The coronavirus pandemic dramatically altered the education landscape this spring. Beginning March 19, all Stanislaus County school districts – including Denair Unified — were forced to suspend on-campus classes and move to a distance learning model. Today, in the last of a three-part series, we talk with a Denair teacher about distance learning, some of the challenges and the lessons that can be learned.
Teacher: Roxanna Lagos
School: Denair Middle School
Grade/subject: Seventh- and eighth-grade math
What does a typical school day for you look like now? How do you organize your time?
A typical school day for me starts at 8 a.m. The first thing I do is post my daily example videos for seventh- and eighth-grade on my teacher Instagram (@mslagosdms). I then get my own three children up and ready for the day. At 10 a.m., I host my hourlong morning Zoom meeting. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., I am available to students and parents by email, text, phone, Instagram and personal Zoom meeting. During these hours, I also help my own children with their distance learning, do general household chores and take my own classes for my master’s degree. At 5 p.m., I host my evening Zoom meeting. At 6 p.m., I make dinner for my family, do any additional household chores, work on my own homework and try to carve out non-academic time with my children. I try to be in bed by 11:30 each night. My main way of organizing my time is to have a rough outline of what I want my day to look like, but to remain extremely flexible.
What are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make?
The biggest adjustment for me has been work-life balance. Prior to the Great Quarantine, I didn’t take work home with me. I completed all of my to-do’s on campus. When I left for the day, I mentally left my work on campus. So, conducting work from my home has made me feel like I work constantly. Additionally, I’m planning for next year, like most teachers. I know that this is temporary, so I don’t feel very affected by it right now.
Are you presenting group lessons or spending time online one-on-one with students?
I provide twice-daily, hourlong, Zoom meetings where students, and parents, can drop in as needed. I provide one-on-one Zoom meetings by appointment through my website. Sometimes, I contact students who I can see from their work didn’t understand something and request that they meet one-on-one. I host a just-for-fun Zoom meeting on Saturdays at 3 p.m. Students and their family or friends can log in and play two non-academic Kahoot! games. I offer prizes to the winners, which are shipped to their home from Amazon.com.
What are your most effective tools to connect with students?
So far, the most effective way I’ve connected with my students is through pre-recorded example videos. My distance learning plan includes daily math warm-ups for each grade. Over the weekend, I record videos where I demonstrate how to solve the first problem of each day. I then post all of the videos for the week on my class website so students can work at their own pace. I post the daily video on my teacher Instagram, as I mentioned, as well. I feel that these videos have made learning more accessible and have allowed students to work at a pace that works for them and their families.
Are there things you’re learning now that you’ll be able to apply in your classrooms when school resumes?
The most significant things I have learned have been about my students and their lives and interests. My first week of Zoom meetings were a happy blur of students introducing me to their pets, giving tours of their homes and letting me into their lives. I feel more connected to them as people and I think that this will positively affect our relationships next school year.
What are your biggest concerns about students’ ability to learn?
My biggest concerns are about how this whole situation has affected them on a personal level and how that will affect their ability to learn. No one learns in a vacuum. Everything that happens around them or to them has an impact on their learning. As teachers, we have a plan to address learning shortfalls that have been created by this situation. Reteaching, reviewing and adapting learning is part of being a teacher and is something we will all adjust for. What we cannot help or change is a family’s lack of employment, health care or housing. That keeps me up at night.
Do you have a favorite distance learning story to share?
My evening Zoom meeting is usually my least attended. I have one student who always attends even though he has only asked for help once. He keeps his camera off and his microphone muted, but he’s there. He always makes sure to type a short goodbye or expression of thanks in the chat before he logs out. I haven’t asked him why he logs in even though he doesn’t need help and he doesn’t socialize. It really doesn’t matter. I’m happy to be able to provide whatever it is he is getting from the meeting every day.