Remote Learning: How Are Grades K-12 Faring? | New Hampshire Public Radio

Remote Learning: How Are Grades K-12 Faring?

Apr 17, 2020

Credit Needpix

It’s been one month since schools in New Hampshire were shuttered to stem the spread of coronavirus, and now, they'll be closed for the remainder of the academic year.

Since then, teachers, parents, and administrators have been working to implement remote learning for students in kindergarten through high school. Teachers have had to re-work their curricula while coordinating with parents about students' academic needs.

Meanwhile, students are feeling the pressure, and many are already weeks behind on their schoolwork. In the first hour of our special on how N.H. students are adjusting to remote learning during stay-at-home orders, we talk with teachers, parents, and administrators about how it has been going for them and what changes might be made in the future.

Air date: Monday, April 20, 2020, from 9-10 a.m.


GUESTS:

This show was produced by fellow Jane Vaughan. 

Transcript:

This is computer-generated transcript and may contain errors. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy, and this is The Exchange. This is not home-schooling, it's crisis teaching is how one New Hampshire educator describes the remote learning environment kids and teachers have been engaged in for the past month and now will be for the rest of the academic year. Today, on The Exchange, it's a two part special on remote learning. First hour, we focus on kindergarten through high school. Then college students, how they and higher education leaders are trying to adapt to all the disruptions and uncertainty. We have three guests. Liz Kirwan is with us. She's an English learner teacher at Manchester West High School. Also Martha Dalrymple, fourth grade teacher at Deerfield Community School. And Eric Chase, principal at Woodsville High School. And all of you, I want to ask you all to just give a grade to remote learning so far, how it's going at your school? And then we'll definitely get into the details. And I know our listeners will have a lot to say as well. So, Martha, you first again, fourth grade teacher. How's it going for you?

Martha Dalrymple:
I'd say it's going B plus level. It's going pretty well for me. All things considered, we are running with the flow and we have to be flexible in order to deal with the new waves. But I think my students are very flexible. The families have been really responsive and letting me know what's working and what's not. Which is really important to all of this. And as teachers, we're always learning and looking for better ways to do things as is. So it's in our nature to respond to situations the best we can and try and make a positive.

Laura Knoy:
B plus. That's actually not bad given all the challenges of, you know, reaching kids technically and physically and so forth. How about you, Liz?

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah, I can mirror what Martha said. I definitely feel that at my school we are also functioning at a high B, B plus where we were able to respond to remote learning pretty quickly. And all of our teachers were, you know, willing to do additional professional development in order to understand how to roll out learning online and to utilize different platforms. And we've also been working really hard to connect with our students and our families. And, you know, utilizing new advisory models in order to make sure that we're connecting with every student. No one is falling through the cracks. So I think that it's been good in that perspective where we're really coming together as a community.

Laura Knoy:
So, Eric, how about you? What are your teachers telling you that you know how they're feeling about this? And what grade would you give this whole experiment?

Eric Chase:
Well, I think I'd be on the solid B plus line. I might even bump it up to an A-minus a little. The key point is to be able to connect with these kids every day. And my teachers are telling me we have a means of tracking, that we are, in fact, having contact with kids on a daily basis. You know, if we don't hear from them for a couple days, we aggressively go out and try and find them again. But I think considering how how little time there was to roll this out, it's gone remarkably well.

Laura Knoy:
Well, everything has happened so fast. You're right. And what are your teachers telling you, Eric, that is most challenging for them?

Eric Chase:
Well, it's the complete change of delivery of instruction. You know, you're talking some of my teachers have 30 years experience and all of a sudden there's this technological wall between them, the students and all of those techniques that you picked up in terms of classroom management, in terms of delivering content, are now going through a completely filter, which they may or may not have a level of comfort with.

Laura Knoy:
And do you have reasonable Internet access? Eric in Woodsville, I know that's been a concern and we've heard from a lot of parents who say they do not have great Internet access. And so online learning has been challenging. How about in Woodsville, Eric?

Eric Chase:
That's that's very true. And Woodsville, particularly as you get to the to the outer areas of the community. You know, you may be last in the last in the line of your cable company and you get a lot of dropping out and we try and deal with those students. The materials sending, you know, books, homes and worksheets home, just trying to get them out the same material if their Internet does not work properly. While superintendents also worked with the local cable companies to get Internet into homes that didn't have it before. At no charge to the family. So. But there are barriers but they've been overcome rather regularly.

Laura Knoy:
So Liz. How about you and Martha, too? Liz, you first. What's the most challenging part of all this for you? I'm guessing you can relate to some of the things that Eric just said.

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah, definitely. And I think that, you know, I have a unique perspective because I specifically work with students and families who are learning English as their second or third or fourth language. And so, you know, the personal touch that we have in the classroom where we're working with students and helping to support them is so difficult to reproduce it through, you know, through remote learning. And so one of the things that have been the most difficult for me is just ensuring that I'm doing everything that I can in order to to engage the students. You know, I'm working with students who have been in the United States for less than one month. And so I really need to be mindful of what I'm assigning for them and adapting so that they can engage within the curriculum.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Liz, so do these students who I'm so struck by what you just said have been in the United States for a very short time. Do they even have the technical capacity to learn remotely?

