Distance learning shifts into full gear at schools

Salem-Keizer School District educators are just finishing up their second week of distance teaching. Even though it can be a daily challenge, elementary school teachers across Keizer are continuing to find ways to teach and interact with their young students.

“The biggest challenge I’ve had has been connecting with every family, individually. It was so worth it, though. The conversations we have had have been so important,” said Hailee Young, a teacher at Forest Ridge Elementary. 

Elementary teachers have been using Google Meet for face-to-face instruction, sending out invitations or links via Seesaw or Google Classroom to their students to participate. 

“Some of the highlights have been seeing the students’ excitement to see and interact with each other on Google Meets, seeing the students’ independence and creativity sprout up as they figure things out too, and the support and camaraderie with colleagues as we navigate this ship,” said Cummings Elementary teacher Dena Archibald. 

The process of online teaching may be relatively simple for some teachers who have experience with technological instruction. For others, it isn’t always as easy.

“Learning the new technology has been the hardest part,” said Keizer Elementary teacher Terry Tucker. “The learning curve is pretty steep, especially since we’re having to learn the technology so quickly.”

While some may face the challenge of new technology, others are struggling with the lack of in-person interaction with their kids.

“The biggest challenge I am facing with distance learning is not being able to physically see my students every day. I miss their stories, their faces, their jokes, and their active participation. I also miss their hugs every morning,” said Gubser Elementary teacher Beth Gibbins.

Class assignments, activities and schedules are posted each Monday by 8 a.m. in Seesaw or Google Classroom and most teacher-initiated contact is delivered through an online format. 

For those students who are unable to participate in online learning, the district will provide an approximation of this learning via paper packet distribution at the grab-and-go meal locations in the area — which are at most of the schools in the district.

However, many teachers are having success with their students only doing work online.

“I am so thrilled that every single student in my class has done something in our Google Classroom. Many of them have completed everything so far,” Young said. 

For students who are unable to attend the designated face-to-face instruction times, teachers can record a meet distribution for those students. 

Even though there may have been mishaps for some educators, the support that teachers received through the process from parents and peers has helped them greatly. 

“The first week was rough. I made tons of errors and my poor families hung in there with me. This week seems to be going much smoother. I am thankful for my families’ patience and understanding,” Gibbins said. “As I learn more, I do my best to share my knowledge with my families. I feel like my families and my school staff are working together and doing a fabulous job of giving each other grace and support.”

Before week two of distance learning began, SKDS teachers, along with Superintendent Christy Perry, laid out a list of eight tips for parents on how they can encourage their kids through this process, including communicating, asking for help and giving grace.

Teachers want their kids to know, whatever is going on in the world, they are in their corner. 

“Being organized is crucial in order to continue learning the new things I need to know, plan lessons well and keep in touch with families for support and check-ins,” Archibald said.

“It’s all about helping students,” Tucker added.