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Blended Learning Observations from the Front Lines

Blended Learning

February 18, 2021 -- As if returning to blended learning wasn’t a big enough challenge, add a heavy dose of winter weather to the mix, and the lift gets even heavier, but not impossible, as educators in Columbus City Schools (CCS) continue to rise up. On February 1, CCS returned students, many of them the youngest learners, to blended learning for face-to-face instruction in their classrooms for the first time in nearly a year. Below are some initial observations from two Pre-K teachers and a kindergarten teacher about blended learning so far.

How have your students adjusted?

Larry Carey, Pre-K teacher, Trevitt Elementary School: “Students were ready. One mom told me her child was up by 6 a.m. that first day ready to go to school and say good-bye to her. My students learn from what they see. They see me and my energy, so they follow. That’s when I know they are paying attention.”

Amy Boyd, kindergarten teacher, Devonshire Elementary School: “No tears! My students were so ready to come back. They had cabin fever, little people style. My students loved when I told them they could come back tomorrow, then school was canceled because of snow. That was frustrating. 

"It’s still early into blended learning, but I have noticed that my students are tired by the end of the day. They have to work on building their stamina. My students seem to be coping a little better than a few of my parents. I had three moms text me the first day to ask if their child was doing okay.”

Meghan Zones, Pre-K, Hubbard Elementary School: “I didn’t have crying and timid students that first day back, which was pretty normal before COVID. I believe remote learning has helped build those relationships. I feel as if I have gotten to know my students and families better.”

What has blended learning been like so far?

Larry Carey, Pre-K Teacher, Trevitt Elementary School: “I have mixed feelings. My students have been slow to return, so I only have a few students in the classroom. That’s good because it allows me to do more one-on-one instruction. It is hard not to have centers or circle time to gather in groups in one spot in the classroom for storytime. Now all that occurs individually with each student at their desk. 

"What I do miss is seeing my students five days a week. In a completely virtual environment, I would see my students every day.”

Amy Boyd, kindergarten teacher, Devonshire Elementary School: “I love having my students back in the classroom. That’s the way it is supposed to be. February feels like August, though, because we have to teach the in-school routines that are usually done at the beginning of the school year. Things like walking in the hallway and bathroom breaks. What’s challenging is keeping my students contained to the classroom for so long. Before COVID, my students would leave the classroom for gym, art, and music, but now students do that curriculum on days when they are not in school. 

"Kindergarten students have very short attention spans. Blended learning is a whole different teaching method. My students are learning another form of sharing. They can’t go to a center and play with toys together, but they understand that wearing a mask is how they care for others. Social distancing is for others too. That’s a whole new mindset. That expression, all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten, has taken on new meaning this year.”  

Meghan Zones, Pre-K, Hubbard Elementary School: “It’s a blessing and a challenge. I am so happy to see them in person. They looked so big in Zoom, but I can see that they are still so little and cute when I saw them in person. They try so hard to keep their masks on. 

"Four and five-year-olds are incredibly social. They want to play, hug, touch and be near each other. Social distancing is a hard concept to teach little ones. I also do a lot more cleaning and disinfecting. I wipe down toys, desks, and chairs numerous times a day. 

"Some parents are excited to have their kids go back, while others are still very concerned and scared. So, our department has offered them the opportunity to stay remote or come back to school hybrid. I have five students who are currently still remote, and I create asynchronous work for them to follow during the school day.  After school, I meet with them on zoom for a half hour for some face-time and a mini-lesson.”

The best thing about blending learning is...

Larry Carey, Pre-K, Trevitt Elementary School: “Interacting with my students in person is so much better than on the computer.”

Amy Boyd, kindergarten, Devonshire Elementary School: “I love being in the same room as my students. We can talk and see how everyone is feeling. I can’t capture emotions that well online. It’s hard to keep kindergarten students engaged when they are at home with family walking around and sitting on their bed. The school sets those boundaries when it comes to focusing on learning.”

Meghan Zones, Pre-K, Hubbard Elementary School: “The flexibility of our school and department that supports and validates the different emotions that parents are feeling right now. Some are excited to have their kids go back, while others are still very concerned and scared.”

Moving forward, my wish as a teacher is...

Larry Carey, Pre-K, Trevitt Elementary School: “To get all my students caught up. I am a perfectionist. I want all my Pre-K students to know the alphabet and be able to count from zero to 20 by the end of the year despite this pandemic. I want them to be able to move on to kindergarten to learn and grow. I want my students to stay safe and be productive.”

Amy Boyd, kindergarten, Devonshire Elementary School: “To have a regular school year even if we had to wear masks. To continue to teach about social, emotional health as much as academics. Children are usually not scared of worldly things, but this pandemic is right in front of their faces. They know something is wrong with the world. We need to continue to talk about it and deal with it and hopefully get out on the playground for recess soon.”

Meghan Zones, Pre-K, Hubbard Elementary School: “To go back to normal. I am praying this vaccine allows us to come back to a typical classroom setting in the fall! I want to be able to play with my kids and have them play with one another. I want to be able to sit on the carpet and sing songs with them.

"I also want the upper grades 6-12 to return to regular school life. I have a middle and high schooler at home, and it is starting to become monotonous. They are tired of learning online with little movement, social interaction, and exercise.”