Cincinnati public kindergarten students challenged by remote learning

Kindergarten students in Jaumall Davis’ class were supposed to log back into Google Meets on Wednesday at 11:20 a.m. for math.

When the meeting started, Davis had only one student, Winter, on screen.

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“Hey, Winter, welcome! Davis said into her computer, where Winter was sitting in front of a beach background she found in the app settings. Davis, alone in his class at Oyler School, prompted the lonely student to launch into some warm-up questions. “It’s easy, sticky, lemony,” he said.

Some teachers are working from home during remote school, but Davis said he preferred to be in his class in Lower Price Hill.

Davis greeted each student individually as they entered her virtual classroom. Derrick’s mom said he took a nap during lunch break, so Derrick was still a little groggy while logging on. Other students whistled and made faces near their front cameras after joining.

Cincinnati Public Schools went virtual last week after officials said there were major staffing shortages across the district. Other local school districts canceled school days, walked away or added temporary mask mandates in the weeks following winter vacation, citing similar issues. More than half of the region’s public schools were closed on Friday due to the COVID-19 disease, staff shortages and weather conditions.

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The trickiest part of virtual learning for Davis was playing “producer” in addition to teaching kids, he said. He constantly switched between the Google Meet and PowerPoint windows, pausing throughout the lesson to mute and unmute students.

“Give Mr. Davis a minute here,” he repeated as he reached for the right tab.

Some children have had their own technical difficulties during class: difficulty finding the mute button or getting to the right homepage to see Davis’s screen, removing their headphones in the middle of class, connectivity that led to 5-year-old frozen faces on Davis’ laptop.

Non-technical challenges also arose.

“Claudia, where are your glasses?” Davis said near the end of the lesson. “Claudia, go get your glasses.

He encouraged children to use their fingers to solve simple addition problems. A student also used his mother’s fingers when he missed his on a count of 12.

Davis said some of the disruptions were welcome: meeting her students’ parents, siblings, cousins ​​and pets.

Winter’s little brother and dad walked into his frame to say hello before signing off. The class also got to virtually meet Cinsere’s new little sister.

“That’s my favorite part,” Davis told The Enquirer. “It cracks me up.”

Throughout the 40-minute lesson, no more than 10 of Davis’ 22 students had tuned in.

“I want them here”

After math class, Davis said her throat was dry. He feels like he spends as much energy teaching remotely as he does in person.

Davis said about half of his students have logged on since the district was moved away last week — which he said was “better than I expected.” Some of his parents work and cannot be there to help their children connect, he said. Others have connectivity issues; sometimes he “loses” students throughout the day.

Attendance rates have varied across the district during remote learning, school board member Mike Moroski told The Enquirer.

“The attendance reports I’ve seen haven’t been bad. And some have been good,” he said. “And there have been some schools, I think overall, where attendance has been better than it has been since we came back from the break (when classes were in person).”

Parents and students in the community expressed both positive and negative experiences with virtual learning. Some noted the distractions at home made it difficult, while others appreciate the one-on-one attention they can receive from a distance. The consensus among learning experts and educators, however, remains that the best and safest option for students is in-person learning.

“We firmly believe that the best education for students is face-to-face with their teacher,” Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, said earlier this month. “We also need to understand that just being in school is not necessarily a good education if half the staff are away.

Davis said he will likely have to return to the classes he took remotely once his students are back in the classroom. Some students never logged into his virtual classroom, so they will be late, and others who were there may have had a little too much help from their parents to complete their homework.

“I want them here,” Davis said. “I fear they will regress.”

This is Davis’ 18th year of teaching and his second year at the Oyler School. He always taught at Cincinnati Public, he said.

School principal Michael Allison said Davis “always has the best interests of the children at heart” and has high expectations for each of his students, who must learn to read in kindergarten.

Walking through the childless halls of Oyler School on Wednesday, Allison wore a Madhatter Baseball sweatshirt and tie-dye face mask.

Students will need to “reacclimate” when they return on Monday, Allison said. He went through the same period of transition last year. Each student has their own specific needs, necessitating a full staff — something the district said it didn’t have in the weeks following winter vacation.

Acting Superintendent Tianay Amat sent a message to families in the district on Tuesday affirming the district’s commitment to in-person learning starting next week.

“We look forward to being back in person and appreciate all that our teachers and staff, families, partners and students have done to ensure learning continues while we have been in our learning model. remotely,” Amat wrote.

More district-wide closures?

On Saturday, the school board pledged to only travel remotely from school to school. That was protocol before last week’s district-wide decision.

Moroski said he wouldn’t predict what might happen in the future, but is uncomfortable saying there will never be remote learning in the district again.

“We may not make the decision to shut down the whole district like we did a week and a half ago, I think we can say that,” he said. “But there is a scenario where we can end up closing school by school until every school is remote.”

On Saturday, district administrators presented a health and safety update to the board, noting that early evidence showed teacher attendance and substitute fill rates had improved during virtual learning.

Davis said her children wanted to go to school. He could tell some were disappointed to jump into virtual learning last week on their last day in person.

“You can see they know, like, ‘Oh man, we’re not coming back here tomorrow,'” Davis said.

Davis wants them in the classroom, too: to feel safe, to eat a good meal — and to learn.

Moreover, the virtual school is exhausting. “Even for me, three hours is a long time,” Davis said. His students are expected to be back face to face with him on Monday.

About Marion Alexander

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