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah, that's a great question. So we work really closely with our families when they enroll in school. And now even more so with remote learning to ensure that they get in touch with Comcast because Comcast offers the Internet Essentials program where students who have free and reduced lunch can get the Internet for $10 at home. And so when we have families come in and we and if they qualify, we make sure that we connect them with that immediately. And so even students who have been here for a very short amount of time, we do our best to make sure they have the Internet at home.

Laura Knoy:
So, Martha, if you had to decide, described the biggest challenge for you with all this, what would that be?

Martha Dalrymple:
I think, you know, engagement technology are definitely some of the big players, but, you know, as a fourth grade teacher, so much of what we do is just the social connection and learning how to socially interact with each other. And I think the kids are really missing the most. The social interaction with each other on video chats. They'll say, you know, I miss hugging people in person. I don't want to see you over a video call. I want to see you in person. And all of the teachers completely agree. The hardest part of this is not seeing our students Face-To-Face.

Laura Knoy:
Well, and I did want to ask all of you about the social and emotional side of this. And certainly the messaging that I'm getting from the Concord School District is they're concerned about that as well. Here's an email that we received from Susan last week. Susan says, It's been hard for my daughter to adjust to this, quote, routine. She dislikes it a lot and is having a hard time to finish some of the assignments. The first couple of weeks helped her to fall behind and we're trying to catch up. Now, she's been consistently logging into the Google classroom, but I have to supervise her. Otherwise, she won't do it consistently. I'm lucky I can work remotely and be able to have the flexibility to be here and help her when she needs it. This situation has also helped her to get depressed because she can't be with friends. Some she doesn't want to leave her room and I'm getting concerned about that. Susan says, by the way, she's 13 from the Portsmouth school system. So that's from Susan. And then just this morning, we got an e-mail from an anonymous listener who says, I have a high school in my home who went from three sports honors, society gold scholars, straight A's to suicidal over virtual learning and isolation. Eric. These are heartbreaking. And we've heard other comments from listeners about just the emotional aspects of this for kids. And then then they're so down they don't even want to do the work. What are you seeing, hearing, feeling in Woodsville? Eric?

Eric Chase:
Well, we're getting much, many of the same reports. So I have had students calling in, saying they're just too depressed to work. I've got both of my counselors calling out to kids every day, checking in with the school nurses doing the same thing. And know the the isolation is really getting to the kids. Also, as you know, in week three or four of this, I can recall the motivation to do the work is starting to wane. Luckily, Woodsville High School is on a Vermont calendar. So we are actually on vacation this week. Hard to tell. It's a vacation just still sitting in your house. But at least they're getting a week off from doing any of this remote learning. I'm hoping that'll pull some of the pressure off.

Laura Knoy:
How did the guidance counselors when they call the kids. And I'm noting you only have two. Eric, doesn't sound like a lot. How did they sort of manage that? That emotional, that sadness that just saps any motivation of the kids have to do their work?

Eric Chase:
I think it's just that it's largely a question of reassuring them that we're going to get through this. This will at some point be over. It's in the weeds now, but they're going to come through. By the way, I have one and three fifths, OK? One of the positions is only three days a week. And she's actually a substance abuse counselor.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. Martha, how about you? You mentioned that your fourth graders are also feeling sad. How are you helping them with that? And, you know, trying to keep them on track with the academics.

Martha Dalrymple:
I think the important thing is, yes, it's important to keep these kids skills sharp and focus on academics. But right now you can't learn if you're not emotionally ready for that. So making sure that kids are able to connect with each other. I ask them frequently, Oh, are you still talking to your friends? Are you video calling your friends when I will do one on one time with them? I try to have one on one video time with each kid once a week, and we'll play the heads up app over the video camera. And our school has put out, you know, physical education videos that are lots of fun that the kids normally only see it like jump rope for heart events. So I think we're trying to stay connected. And I've been inviting like the PE teacher, the art teacher, our music teachers specials to come to our virtual morning meetings. So the kids are still seeing some of those faces. And same for the adults as well.

Laura Knoy:
Interesting. So you're when you get online with them, you're bringing back sort of the favorite gym teacher, the favorite art teacher, so they can see that teacher as well and that cheers them up.

Martha Dalrymple:
Yeah.

Laura Knoy:
What about you, Liz, your students have a completely different set, I'm guessing of, well, just where they're at. They just got here. They're learning English. What about their sort of social and emotional well-being? How are you tapping into that?

