Waiting in a carefully distanced line outside of Costco, crossing the road to avoid walking too close to neighbors on the sidewalk, sewing or purchasing face masks to wear outside the home… the world has quickly adjusted to a new “normal”. Amidst the many changes to society, Julie Billiart Schools’ Intervention Specialists are weaving threads of consistency into the lives of children with learning differences.
JB began distance learning, an education method in which lessons and classes are either broadcast or conducted through virtual correspondence, in March as a result of the mandatory stay-at-home order and school closings surrounding COVID-19.
While COVID-19 fears mounted across the United States, Julie Billiart Schools prepared for the chance that classes could be disrupted in some way. Still, the announcement that all Ohio schools would close came as a shock to many.
“It was a little scary when we heard the announcement,” said Josh Mozzocco, a seventh grade Intervention Specialist at JB Lyndhurst. “To completely move our lessons online in two weeks was a feat, but we did it.”
All JB kindergarteners receive an email address that will follow them through their years at JB. As they advance into middle school and junior high, the students begin to use their email addresses to submit work, log in to approved education platforms, and correspond with their teachers. This technological preparedness has aided both the teachers and students.
Naturally, distance learning looks a little different for each child, each teacher, and each grade level. Kindergarten teachers are leveraging lessons in Google Classroom and take-home materials, while some of the older grades engage in interactive video lessons.Julie Billiart Schools therapists are offering virtual sessions and practice materials for students. Every teacher is committed to supporting their students through this.
“There is a silver lining to all of this. None of us would have wished for this situation, but it’s forcing our students to learn a very important life skill,” said Mozzocco. “Even five years ago, this would have been a huge thing to make a reality. But it’s happening, and our students are doing great.”
For Mozzocco, a typical day of distance learning starts with a video of that morning’s announcements and the Pledge of Allegiance. He talks with almost all of the junior high students every morning over Google Hangouts video or chat platform. He answers their questions and provides a sense of normalcy.
“Our main goal as junior high teachers is to Fill Buckets FIRST to make sure the kids are safe and happy, then help them with some fun school work,” he said.
After chatting with teachers, students engage in a blend of live, virtual classes, interactive sessions, and autonomous lessons. Each day, they’re assigned work in Google Classroom. Students are encouraged to use good time management, a skill they’ve been building for years at Julie Billiart Schools, to submit their work every Friday by 5 p.m. On Fridays, Junior High offers office hours for live help.
“We are also teaching online social etiquette and online social skills,” said Mozzocco. “We have to coach them and help shape behaviors, just like in regular school.”
JB educators recognize that this is one more hurdle for children who learn differently, but that with a foundation of classroom education and a blend of freshly practiced technological and social skills, the JB community can get through this together.
“Our kids deal with diversity every day. Diversity is a part of our education,” said Mozzocco. “This is just one more lesson for us, and we’re figuring it out.”