School leaders have no interest in turning ZCS into an online school district. However, our students’ abilities to learn with and through technology are a major area of responsibility for us. As we all know, though it pains those of us who see our kids growing up so fast, ZCS is working with and for youth being educated to live and succeed in the 2020s and beyond.
Our e-learning make-up days are underway (1 of 3 now complete with new content set for release on Monday, 3/17). Some teachers are working on lesson length as per parent feedback, and flexibility is our watch word to help accommodate special circumstances and student needs. Our teacher availability, elementary phone hotlines, and school computer lab availability will repeat for the Saturday, March 22 make-up.
Parent feedback has been appreciated on both philosophical and logistical grounds for loving and/or hating this innovation. I have shared widely about the rationale to allow teachers to introduce content and concepts before high stakes tests this spring—and to position ZCS for future real-time make-up days when weather cancellations occur. (And our goal to prepare youth well for e-learning they will get to and need utilize throughout K-12 schooling, college, and career is a given.)
A friend who lives in another Indiana e-learning pilot school district sent me a text recently. Her kids had a live e-learning day due to school cancellation, and she was harried and not happy. Her fourth grader was sailing along with e-lessons, but her second grader was not, and this busy mom was spiraling down toward hatred for e-learning.
Because I know her well, I could engage in advice-giving about the “bridging kids to greater independence” aims that are part of every good school district’s work with and for families. Like so many I know right here in Z, she is a great mom who felt the need to “be” the teacher during e-learning. Upon digesting my suggestion that she guide just a bit and then step back, her kids did well and one snag that was website-based was reported to the teacher for follow-up when school reconvened.
It wasn’t like school she knew from back in the day. It was not supposed to be. From experience, she knows that the teacher hat is often difficult to wear while simultaneously wearing the parent hat. Separating herself from the teacher role in her second-grade son’s mind was helpful. The course of things improved when she said supportive things to the child about the teacher’s efforts to provide the lesson and suggested (as a temporary guide, not as the teacher) that her son try the activity, post questions if needed, and follow-up at school the next day if the outcome wasn’t just right.
E-learning is going to move us forward as a school district. But it will require continued effort and collaboration. Even our youngest students will improve in self-advocacy by asking questions of their teachers when something isn’t working. Our capacity to deliver great, relevant, appropriately sized e-learning experiences/assignments is improving, too.
Students thrive in ZCS in large part because of the relationships our professional staff members foster with them. We will not diminish this foremost human strength. Our emerging new mantra in this regard is, “Use current technologies wherever possible to aid student growth, and never mistake these tools for the power and necessity of smart, caring, connected teachers.”
Superintendent of Schools