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah, I'm glad that you bring this up because, you know, that is a need that transcends any language or culture. Everyone has their own social, emotional needs that need to be met. And so am I actually connected with a colleague. And we wanted to reframe the way that we are thinking about our curriculum, where it's very easy to update a p_d_f_ and have a static document that the kids have to read and fill in that can be adapted pretty easily for any language level. But that's not engaging them with their peers or on, you know, a basic needs level. And so we've decided to move forward and change the curriculum where we're actually going to ask students to engage with each other on on the Google classroom platform. And so we're hoping that by opening it up and having it become a dialogue, that they're going to be able to not only, you know, meet their meet those needs, but then also increase their conversational skills. Because in English language learning, we're responsible for ensuring students understand reading, writing, listening and speaking. And right now in remote learning, that speaking component is really hard to engage. And so we're trying to think of ways just to bring them together. And even across the schools in Manchester so that they can engage with with other peers at different school levels.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, that's interesting. And I can imagine, Liz, that when an English learner is in a regular high school setting, you know, he or she is constantly hearing English all around them. So that kind of bolsters the work that you're doing in class, kind of in that eco system of English all the time. But when you're remote at home, you're not hearing English all around you. So I wonder, you know, are you seeing setbacks with kids who seem to be doing well?

Liz Kirwan:
I don't know if setback is the right way, but I think that that progress has changed. I guess if I want to spin it around for a response.

Laura Knoy:
But I appreciate that.

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah. But no this is true where we. It's hard to know progress when students are not necessarily engaging with the curriculum or engaging with others. And so we want to make sure that we are that we're meeting all of those language needs and that we're able to reach their language goals. And so it is you know, we have to change the way that we're delivering and servicing our students. And and that's going to be essential moving forward as this has extended in New Hampshire until June.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, yeah. That was a we all kind of expected it last week, but still it was it was hard for parents and teachers and students to hear that. Are you I want ask everybody but you first Liz. Are you still making home visits to some students? Are you still seeing anyone in person?

Liz Kirwan:
No, we are not allowed to make home visits at this time. But when remote learning initiated at the beginning of March, we were making home visits to deliver technology to check in on the students, to let them know about bus runs for food. And so I think that that's also been challenging. Now, as a teachers, that I don't get to have that in-person connection with my students anymore.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Martha, how about you? Any home visits at all for students who may have special needs or students who, you know, can't figure out how to make the i-Pad work?

Martha Dalrymple:
It sounds very similar to what was said in that our guidance counselors and even our principal have been running technology to families that are struggling with that and making sure people are getting their resources and things like that. But as far as it goes for me, no, we've not had any in-person contact.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. And I know in the beginning there was a little bit more of that, as as Liz said. What about you, Eric? Is anybody seeing anyone face to face?

Eric Chase:
Very, very rarely. Occasionally see kids when they come into school to pick up materials, although very more often than not they would be staying in the vestibule and not coming into the main building. We had an incident the other day where we had a senior that we hadn't heard from for three or four days. My dean of students was driving home and saw the student also played basketball. So he stopped and talked to him and explained that, you know, you're a senior. You can't just avoid this work. But on a regular basis, no, there really isn't any face to face any longer.

Laura Knoy:
Well, it's great, Eric, that you at least, you know, call them or check up on them every couple days to see how they're doing that some. That's a service. Who helps you with that? Is everybody kind of somebody can have their list of people to to call on. How do you organize that? Because that's a lot of questions.

Eric Chase:
Well, we've got this giant Google spreadsheet, one for 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade. And as teachers have one on one interaction with students during the day, they will go in and notate that. Yes. I have spoken to this student today and we just gauge it that way.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. How about you, Liz, how's that going at your school? Who helps you sort of stay in that one on one contact? How do you do it?

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah, actually, we're really fortunate at West High School because we have established a new advisory model that had begun last year. And so now every teacher is connected with 15 students or less every single day during the school year. But then also that has transferred into remote learning where we have set up a Google classroom with our advisory students and we check in with them every day. And that is also considered our attendance for the day. But then we're also doing those like emotional check ins with them, asking them how their work is coming. Scheduling video calls to help them get organized. And so that has really helped to ensure that we we don't go days without speaking to students while checking in with them every day.

Laura Knoy:
Martha, how many students do you have in your fourth grade class and are you checking or getting help checking, you know, every day or every other day?

Martha Dalrymple:
I have 17 students in my classroom and there's two other fourth grade classes. And the way we've kind of worked on projects are some of the other fourth grade teachers are having contact with my students as well, which is pretty fun. Once a week we have a meeting with our administration guidance and special education. So we touch base with all of those people to see how everyone's doing. You know, is there anyone that's popped up on your radar, that kind of thing. So they're in contact with guidance counselors, if that's something typical, even if it's not, you know, our guidance counselors are so loved throughout the building that kids are happy to see them any which way they get to. So, you know, a lot of it's just keeping a finger on the pulse, seeing if they're turning in assignments, things like that, reaching out. Hey, good morning. How are you? Happy Monday. Stuff like that. So we don't have as much like a formal way of recording it, but I think we're really so on the pulse with our students. That plus I have such a low classroom number with 17, which is awesome that I feel like I really can't keep track of. You know, I haven't heard from this person. Let's check in and make sure everything's OK. And sometimes they're like, oh, I went for a hike.

