An Inside Look at Lansingburgh Remote Learning
July 1, 2020
*The following is the full version of an abridged article from the Lansingburgh 2020 Budget Newsletter which was published in late May 2020.
An Inside Look at Remote Learning
The last few months of the 2019-2020 school year were an unprecedented time for Lansingburgh students, families and teachers as they shifted to remote learning. We spoke to a handful of our educators about the experience, how they adapted their teaching methods, some of the challenges and why parents/caregivers were more important than ever.
Know this is only a small sampling of teacher voices,* the entire Lansingburgh staff went above and beyond every day for our students during this time.
*Responses are condensed and edited for space.
How did you prepare for remote learning when you realized schools would close long term?
Abby Rock (Turnpike Elementary): “We took into consideration the grade levels of the children we teach (PK-2) at Turnpike and knew we had to be flexible with families based on their individual needs. We decided to work in pairs to prepare lessons for each subject, then we’d regroup to discuss what we planned and give feedback. We also meet every Monday and discuss what we’re focusing on that week.”
David Hamilton & Jamie Desso (Rensselaer Park Elementary): “Our big concern was that our students and parents had what they needed to be engaged. When it became clear we were in this for the long run, we knew we had to become even more creative in finding ways to reach all of them.”
Angela Mauriello (Knickerbacker Middle School): “Our grade level team, individual team Blue Team) and department team (ELA) each met virtually to split up work, decide on the most important focuses and how to contact families.”
Justine Fazziola (Lansingburgh High School): “I had a feeling from the beginning we'd be out longer than 2 weeks, so I made a point to never lose contact with my students. I used Google Classroom to stay in touch and continue assignments that we’d started in the building. Then when we went to fully remote learning it was a smooth shift.“
How was the experience in those early weeks?
Abby Rock (TES): “We reset expectations. We’re used to seeing and interacting with students every day and suddenly we weren’t. It took a lot of patience on both ends and sometimes I’d stay logged and do whole activities with a student. After that, they felt accomplished and better understood what each day would look like.”
David Hamilton & Jamie Desso (RPES): “At first we were in a bit of shock that this was happening. We quickly shifted focus to what resources we had to assist our students and families, spent longer hours collaborating and planning than during a “regular” work week.”
Angela Mauriello (KMS): “There was so much to do and in ways, I had little experience with. I had a lot to learn and fast. Thankfully the district provided clear guidelines, instructional videos, and support! If not for clear directives from the administration, support from our IT Director, IT TOSA (Teacher On Special Assignment) and Curriculum Coordinator I would have been lost.”
Justine Fazziola (LHS): “My first foray into Google Meet wasn’t pretty. My whole family is at home and the Internet couldn’t keep up. We got a wi-fi booster so we could all work at the same time. Now that my student attendance is up and my internet connection is solid, I conduct class and ask questions in real-time.”
What have been some unique remote learning challenges? How do you face them?
Abby Rock (TES): “It’s important that these grade levels (PK-2) are given time to interact with one another, they want to talk with each other. I schedule share time in my Google Meets and give them each an opportunity to share and make comments to one another. I mute them if they’re not the speaker and if they want to respond to each other they raise their hand like in the real classroom.”
David Hamilton & Jamie Desso (RPES): “One of the challenges was getting every student and family engaged into this new way of learning. Prior to this, 3rd graders had very little experience with Google Classroom and Google Meet. However, it’s helped to have a good rapport and several ways in which families can easily communicate with us on a consistent basis.”
Angela Mauriello (KMS): “We have 85 students on the Blue Team, so getting all of them to participate can be an occasional challenge. Thankfully the Team works really well together and we've been able to share the work of keeping in contact with the students and their families.”
Justine Fazziola (LHS): “Some of my students have jobs as essential workers, so they have to organize their school and work schedules. Some of their employers don’t realize that even though the school buildings are closed, school and learning for the students are not.”
Are there advantages to remote learning?
Abby Rock (TES): “Some very shy students in the classroom have actually been more vocal in class discussions during our Google Meets.”
David Hamilton & Jamie Desso (RPES): “Remote learning has made us come out of our comfort zone and learn innovative ways to connect with students and families.”
Angela Mauriello (KMS): “I’m learning to incorporate technology in ways I wasn’t before. Also, our team worked well together before school closures, but our bonds seem deeper now in some way. When I’m stressed or unsure, I reach out and they remind me I’m not alone.”
Justine Fazziola (LHS): “My students are becoming so much more independent. Normally, one of the biggest obstacles I face in the classroom is getting students to start a writing assignment without me giving them an idea. Since we’re seeing each other less frequently, they have to rely more on their own brains. I am so proud of the independent writing that they’re producing.”
How important have parents and caregivers been throughout?
Abby Rock (TES): “Touching base with every parent/caregiver every day is the new norm. I want them to know I’m here for them and remote learning has actually made me closer to many of them. We’ve gotten to know each other very well as the weeks go on. I lean on them and they lean on me. It’s important to remember not only are they helping their children learn at home, but some are still working and taking care of daily needs for their family.”
David Hamilton & Jamie Desso (RPES): “They are the heroes in all of this! They’ve played such a huge part in remote learning. It’s a learning process for them as well and it’s been amazing seeing them step up to the challenges of remote learning. Rather than complaining, they wanted to help do what was right for their child. With this shift to a new way of learning, students, parents and teachers are working closer together than ever.”
Angela Mauriello (KMS): “They are vital to the success of remote learning. Our team reaches out weekly, if not daily. Several teachers have one-on-one meetings with parents/caregivers to help them better help their children. We even delivered a Chromebook to a student who was unable to do a pick-up at school.”
Justine Fazziola (LHS): “They’re an enormous asset since they’re doing the motivating that teachers usually do in the classroom. The students are so capable but we encourage parents/caregivers to check-in on their Google Classroom to make sure that they’re not falling behind. If they are, we’re here to help and they can reach out to us whenever for assistance with keeping them on track.”
What are effective lessons or tools you’ve used?
David Hamilton & Jamie Desso (RPES): “The students miss the normalcy of seeing your face, your personality, your energy that you bring day-to-day when teaching, so creating our video lessons through Google Meet has played a huge advantage in staying connected with students.”
Angela Mauriello (KMS): “We’re using parts of the writing process to create short stories or paragraphs. Students have written about what it would be like to be quarantined with anyone they wanted, random acts of kindness they participate in, interviewing a family member as story starting prompts.”
Justine Fazziola (LHS): “With the Regents canceled, it freed us up to do a project I’ve always been interested in. Students wrote essays modeled on Edward R. Murrow’s series of personal essays from the 1950s, where Americans wrote about deeply held beliefs that shape their lives. This project helped me feel so connected to them even though we are physically far apart.”