Norfolk parents, teachers reflect on first month of 'Learning in Place'

Posted at 3:43 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 19:31:27-04

NORFOLK, Va. - It's been just about a month since school was last in session in the classroom.

The effects of coronavirus have caused a major hiccup in the way students learn and teachers teach. Teachers across the country have been forced to adapt their methods, including at Bay View Elementary in Norfolk.

Christopher Matthews is a fourth-grade science and social studies teacher. On any given week, he is molding the minds of about 80 students. It's a task that has posed some challenges over the past few weeks.

He says, "It's been a game of trying to figure out, 'What are the best instructional tools to use? What’s not gonna be too overwhelming for the parents? And what is going to be something that we could learn on the fly and implement?'"

Eric Krause is one of the many students Matthews sees on a daily basis. Eric is on the autism spectrum, and his mother tells News 3 that deadlines and routines work best in their house.

"Okay, we're going to get through, I don't know, 8 - we'll say 8 worksheets today - and then we'll sit down together and work through them," she says.

She says right now, they are using printed packets instead of relying solely on online instruction.

"[The school district is] just letting parents do what works for them because they understand that we're in a crisis, you know, a lot of things are going on at home."

Laura Baez-Akbik is the Principal of Bay View Elementary, and she echoes that sentiment understanding that each family's structure may be different.

"We are in constant like trial and error trying to figure out what works best," she says.

Baez-Akbik says there are guidelines for Learning in Place that students should complete to prepare them for next year. The district, however, is aware that access to certain resources can be difficult.

"We're meeting as educators to kind of figure out where the real technology divide is right now," she says. "[But we tell parents] this is the material you need to know in order to be successful the next year, so it is in your best interest to make sure that [your child is] engaging in this work."

As an educational tool, Matthews has been using Google Classroom. He says he is able to upload videos and worksheets and it makes connecting with students a little easier.

"The purpose of this essential learning isn’t to add another load to [parents'] plates; it’s mostly just to maintain some sense of normalcy for the children," he says.

Educators at Bay View Elementary are also focusing on physical and emotional well-being. Baez-Akbik has encouraged her teachers to have a two-way conversation with parents at least once a week to check in on the students.

At least for now, procedures seem to be working.

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