Laura Knoy:
And you say, great, you're getting outside. So, yeah, right. That counts for science today. Right. There you go. Or phys ed or whatever. Well, coming up, we're going to talk with a teacher and a mother of four in the Lakes region and she'll tell us how it's going for her. She's got a pretty busy household. This The Exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. Today, it's a two part special on remote learning. This hour, students in kindergarten through high school and then at 10:00, how colleges are trying to adapt. So if you're a student yourself or a parent or a teacher, how is remote learning going for you? What's working, what isn't? And what do you need? Our guests are Liz Kirwan, English Learner teacher at Manchester West High School. Martha Dalrymple, fourth grade teacher at Deerfield Community School. And Eric Chase, principal at Woodsville High School. And joining us now with a parent's perspective is Kourtney LaFavre. She lives in Sandwich. She's a mom of four. She's a former teacher herself. Kourtney, welcome to The Exchange. Thanks for being with us.

Kourtney LeFavre:
Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
So first, tell us about your family, Kourtney, who's at home trying to do remote learning?

Kourtney LeFavre:
Yes. So I'm at home with my four kids. The three oldest are elementary school age, fifth grade, third grade and kindergarten. And I also have a four year old at home.

Laura Knoy:
Wow, that's a busy house. So you used to teach first and second grade at New Hampton Community School, Kourtney, from what I understand.

Kourtney LeFavre:
Yes.

Laura Knoy:
So you've got that teacher background and you used to homeschool your children. This was the first year you enrolled them in regular school. Now they're back home with you again. What's it been like for you, Kourtney?

Kourtney LeFavre:
Pretty ironic. Yeah. It's challenging. Even with experience. With homeschooling. Even with the knowledge and training of a teacher. It's extremely difficult for me. The kids are fine. They're happy. But for me, it's extremely difficult. What is it that's difficult trying to manage?

Kourtney LeFavre:
Three separate classroom in one house.

Laura Knoy:
Tell us a little bit more about that. Yeah. Go ahead, Kourtney.

Kourtney LeFavre:
So. The expectations for each child is very different. The older child can work more independently, but the two younger ones really need me sitting with them. And figuring out Google classroom. It took me two weeks to figure out Google classroom, so now hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can teach them how to use it more independently. Luckily, our teachers kind of transitioned us into it and have been increasing the workload very slowly. Which is helpful. But just trying to figure out what three separate people want me doing with my kids, it's very difficult and time consuming, and I'm also trying to work from home and my husband's a police officer, so he's still going to work, so he's not home. So it's kind of an unreasonable expectation that I'm going to be able to do all of this the way it's given to me.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. So you've got your own job. Your husband is clearly, you know, very busy as a police officer. And you've got four kids at home that you're trying to, you know, sit down with him, works at Google classrooms. You must just feel sometimes like, you know, forget it. Everybody just, you know, go play video games.

Kourtney LeFavre:
We have had a day or a few days where I've said, not today. We're just not going to do that today. And we go outside and we play. We go for walks. The kids are loving having this free time and they're coming up with some pretty incredibly creative projects on their own.

Laura Knoy:
Oh, like what?

Kourtney LeFavre:
So my oldest is very interested in space. We have hundreds of books at home. Fortunately, so she can pull from our own books at home. And she has taken to studying Saturn and all the moons of Saturn. And she enjoys writing, so she's writing these creative stories about imaginary creatures that live on the moons of Saturn. So that's you know, even if that's not on the direct curriculum that her teacher sent that sounds pretty good to me.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. Have you been using this time, Kourtney, to teach your kids other perhaps non-academic skills?

Kourtney LeFavre:
Yeah. And that's my priority. Just as a mom. That our time together is spent staying connected with each other and taking care of ourselves, but also taking care of each other, making sure they're contributing to household chores. And just doing activities that bring us joy together. This will be a time period that kids are going to remember forever. And I'm very aware of that. When I make the choices that we do for each day is what do I want them to remember from this time? Then choose accordingly.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, they will remember it for sure. So how do we respond as adults? What advice do you have, Kourtney, for other parents who are doing remote learning right now? Especially, you know, those like you who have a spouse working in a critical field and you're trying to do your own job. And you know, four kids, including a little one too, I mean four years old. What advice do you have for other parents who are just ready to throw their hands up and say, forget it?

Kourtney LeFavre:
Yes. Communicate with your teachers and the other staff at your school. Here at Inter-Lakes, our teachers have been wonderful that. We can chat at the end of the week or even through e-mail, and I can let them know. You know, here's what we actually did. Here are the books that we read. Here's the recipes that we did. Here are the experiments. Here's what the kids came up with. So having that freedom and the authority between the two of us, between the teacher and the parents, to be able to make choices about what's best for each individual top child, not necessarily. You know, here's the curriculum that you were supposed to get done this week, but. We're trying to make choices that are best for each child because each child is so different.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Kourtney, good luck to you and thank you very much for being with us today.

