RE@LBlog is pleased to bring another teacher interview to our K12 readers. Our interview, with Lucinda Ranney continues to explore the effectiveness of using our new anti-vaping RE@L-LearningProduct “1Up On Vaping.™”
Thanks to Lodi, WI middle-school teacher, Lucinda Ranney for agreeing to this interview with Tacy Mangan, RE@L Consultant. Many teachers who are looking for relevant curriculum products for online and onsite learning during these pandemic times will find this interview informative and useful. Lucinda tells our readers about her new teaching assignment using 1Up On Vaping in her classroom last school year.
Below are Tacy’s focused questions and, in her own words, Lucinda’s insightful and helpful responses. RE@LBlog believes this interview exchange will be helpful for other middle school teachers looking for new curriculum resources that work effectively. Read on:
“Lucinda: By way of introduction, I teach grades six, seven, eight, all three. My class is required for every student every year, so I really get an opportunity to get to know my students, and have a very scaffolded curriculum from sixth grade to seventh grade to eighth grade, because I’m the only one who teaches it. So, everything is consistent across the grade levels. My class is called “Life Skills” and it is a combination of both of my degrees. I teach everything from career planning to cooking and sewing to drugs and alcohol and human sexuality. So, it’s a lot.
Tacy: So just as a general question, what is the home-learning experience like for you at this point?
Lucinda: Last spring we were we were given about a twenty-four hour notice that we were moving from in-classroom to a virtual platform and that occurred on a weekend. So, of course, kids did not have supplies. Teachers did not have supplies. We were advised to not be in the buildings, get what we needed and get back out. That kind of thing.
I feel like fourth quarter was very much a crisis management, a virtual teaching situation where we were just trying to make sure we still had all of our kids and we knew they were safe, that they were healthy. Hopefully we could see their faces once in awhile. It was super hard. It was super stressful, I would say, compared to first quarter. Now, as we’ve continued the virtual learning, it’s still super-hard, still super-stressful.
But, we’re not in a crisis mode. We are now doing virtual learning, and in my district, we spent quite a bit of time in June and then in August, working on developing our virtual platforms, and making changes to our curriculum. We were determining what exactly were those essential concepts that needed to be taught, and how did we separate the enrichment pieces from the foundational pieces to not overwhelm our kids in this environment.
So, it was a very different feel from March to September. Both, I think, in terms of staff and students. Students are much more engaged now. There’s more structure in our classes every day….we do live virtual classes on Google Meet. [RE@L adds, click on the graphic for more information]. We didn’t have that resource in the spring.
Tacy: Let’s talk about the present. What would you say are some of your bigger challenges right now as a teacher?
Lucinda: I would say my biggest challenge right now as a teacher is that my traditional teaching style is very interactive, very discussion-oriented. So much of what I teach is not as much about right and wrong. But about how will you as an individual approach something. We’re helping the kids to develop problem solving skills, confidence building, communication skills, so that as they move through the teen years and into adulthood, they have a higher self-esteem, a higher level of confidence that they can handle some of these things that life throws at them.
It’s significantly different than, say, a math class. Numbers have rights and wrongs, and for a teenage brain, that makes a lot more sense. My class would be more abstract, in getting them to learn some really high level thinking skills. In the classroom, I can monitor, I can see their body language if they’re confused, that I need to back up, they can tell me, wait a minute. Would you go over that again?
In the virtual world, I don’t have live classes in my building. The only live classes are the four core subjects; math, science, language arts and social studies.
So those kids have daily meetings like this with those teachers, but for their specialists, they do not. Everything is sent through Google Classroom. [RE@L adds: Click on graphic for more information on Google Classroom]. I submit a video of me explaining something, but there is very little interaction. I had to try to take a very interactive curriculum and put it into black and white. And that has been my biggest struggle.
Tacy: That sounds like it would be a big struggle, especially when you are relying on discussion among the students themselves. What has it been like for you in terms of adapting curriculum for virtual learning? Has that been a really time-consuming process? Has it been difficult? What has that process been like for you?
Lucinda: Overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming. I’m trying to adapt my curriculum in a way that I still feel confident that it’s serving the needs of all the kids. And putting it into a virtual world that I know is not serving the needs of all the kids. It’s so difficult to try to adapt to something that I know is not going to be as effective.
And as an educator, that’s hard to wrap your head around, to know that you’re not doing what the kids need. Trying to figure out what students need in this environment when none of us have ever done this before, is really difficult. My amount of instructional time in the virtual environment has greatly decreased. Hugely decreased! My district has asked that we provide about 60 minutes of content instruction per week.
So in some cases, I went from seeing my kids every day, five days a week to essentially having one day with them. We’re talking 20 percent of my curriculum. I lost anywhere from 70 to 80 percent of my contact time with them. I’m always trying to figure out a way to keep them engaged.
Giving students some foundational knowledge in that length of time, it’s really hard and a lot of time is spent trying to find engaging materials that will keep them engaged for 60 minutes throughout the week. We know that reading an article is not going to do it. [RE@L adds, click on the Video Chatting graphic to the left for more ideas].
What 13 year-old is going to get excited about reading an article and answering a worksheet of questions???”
RE@L adds: Good question!
For an answer to that 13 year old’s question, stay tuned for our next RE@LBlog.
Read the rest of Lucinda’s answers to these pressing pandemic questions for teachers!
Thanks to YOU many, hard-working, and caring teachers, everywhere!
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