On March 13, parents, educators, and students across the state of Ohio received troubling news. The COVID-19 virus was making its way across the United States, and schools would need to close in an effort to mitigate the spread and keep children safe. For Amy Nelson and Brianna Sluss, JB Akron fifth grade intervention specialists, the experience served as an eye-opener for the teachers.
“I took for granted being able to see them every day, hug them, give them high fives. It’s been a challenge. It’s been difficult,” said Nelson.
During the COVID-19 crisis, Nelson and Sluss implemented Google Classroom and Zoom to deliver virtual lessons. They also use Screencastify, a screen recording software, for more interactive sessions. For the teachers, one of the biggest challenges of using technology to communicate with students is talking into a camera instead of being with the children face-to-face. They say it requires thinking ahead and anticipating outcomes.
Nelson and Sluss anticipated that distance learning would be a struggle for their students, who are so accustomed to the routine and structure of a normal day at JB Akron. They said this experience has helped students to operate more independently rather than simply feeding off peers and teachers. Even students who struggled at the beginning have learned to be more flexible than ever, and enjoy many aspects of distance learning. They especially enjoy seeing their classmates’ faces, and showing off their homes and pets to their teachers and therapists.
Nelson and Sluss are extremely proud of their students for their flexibility and adaptability.
“It took a lot of adapting along the way. Our students have really grown into it. They have a new kind of normal routine,” said Sluss.
“It is truly amazing,” added Nelson. “They have been pushed and challenged in new ways and they are taking it on. They are not alone. We are here every day. We’re here to help and answer questions and get through it. We are always here for them and we are always rooting for them.”
Of course, Nelson and Sluss look forward to teaching live and in person again. However, they acknowledge that one silver lining as a result of teaching from home during the COVID-19 crisis has been a renewed appreciation for technology - an appreciation they will take back to the classroom with them.
“It has definitely pushed me to grow in ways that I never anticipated,” said Sluss. “It’s been a huge learning experience. It’s been really amazing to see our community rise up.”