Kourtney LeFavre:
Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
That's Courtney LeFavre. She lives in Sandwich. She's a former teacher herself and she's a mom of four. And all of you, we've been talking a lot about how you're interacting with kids, how you're trying to support kids, how kids have been working their way through this. I also want to talk about how this has all affected teachers. And I've gotten a couple e-mails from teachers before the show about this. Here's one from a person who preferred not to give a name. This person says, I teach high school science. And I was meeting with students virtually when we heard the news about doing this to June, this meaning the entire school year being remote, which was decided last week. This person says this is so emotionally draining. I have transitioned my teaching from teaching to more of wellness and counseling and damage control. I do not expect to get through my curriculum. My kids need me more as a mentor than a teacher. What teachers need is for administrators to acknowledge how hard this is for us. This person says teachers are on the frontline. We are sticking our fingers into a leaking dam and we have run out of fingers and we are tiring. I asked that administrators ease up and realize we will not make it through our curriculum and that we need emotional support. And thank you to that person for writing. That's very moving and we will definitely talk about that. Another e-mail just came in from an anonymous teacher who says, I'm a teacher in the SAU 48 District. These guests seem to be living in a reality that most educators, administrators and most definitely students are not. Remote learning stinks. This person says it's stressful. There's too much screen time, too much pressure, too much work for everyone, especially especially for special education teachers. They are booked throughout the whole day and don't even have a moment to themselves for their own healthy mental state. They are drained. Everyone is trying their best. But for me, remote learning couldn't get higher than a C. I want to thank both of those teachers for writing it and to let you know that we heard from a lot of other teachers who were absolutely not happy with the way it's going. I wanna hear from everybody. But Eric, you first. You're a principal. Are you hearing from some of your teachers that remote learning stinks?

Eric Chase:
Well, it's certainly not their favorite thing to do. I am acutely aware of how difficult it is. I have the advantage, I think, in that when I do stay home and I do go in a couple of days a week, but when I do stay home, I sit and listen to my wife working with her students. She teaches grades two, four, six, seven, maybe five in there too, and teaches the math and the difficulty of running from class to class and having the kids, you know. A classroom full of kids. You're trying to engage them in discussion and you're just hearing crickets chirping in the background. I watch the stress on her. I watch the stress that my other teachers. I know how difficult it is. I don't expect that my teachers are gonna get through their curriculum. But, well, we have asked them to do is to take the key points of the curriculum, the real can't give it away competencies and focus on those rather than the peripheral materials that we would add in an undeniable circumstance.

Laura Knoy:
So you really have to just focus on the few core elements. Eric, that's that's what we got to do in this time.

Eric Chase:
That's what I believe.

Laura Knoy:
I'd like to hear from our teachers, too. And Martha, you first. This teacher who just wrote says, you know, you guys all gave this experiment a B. This teacher says, can't get higher than C. I myself, as a parent, you know, the teachers are working really, really hard. I hear from them. They are having to figure out the social, emotional status of their students. They're still trying to present the curriculum. The teachers I've talked to are probably wouldn't give this a B+. What do you think, Martha?

Martha Dalrymple:
You know, I definitely feel for this teacher who is writing this, and I think it's hard for all of us in different ways and it totally depends on what age group you have and what you're teaching too. I think I'm really lucky to be teaching fourth grade because my students are at the age where they can read the directions and they know how to do a lot of it on their own because they're familiar with the technology from our youth in school. But, you know, introducing Google classroom to a kindergartener who is in the early learning stages of how to read is very different than saying, here's your Google classroom assignment for the day to a fourth grader and moving all the way up to a high school level. I feel for her. She probably has, you know, a hundred students. And trying to get feedback to 100 students about their projects is hard to manage in a regular learning setting, let alone when you're trying to respond to Google comments for maybe six different blocks that you have throughout a week or something like that. So I feel for that. And I think that every teacher has a different challenge, very similar to it during the regular school year. You know, oh, kindergarten is doing these really cute projects, but there's other aspects of kindergarten that's extremely difficult. So it's kind of one of those. The grass is always greener. So it's always harder in different settings, too. So I feel for this teacher that struggling with it and I understand where she's coming from.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. And Liz, I did wonder. You know, it's great that Martha has 17 students, so she can really connect with them directly. But your average high school teacher has, you know, I don't know, 100 students. One hundred and fifty students. If you're teaching, you know, six or seven classes a day and each class has 20 students, I'm not gonna do the math on the air. But how do those teachers at the high school level lives connect with all their students, make sure they're OK and make sure they're at least getting some kind of education?

