By Joanna Douglas

Within the span of one school week, my colleagues and I planned and implemented our “virtual learning” environment in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. I have never felt more of a sense of teamwork and cooperation than I did during those five days of preparation. Our administrators designed a lesson plan template that we used to plan three initial weeks of “virtual learning,” and as we left the building on Friday, we were ready to face these unchartered waters.

For Grades 4-8, the previously implemented Google Classroom has been a lifesaver.  The teachers can meet with the students via Google Hangout, assignments can be posted daily and handed in to the teachers, and every student in those grades has an Apple laptop provided by the district through our 1:1 technology initiative, so every student can be a part of this new learning environment.

For the younger students, in Grades Pre-K-3, Seesaw Schools has served as a valuable resource for parents, teachers, and students. This program was initially implemented in the school during the 2018-2019 school year, so most teachers and parents are familiar with it. In Seesaw, teachers can send messages, translated if needed, to the parents. Assignments can be given to individual students or to the whole class, and video messages can be sent.  Teachers may also create their own assignments to pair with their lessons. In two days, Seesaw came up with Home Access Codes to send the students home with, in order to make the sign-in process less difficult.

Every teacher that I’ve spoken to has said that they miss being with their students in their classrooms. I know that is especially true for me. I love my one-on-one time with my kindergarteners and not being able to see them every day makes me sad.  I worry about being able to finish getting them ready for first grade, I worry about their parents and their jobs, I worry about who’s watching them, and if they have enough to eat, and I worry that our time together is over. I’m sure I’m not alone in these thoughts.

The show of support through calls, texts, emails, and tweets has been overwhelming.  Our parents have posted, “Hats off to our teachers and school staff. You guys do an amazing job.  Thank you for all of the hard work you’ve done in recent weeks, and will continue to do, to prepare our kids for their virtual classrooms,” and “This may be new to us, but we are strong and we’ve got this!”

When a community comes together and works as a team, they can do things that may seem impossible.  We have done this time and time again in our small “Beach” community.

Due to our district’s preparation, our partnership with the parents, and our relationships with our students, the transition to “virtual learning” has gone smoothly thus far.  The only piece that’s missing is that human connection that we as teachers so greatly appreciate.  We miss our morning greetings and their smiles, but for now, we will continue to do our jobs through the many uses of technology available to us and to our students, and we look forward to the day when we can return to our classrooms and connect with our students, face to face again. #BeachAtHome #WeRBeach #BeachAtOurBest.

Joanna Douglas is a kindergarten teacher in the Point Pleasant Beach School District. She is the president of the Point Pleasant Beach Education Association. Douglas previously wrote about Seesaw as a tool for communication for njea.org and she was featured in a back to school story about preparing her classroom. 

Remote/online communication and instruction tools are subject to privacy rules. NJEA members use of these resources should be done with the prior approval of and in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations and employer policies. NJEA does not endorse any of the mentioned tools.

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