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  • Last modified 146 days ago (April 29, 2020)

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Teachers adapting remote learning as year wraps up

Staff writer

Marion County schools’ final week of classes is just around the corner, but Marion Spanish teacher Luis Medina said one of a teacher’s most important roles is to provide structure during a crisis that closed classrooms.

“Their lives are so varied that taking them away from school, which has a setup for them, can actually be disruptive,” he said. “I figure something that will give them structure, even though it may be repetitive, that’s the case for language learning. With new language acquisition you have to do repetition.”

While many of his peers at Marion High School are using video streaming resources, Medina said his focal point is helping students learn Spanish by using language modules.

Medina has a number of Spanish resources available for use online. Using frame models, which require students to associate an image and proper English definition with a Spanish word, and then using the word in a sentence, is one of his preferred methods.

“I want them to show me they’re doing the work and think a bit more outside the application,” he said.

Repetition is still key, and so is finding a balance between challenging students and pushing them too far, Medina said.

“Although they may not like it, I think that brings what they need out of the language acquisition,” he said. “I could give them readings for it, but I’m not there to help.”

Peabody-Burns middle and high schools are distance learning Monday through Thursday in online sessions that can run up to 30 minutes. Science teacher Wayne Rziha said he and other teachers often don’t need the full time.

While it has been a large adjustment, some students are actually improving outside the classroom since there is now greater individualized learning, Rziha said.

“There are some students who prefer to be online and engaged because they’re by themselves,” he said. “They don’t have to worry about their peers so much; they’re showing up and engaging in the online portion much more than in class. However, there is the other side of the pendulum where there are students who thrive in the classroom.”

Rziha is using a mix of video conferencing and recorded videos, and written assignments.

Written assignments require extra work now, though, because teachers have to make sure each one is converted to a usable format, Rziha said.

“It becomes more difficult to apply content practically because each student’s living situation is different,” he said. “It relies a lot more on conceptual or theoretical application.”

Marion teachers can decide what direction to take with final tests, or whether to have them at all.

“If anything, it’s something I’m going to approach as a way to help them, not to hurt them,” Medina said. “Say a student has a lower average. Something that may help them is not to hand them a grade, but certainly something to challenge what they’ve learned.”

Offering tests for many classes is difficult because teachers don’t have the technology available to them, Rziha said.

“It’s difficult to have any kind of full testing because it’s not monitored or moderated,” he said. “We don’t have the software to have locked-screen testing. A lot of the grade for me, and some other teachers, is becoming more based on performance and participation with the assumption that circumstances are not optimal.”

Medina, whose wife is Marion’s high school counselor, said he appreciates the opportunity they both have to bounce ideas off someone who works with young people.

“She gets a lot more feedback from me,” he said. “ ‘What do you think the kids would like,’ structure, or graduation.”

If Kansas’ schools don’t reopen in the fall, it would provide new challenges, but teachers would at least have more time to prepare, Medina said.

“You’ll have to change your entire model, basically into online courses at a university,” he said. “You take that model where everything will be given like that, and that’s the thing, it doesn’t work the same for your high school students.

“I’d probably be in contact with professionals from other schools.”

Last modified April 29, 2020

 

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