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah. Know, that's a really great point. And and in the e-mail or in English program at West High School, we have one hundred and twenty five students. And so between myself and one other teacher, we're also servicing those students beyond beyond our classrooms. And so remote learning has not been easy, like the grade that I assessed at the beginning of the program was just because of our response to it, because of the community that has come together. But that doesn't mean that it's easy and that it does not come with challenges. I've gone through like, you know, I've gone through all of my my own emotional response to this. You know, I was I was deflated after the governor's response last week, even though it was anticipated, just because I was so hopeful that I would be able to see my students again before the end of the school year. And so it is different at different levels across education. And so I think that we are fortunate at my school specifically because in addition to our our courses, which where teachers do have hundred or more students that they that they see during the day, we also have that advisory model that has been established. And so it's nice because we're not just managing the one hundred kids that we see within our classes, but we are we have a team of support where we're advisors are checking in with kids who might be in like my EL class and then like my colleague civics class and their algebra course. And so that advisor is also getting information from that student that can help us as teachers. And I just think that it's also it is and it is emotionally draining this process. And I watched a really helpful Professional Development webinar last week that allowed me to rethink my my service model. And so I was go I was going like I woke up in the morning. I was answering emails as videoing throughout the day. I was prepping, grading, going until like twelve o'clock at night and then waking up the next morning at like same process. And that is not a sustainable model.

Laura Knoy:
That is not Liz.

Liz Kirwan:
Now we want to be there for our students. Like responding to an email at midnight is not necessary. And that's what I got from this webinar that I watched, where it's important that we establish times that we're going to be available, that we do practice flexibility, but that we create a system for ourselves that will ensure that we're going to be able to push through this until the end of the school year.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I think all of us who are working at home are struggling with the boundary issue. You know, work is always there, so. So it's always there. So I definitely hear what you're saying. Let's take a call. Jennifer is calling in. Go ahead, Jennifer. You're on the air.

Caller:
Good morning, Laura and guests.

Laura Knoy:
Good morning. Go ahead, Jennifer.

Caller:
I teach at White Mountains Regional High School up in Whitefield and have a variety of very hands on interactive classes. Maple sugaring, floral design and outdoor fitness. So that's been an adjustment to shifting things over to online learning. I do have to say I feel bad for the teachers that wrote in our our district and our administration has been really supportive and gave us the gift early on of saying, you know, take it slow, do it well. Less is more. Focus on the real core ideas like Eric was mentioning earlier.

Laura Knoy:
So what is your advice, Jennifer, to teachers who are listening? And I think there are a lot of them who are really struggling and really feeling badly about this on a number of levels, both academic and social emotional. What's what's your advice? Jennifer, it's good to hear from you.

Caller:
Thanks. I'm not sure if I'm in a position to give a lot of advice, but I think what I'm hearing about that connection with the students and recognizing that in the long run on being a support and a voice and just checking in with them frequently on on how they're doing, how they're handling it. Do they need help? Do they need access? Do they need just a voice or an ear? Listening ear is going to be more important than, oh, my gosh, do we get through all of our units? Yeah, because in the long run, how they are as people is going to be the more important piece than whether you're able to cover every content. We were just hitting our stride in my classes today. All three of these classes are single semesters, so we'd had six weeks of an in person class and the kids have done a lot of work and we were just getting ready to say boil syrup and make more flower arrangements and that type of thing. And so I feel bad for them in that they're missing out on that. But in the long run, you know, being connected to the students and hearing about how their lives are, I think, and connecting with the parents as well. We've been encouraged to reach out and stay in touch with the families.

Laura Knoy:
So how is the, you mentioned connection. How is the Internet connection where you are? That's been a challenge that we've heard about from listeners.

Caller:
That is the challenge. And I think it is quite a variety across our district and they're working on getting access. I believe the Rotary donated some money to try to put up some hot spots for some of the kids that were identified as having limited or spotty Internet. But yeah, I heard about one kid, he's got three younger siblings he's keeping track of and he sits in the parking lot of McDonald's to try to log on to Google classroom and get his work done, you know, versus the kids that maybe have the better access and don't have a lot of competition at home. You know, for the Internet or the devices, again, our district early on had us, you know, we have our list of students that we call each week. And we found out early on who had dependable Internet access and who didn't and tried to troubleshoot that right from the start.

Laura Knoy:
Jennifer, it's good to hear from you. And good luck. I really appreciate you calling into today.

Caller:
Thank you! It was fun to chat with you. This is an excellent program.

Laura Knoy:
Coming up, we'll bring in another parental voice, a mother in Stratford who's doing remote education with her kids. If you are a teacher or a student or a parent, we really want to hear from, you. We're talking about remote learning this hour on The Exchange. Stay with us.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange, I'm Laura Knoy. Today, we're devoting two hours to remote learning. Right now, we're looking at younger students kindergarten through high school. Then at 10:00, we'll turn our attention to higher education. Liz Kirwan is with us. She's an English learner teacher at Manchester West High School. Martha Dalrymple, she's a fourth grade teacher at Deerfield Community School. And Eric Chase. He's a principal at Woodville High School. And Eric, I want to ask you about leadership. We received many comments from teachers on our survey at NHPR.org and through e-mail about how they want support from district leadership, principals, superintendents and so forth. How are you providing leadership at this time?

