Students, parents, teachers, staff plunge into uncharted waterswebmaster May 13, 2020 0 COMMENTS
By Gail M. Williams
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent
Several MISD administrators and teachers took part in an online survey giving their point of view on teaching in the time of coronavirus. They were thorough and frank in providing unique insight into what was happening in their minds and hearts as they made the transition from a physical classroom to a cyberspace classroom. This is part two of a two-part series.
Watson Junior High
The COVID-19 crisis was a stark surprise to people around the world. No one in the collective memory of Muleshoe High School or Watson Junior High School can remember anything like it.
“The term ‘uncharted waters’ was used repeatedly,” said Holleye Hooten, Student Services Coordinator at Watson Junior High. “Administrators, teachers, support staff and parents rolled up their sleeves and began to work.”
The physical and mental wellbeing of students and families were the top concern.
“Throughout this time, the teachers have reported a need of a family or student, and we do our best to provide that need,” Hooten said. “I am glad to have helped in the passing out of meals to families as they drive though the pickup lines. MISD serves about 700 meals each day.”
With nearly constant coverage of the coronavirus on all news platforms, it’s impossible not to be at least a little fearful.
“We have been concerned during this time with the mental health of our students,” Hooten said. “We have had only a few reports of students being depressed and anxious about COVID-19. I have phoned parents and provided counselors that were able to call the students and families also.”
In some cases, technology has provided a way for students to communicate more openly.
“The students really like to email, maybe because it is not face-to-face and they can express their thoughts and questions,” Hooten said.
Hooten says the number one challenge is that not all students have the same resources at home.
“Some students have Internet and can work on Chromebooks, while some students do not and are working on packets,” she said. “Some parents work and cannot help their student until later. Some students have to have their packets delivered by bus because they do not have a way into town to pick up the packets. Teachers have to be innovative for meeting the needs of students with accommodations.”
Motivation is also a challenge.
“Some students are getting all of their work completed, but a few parents are struggling getting the students to work,” Hooten said. “Most of the parents readily admit that they cannot help with 8th grade math!
“Working parents have said they are concerned that their students are home alone, but they do not have any other options. It has been hard for the parents and students.”
On the positive side, the common desire to help students has caused parents and teachers to work together.
“Teacher and parents are communicating like never before,” Hooten said. “When teachers call parents every week asking about the families’ needs and safety, they become friends. A bond is created when both the school and parents are working together to benefit a child.”
And out of necessity, teachers have become more tech-savvy than they ever were before.
“They have become pros in Google Classroom,” Hooten said. “Many have said they will incorporate more technology when they are back in the classroom.”
Although Watson students missed out on most end-of-year events, they had already won the academic UIL contest held in November, and a virtual award ceremony is planned.
“Eighth graders look forward to the 8th grade walkover,” Hooten said. “On the last day of school, they walk out of the back door of Watson and walk to the high school with fellow students and parents cheering them on for their accomplishment. Therefore, to keep them from totally missing out on this, we are planning a ‘drive by’ walkover.”
Like most educators, Hooten is looking forward to seeing the students soon.
“I am optimistic that school will start in August and everyone will be safe. I’m praying it does and having HOPE!”
Muleshoe High School
When Muleshoe High School began Crisis Learning, John Gulley, Muleshoe High School Spanish, government and economics teacher, felt as though he was back at square one.
“As far as the methods are concerned, I’m a first-year teacher again,” Gulley said. “It has been a pretty steep learning curve to teach using the Internet as the main means of instruction.”
April Smith, Accounting, BIM and UIL instructor, said it has been a challenge not to see and interact with my students on a daily basis.
“I think the entire experience has become emotionally draining for both teachers and students as we have had to adapt to something we have never before experienced and have had to familiarize ourselves with a whole new way of educating and learning,” she said.
Gulley pointed out that there are some benefits to online teaching and learning, saying “In some ways the communication with students is more one-on-one using email.”
“Amazingly there have seemed to be very few technical difficulties throughout the process,” Smith said. “Our district administrators and school board members initially worked quickly and closely with Five Area to help get Internet access to many families and any other minor technical issues that have developed along the way, our technology department has quickly addressed them.”
Smith commented on the effect missing spring UIL events will have on seniors, saying, “Obviously, they did not have this one last opportunity this year to advance in any of the spring academic and speech and debate events to the UIL Academic State Meet to qualifying them for the state UIL scholarships — but nor did any other Texas high school students, so they were all on a level playing field.
“For those students who had already qualified by advancing to State in previous years or contests previously completed this school year, the application date has been extended from May 8 to May 20.”
Though the annual MHS Academic Awards Assembly was canceled, seniors will be honored and recognized academically during the graduation ceremony.
“When we return to the high school campus in the fall, we will have a ceremony to recognize the academic excellence of our underclassmen,” Smith said.
Smith says one of the biggest rewards of teaching during Crisis Learning has been gaining a true appreciation of the privilege of going to school each day and being surrounded by students and co-workers.
“I prefer to be in the classroom with the students so I can see their faces and get a true sense of their understanding of the concepts being taught. Being in the classroom also allows the students to ask real-time questions when they need clarification on something and get immediate feedback. I definitely miss this one-on-one and face-to-face interaction with my students!”