from Ashley | Buffalo, NY
The transition to distance learning has created barriers for students of all ages as well as their teachers, professors, and families. Teacher candidates in Dr. Julie Carter’s EDU 310, Teaching Social Studies in the Elementary School course at SUNY Buffalo State worked diligently to remove some of those barriers for students at Waterfront Elementary school. The teacher candidates’ major project was a five-lesson unit plan which integrated social justice as well as history content focused on the American Revolution.
Panic Sets In
As students and professors learned they would be moving to distance learning in the weeks to come, this invoked panic in many. Many teacher candidates wondered what impact these decisions would have on their education in the weeks to come. While professors did not have the answers to these questions immediately, Dr. Carter got to work determining how her students can stay connected with students to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship.
Within the next week, Dr. Carter worked out the changes to reflect learning in a virtual environment. While there were many changes, the course itself remained very much the same. Students would still be teaching the students at Waterfront Elementary about the American Revolution, but instead with online modules and activities. Dr. Carter searched for the best online learning tools and located Sutori, which is an incredibly easy to navigate tool that presents materials to students in a “feed.” As you scroll from the top to the bottom of the page, students will see all materials necessary for each day in chronological order. This format makes content delivery easily manageable for college students and easily accessible for students and their families.
Teacher candidates worked in three groups to create lessons about the American Revolution which integrated; mapping, arts, and literature. Collaboration looked a bit different than it may if we were still on campus, but it did not stop. Teacher candidates welcomed the use of Zoom video chatting platform in order to plan most of their lessons together. To stay in touch in between video calls, students used a platform called Slack which made accountability easy.
Before We Teach, We Bond
Before diving into learning about the American Revolution, as in any “classroom” setting it was essential that we create a socioemotional bond with the students. This was more important than ever during these particularly stressful times. Student volunteers created lessons based around socioemotional awareness and managing emotions during these stressful times, which showed students examples of coping strategies for staying safe and busy within their homes.
Because students would be completing these modules independently, it was more important than ever that teacher candidates locate a variety of resources to teach students. A few of these resources include interactive mapping, text, videos, and drawing activities. It was also important for teacher candidates to ensure that their lessons would be accessible to students with varying abilities. It is unrealistic to expect that every student will do every assignment during a time like this. While recognizing this, teacher candidates also believe this project can be a great tool for parents as they try to navigate their children’s distance learning. By clicking one link, the student will be brought to a series of engaging activities.
As a teacher candidate pushed into distance learning and teaching, it was easy to feel overwhelmed with the task at hand. For so long I have relied very heavily on face-to-face instruction. How could I ever make distance learning work? It wasn’t easy, but when I figured it out, it was a great feeling! As I come to the end of my undergraduate career within the next year, I will be grateful for this opportunity. This short period of discomfort allowed me to grow more than I could have imagined as a teacher candidate. I am now aware of the resources which are available to facilitate learning and communication from a distance. This experience will make me a more flexible and competent educator in the twenty-first century classroom. While the situation which led to this change has been less than ideal, I have grown tremendously as a teacher candidate.
Ashley Bohne is an undergraduate student in the Exceptional Education program at Buffalo State College. Ashley also serves as a PDS Student Representative. Following graduation in Spring of 2021, Ashley will begin the Literacy Specialist program. Ashley has a particular passion for working with students with special needs in a variety of settings.
Hearing from others can be the antidote to the overwhelm and stress you feel as you navigate homeschooling. Longstanding teachers, retired educators, brand new homeschooling parents and guardians, budding teacher candidates...we want to hear from you! Please contact us to share your wisdom, struggles, support, ideas, advice, empowerment, and inspiration.