Eric Chase:
Probably largely organizationally. When we had to get this started up, basically administration had the weekend and maybe Monday to put together an overall plan to roll out the teachers and then to try and get that plan up and running. I'm also very active in every single Google classroom that my faculty has. I have 72 different Google classrooms to peruse around, but clearly don't get to them every day.

Laura Knoy:
Wow. That's a lot.

Eric Chase:
We check in on a regular basis and we're having regular Google meetings with the district. We do administrative team meets twice a week in the afternoon just to go over the problems and figuring things out. But you know, the real job for me, I think, is to remove any of the impediments to teaching remotely that exist or any that I can have any kind of operational effect on.

Laura Knoy:
And, you know, Liz mentioned trying to just get a handle on how much more work it is to try to present this material remotely and check in with everybody remotely. You know, she talked about answering emails at midnight. How about you, Eric? I mean, how much more extensive a job is this as a school leader for you?

Eric Chase:
Well, it's extensive and it's total. There are large lots of very quiet time. I will say that. It's always been a struggle for me not to answer e-mails at 10 o'clock at night. That's the downside of owning a smartphone. But I do recommend it to my staff and my students that you shouldn't be at much past 5:00. You know, keep that boundary between home work when there's no boundary between home and work.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, it's hard to do. Well, we did hear from teachers who were happy with the leadership that they got in their districts. Jessica in Salem wrote, Salem School District is doing an amazing job with distance learning. My son's teacher is required to zoom with the class weekly, but he is meeting with them daily as well as one on one via Zoom Weekly. Keeping the kids in direct contact with teachers and classmates is beyond helpful. Jessica says kudos to the teachers and staff. So that's Jessica in Salem. Nicole in Durham also wrote She says, As a parent and a teacher, I have found it difficult to balance the educational responsibilities of both roles. Nicole says local education leaders have been wonderful in their response to the psychological impacts of this pandemic. She says kids are beginning to get into a groove and are feeling more responsible, accomplished and generally in good spirits. And then Robin in Brookline writes, My local officials are my school administrators in Nashua. I think they're doing a fabulous job trying to accommodate the students with supplying technology and supporting the teachers with the flexibility they need right now to figure out remote learning. Also, the fact they're continuing to pay our hourly employees, such as secretaries and food service workers. So there's some comments from listeners from our survey and from email about how they feel their districts have responded. We got an e-mail just came in from Richard Cate, who is principal at Symonds School in Keene. Richard says, Although perhaps the best that we can do under the circumstances, we should not foster the illusion that remote learning is in any way comparable to real school. Richard says, I recently served my teachers asking what percent of normal learning growth remote learning has provided. The almost universal response was in the 40 to 50 percent range. It was also universally expressed that children with learning challenges and those with home lives who were the most compromised suffered a much greater impact, with many regressing significantly. Richard, thank you so much for writing from Keene. Liz, what do you think about what Richard says?

Liz Kirwan:
Yeah, I think that it's really important that we build relationships with our students and our families so that we can identify those kids who who do have compromised situations. And I work with multiple students who have families of 10 or larger. And so I need to be really cognizant of how I'm engaging with my students when I know that they're sharing technology, when I know that they're wearing multiple hats, like there are students in high school function as parents, they function as mentors. They they have jobs to support their families at. And so I need to make sure that I'm going to be flexible working with those students who I know need additional support, who I know need one on one video calling and that, you know, I don't and that we change the way that we consider progress and regression. If we understand remote learning on the same scope that we do traditional learning in a classroom, it is not it. And it's true. The principal said it very well that that it's not we can't say that it's the same. And so we also need to rethink what is progress going to look like in remote learning and how can we foster that to continue? And that means that we need to really reconsider our traditional curriculum and maybe make it more student centered and really allow students to investigate their own learning rather than giving them static assignments where they may not be learning and just filling in the gaps.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I want to bring another parental voice into our conversation. With us now on the line is Jessica Bowen. She's a mother in Stratford. She's doing remote education with her kids. And Jessica, welcome. First, please just tell us about your own home situation, who you are trying to work with in terms of remote learning.

Jessica Bowen:
Well, I am trying to work with a fourth grader who has an IEP and a kindergartener who doesn't understand why he has to do schoolwork during this extended vacation as he knows it.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah, I've heard teenagers call it Coronacation. So, yeah, I completely understand where you're coming from. So your 10 year old has an IEP. That's an individualized education plan. We did a whole program on this a couple weeks ago. But how is your school trying to continue to deliver that IEP for for your child?

