Distance Learning is the official term, but many have called it home schooling or online learning. No matter what you call it, it generally hasn’t been what anyone wanted to be doing at the end of this school year. No matter how hard teachers, staff, principals, IT folks, district administrators et. al. tried, it just wasn’t the same as being in school, face to face with students.
In Minneapolis, many students didn’t have electronic devices at home and/or didn’t have internet service. Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) delivered about 18,000 computers or iPads, and 2,000 internet hot spots to students and families. This did not always go smoothly because MPS has many students who are homeless or highly mobile, and a large number of families for whom English isn’t their first language, parents didn’t have phones, etc. Also, over 50 percent of MPS students receive free or reduced lunches (the percentage is higher here on the Northside) so making sure children had food to make up for not getting breakfast and lunch at school became a priority. As of this writing MPS has distributed over a million meals to students and families.
Even with getting the electronics and food distribution figured out, this has not been easy for anyone. Teachers and staff were learning to teach differently and having virtual classroom meets. Students were missing many of the individual supports they would normally be getting in school. Parents were frustrated because they were suddenly having to help their children with their school work or devices, while also going to jobs, working from home or dealing with toddlers or babies at the same time. If families had more than one student they also had to often figure out schedules of which student needed to be online with their teacher when.
For educators like myself who teach Pre-K students, it really isn’t the same. Small children learn a lot through the play activities and the vocabulary interactions that goes along with those activities. They also learn best with hands-on manipulatives for things like counting, sorting, patterns.
And, of course, high school seniors have been greatly impacted by the shutdown of schools. They missed out on rites of passage like prom, graduation ceremonies and parties. Both North High and Henry High have been trying to find ways to make their seniors feel special.
Most of all, teachers, support staff and students all missed the human interaction with each other. A number of Northside school staffs held “parades” around the community to show their support of their students and families.