As part of Parent Appreciation Day, we at Read Fort Worth reached out to Fort Worth ISD parents to gain insight on their remote learning experiences. Parent have always been their children’s first teachers, and many took a leading role in helping teach their “students” from home.
While this at-home learning environment wasn’t always easy and had its share of challenges, parents and caregivers stepped up to keep their kids on track academically and safe during this unprecedented time. FWISD parent Ken Kuhl, for example, has a child at South Hi Mount Elementary and stressed the importance of creating a “private environment” for learning.
“Helping them ‘create’ this environment, whether it’s in their bedroom, a corner in the living room, or at the kitchen table, will make it their own space with their own things,” he explained. “If parents can then eliminate distractions form this space (siblings, TV, and themselves), it will make it much easier for the student to participate and take ownership of the experience.”
Though parents have differing views on remote learning and expressed varying concerns to the end of a challenging school year, there’s something just about everyone can agree on.
“I’m looking forward to resuming traditional school life!” exclaimed Kristine Williams, who has two children at Waverly Park Elementary.
We’ve collected thoughts below from several FWISD parents on topics related to remote learning. FWISD has an online learning survey that’s currently available here.
Ken Kuhl: Hazel (South Hi Mount Elementary/1st-Dual Language)
Claudia D. Palacios: Miguel (North Side High/9th) and Elizabeth (JP Elder Middle/7th)
Jennifer Ledbetter: Taylor (Paschal High/9th) and Madison (McLean Middle/7th)
Kristine Williams: Samantha (Waverly Park Elementary/4th) and Wyatt (Waverly Park/2nd)
Ada Selph: Nicolas (South Hi Mount Elementary/3rd) and Italia Elena (South Hi Mount/1st)
How did the FWISD online curriculum meet your child’s needs?
Kuhl: Hazel’s teacher, Ms. Aguilera, was able to create engaging content to present via ‘virtual classroom’ platforms (Zoom & Google Meet) to educate and enrich her. These virtual classes were an effective way to allow our daughter to remain connected to her classmates, teacher, and school. It was less about the learning and more about being a touchstone of normalcy during a confusing and distressing time for these first graders.
Williams: Overall, it did the job. I felt it was appropriate curriculum for their stage of the year. Some of it was ‘easy,’ some of it was challenging, so it was overall a good mix. Some of the apps were more difficult to use than others (Pearson!!).
Ledbetter: The online curriculum provided an adequate band aid for this unexpected disruption of this school year, but isn’t set up as a long term solution. The Edgenuity seems geared to teach on a broad basis. Both of my girls turned to their own teachers for specific instruction.
Explain your involvement in their daily learning.
Selph: My involvement in their daily learning was sitting with them every day for least two hours after they finished Zoom meetings. On Sunday night, I printed their assignments for the week and separate by day with instruction and worksheet. Some assignments have excellent instruction by the teacher, but other ones need more so we look on internet. Most of my son’s assignments were online apps like Prodigy, XtraMath, Pathblazer, and STEMscopes. During time he was used the computer to do his work, I’d go through my daughter’s assignment and explain what she needed to do and use video examples that her teacher provided. And we switch to my daughter using the computer and work on my son’s assignment.
Palacios: As my children are older, they required less assistance from me to complete assignments. The assistance we provided was more explaining what was needed to be done, when directions/lessons were unclear, and with communicating back and forth with teachers.
Williams: I stayed nearby and was available for questions. I reviewed all of their work before they submitted it. I helped them understand the directions if they were confused. I also read all of the lessons myself to ensure they were completely everything that was required. If technical issues arose, I troubleshooted with the teacher.
What were the challenges with learning online and how did you overcome them?
Selph: Having conflict between one computer for two kids. Two Zoom meeting sometimes three (my son having speech class) and sign in to ClassLink for app assignment. We were very fortunate to have other electronics around house like my personal tablet. Sometimes we end using the computer for my son since most his work was online and my daughter on the tablet.
Williams: Some of the apps were difficult to use if you weren’t on a laptop. My kids worked primarily on tablets, but I would let them use my laptop for writing assignments because it was faster than touch typing on a screen. Some apps, like Pearson, wouldn’t let you input entries via touch screen. Sometimes the teachers would accidentally send the ‘publish’ time incorrectly, so the assignments weren’t available. We had a few instances where the online test marked answers incorrect that were actually correct. We also had some issues with Achieve 3000. In all cases, I reached out directly to the teachers.
Palacios: Scheduling was difficult even with Wi-Fi, space and technology for us all. The days ran longer.
How can parents and students be better prepared for remote learning in the future?
Williams: Figure out a rhythm/schedule and stick to it. I found it helpful to do all the week’s assignments for a particular topic at once because the child’s brain was already ‘in that mode’ and it gave them a lot of concentrated practice. This works particularly well for things like math and science. So, rather than doing each subject daily, we did all reading/writing/grammar/social studies on one day and all math/science on another. The morning of the next day we’d do specials: spelling, and typing (spelling and typing were not required – just extras for us). We personally chose to knock everything out in 2.5 days and then have an extended break.
Kuhl: Remote learning can be fun and engaging, but the social and personal aspects of the ‘school day’ experience is hard, if not impossible, to replicate. And this absence can be difficult for some students. We tried to mitigate this by arrange one-on-one or small group video chats/meetings with some of her classmate friends outside of class.
Palacios: Good and accurate communication is always a must.
Any other thoughts or ideas you want to pass on?
Kuhl: Hazel’s teacher had a special lunchtime class meeting every other week that did not include any instruction. This was extremely useful in allowing the students to reconnect, to share their current learning environment, and to humanize and personalize the difficult time they were all experiencing. During a regular school day, there are many opportunities for social interaction (not just recess, but between classes, at the locker, in the cafeteria), but almost all of these are absent in the online classroom experience. Any way that teachers and the District can seek to replace or emulate these social interactions is extremely valuable to the mental health and well-being of our kids!
Ledbetter: Online/remote learning will never equal in school instruction. It can serve as a supplement, but should never be a replacement.