Jessica Bowen:
I have been very lucky in working with my children's teachers. We do live in a small town and it's a small school. The kindergarten class has three kids. The fourth grade class is actually a third and fourth grade classroom because it's so small, it is mixed. But our teachers have the ability to meet with the kids one on one if they need to. My biggest concern with my 10 year old was regression because we've made a lot of progress with him. He does have speech issues. He's not formally diagnosed with anything besides ADHD. He's kind of our question mark, as we call it. And we're not sure why he has the developmental delays that he does. But it is kind of serious for him because, you know, he has a hard time zipping up his jacket still and things like that. And he's just turned 10. So for him, regression was really my worry. But the school has worked very good with us. I think I am on our second or third restructure of his assignments because at first we were doing too much. Like as a parent, nobody said you're not supposed to be working with the kids more than three hours per day. So when we started, I was working with him three to four hours and we fell behind very quickly. And then we put his specials and he has OT. He is speech. He has Title 1. Most of his day right now is actually Zoom's and it's specials. But to me, the specials are more important right now because my main concern isn't so much can he divide, can he, you know, add three digit numbers? My concern is, are we going to lose the progress we made in speech?

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. And that's a message that I've heard throughout the hour. People are concerned about, you know, never mind progress or regression. Just last question for you, Jessica, if I could, please. What advice do you have for other parents who are doing this right now?

Jessica Bowen:
I asked around myself and I'm like, am I having a typical experience? And the answer widely came back, no. But I think that comes largely, in fact, that if something isn't working for me, I am not going to sit back and continue to struggle. I'm going to go to the teacher and be like, hey, this isn't working. And I think as parents, when they roll this out, I understand they rolled it out and they weren't given much time. No, but yeah, as parents we're not getting information back. We're not being told you shouldn't be working with a kindergartener more than an hour a day. Nobody is coming back to us and say, hey, here's some tips. Here's some things. This is the baseline of what we need you to do. So at the end of the semester, if it comes down to a pass fail grade, they have enough work, so they pass. Nobody is coming back to us and being like, this is what we need from you. And I think a lot of parents could kind of appreciate that more with the bare minimum. This is what we need you to do.

Laura Knoy:
Jessica, profound words and it sounds like you need more communication to parents as to what the expectations are. I'm gonna let you go now, but I hope we can talk again, because this is a really interesting topic. And I know you have a background in education as well. For now, though, Jessica, thank you.

Jessica Bowen:
Thank you for having me.

Laura Knoy:
That's Jessica Bowen. She's a mother in Stratford with a background in education, talking about how she has been trying to work with her two sons. And all of you, I want to close out with an e-mail from Nicole, also just expressing some of this parental frustration and confusion. Nicole says, My 15 year old high school freshman has turned into a teenage nocturnal creature despite our best efforts to prevent this. My husband and I are both working regular hours from home. We need our sleep and cannot monitor him during evenings once we go to sleep. He's a good kid, but feelings of bad parenting are a bit overwhelming. Trying really hard to cut us all some slack with these unusual circumstances, but I can't help think we are doing something wrong. Nicole, I hear you. I understand what you're what you're feeling. Why do you think, Liz, you teach at a high school. What would you say to Nicole?

Liz Kirwan:
You know, it's so hard because I'm seeing the same behaviors with my students. Like when I schedule my day, I know in the morning I can respond to emails and do planning because kids start to to engage and wake up like 12:00, 1:00, 2:00 in the afternoon and in a typical school day, our school day ends at 2:53. And so, you know, I've had to really change change my schedule as well to make sure that I'm also available during pockets of times when I know that I can reach students and so on. You know, when I ask the kids, when I tell them that, you know, sleeping in until 2:00 p.m. is not healthy and like you need to create a schedule. Some of the students are responding that like they're now that their families are either working more, because they're in a critical area or because they picked up a second job at Market Basket because nobody wants to work in a high risk area, they're actually functioning as the parent. And so, like, they're putting the babies to bed. They're like waking up and feeding the kids. And so and then, you know, I just think that we do need to have relationships with our students so that we we know what their home lives are like and how we can adjust our expectations but still make rigorous expectations for them. But I guess I'm just, you know, creating a schedule for ourselves and then asking students to create a schedule for themselves as well, just to make sure that we do have a routine as this continues through June.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Liz, it's been good to talk to you. Good luck as you make your way through this. I really appreciate your time this morning.

Liz Kirwan:
Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
That's Liz Kirwan, English learner teacher at Manchester West High School. Martha, good luck to you, too, with those fourth graders at Deerfield Community School. Thank you for being with us, Martha.

Martha Dalrymple:
Thank you.

Laura Knoy:
That's Martha Dalrymple. Again, she teaches fourth grade in Deerfield. And Eric Chase, it was good to talk to you and good luck to you and your school community. We really appreciate you being with us today.

Laura Knoy:
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

Laura Knoy:
That's Eric Chase. He's a principal at Woodsville High School. Now, stay with us for a second hour of The Exchange. We're going to look at higher education, all the adjustments there. That's coming up in our hour two of The Exchange. Keep it right here. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.