tasks and working at his own pace has improved his work ethic. He states: “Work was adding up the first two days. Then I pushed myself to set a schedule to finish an assignment once I started, not put it off because one hour had passed as if I was in the classroom. I am really proud of myself because I see I can get everything done.”

During a Google Meet face-to-face session with her Ninth Grade World geography students, Mrs. Deleveaux reported: “The students are really stepping up to the challenge and producing work of great quality. Providing instruction that is engaging and learning resources digitally and developing new ways of marking work and providing feedback, while learning new technological tools provides challenges making the days very long.” She added: “The motivations and efforts of the students make every extra hour worth it.”

The apprehensions that were high with the parents at the beginning of the week settled as students and parents became more and more familiar with the Google for Education tools and digital resources assisting instruction. One parent of a Second Grader and Fifth Grader shared her pleasure stating: “Learning is going surprisingly well here at the Fun House Academy!”

Pride in the Tambearly teachers grew when a Third Grade parent showed her appreciation with the following heartfelt words: “I’m so happy that you organized the homeschooling with the teacher so fast. Everything is working perfectly, the classes are very well organized, and I can see the kids are really enjoying the online classes. It is wonderful to see how great grade three is so well prepared to access the internet system proving the computer classes are very good at Tambearly. Miss Harrison’s videos are very well done with fun and great explanations. We are loving learning French.”

The kind words from a parent of students in Sixth and Eleventh grade continued to warm our hearts knowing our students’ needs were being met. She sent gratitude for our teachers stating: “Your relentless pursuit to see the children and the parents through smoothly during this time has been impeccable. The transition has been good for my sons. It is rewarding to see them passionate about being up to date and completing all tasks assigned to them.”

Although everyone in the world is facing fears of uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 virus, Tambearly families are not letting anything get in the way of their student’s academic success.

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