Teaching, learning continue at home

Virtual classrooms become out-of-necessity norm as Grafton district adjusts to Covid-19 virus

WOODVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL fifth-grade students (clockwise from top left) Isabella Norris, Logan Oberheu, Griffin Donahue and Ryan Butts held an online book club discussion after school was shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

FOURTH-GRADER Cole Burgos held his dog while taking a virtual learning class.

WOODVIEW ELEMENTARY SCHOOL fifth-grade teacher Adan Burgos conducted a virtual learning class using a laptop computer in his kitchen.
Ozaukee Press Staff

Grafton students and teachers are getting a firsthand lesson on home schooling since they’ve been unable to meet in the classroom due to the Covid-19 outbreak. 

“It’s kind of like business as usual. I never thought this would be a reality, but I try to look on the bright side of this situation, and hopefully it doesn’t last long,” said Adan Burgos, a Woodview Elementary School fifth-grade teacher.

“The good thing is that after it’s all done, every teacher and student is going to come back with a new set of skills.”

The Grafton School District is on spring break, but students and teachers will return to virtual learning Monday, March 30. Before the break, pupils had about a week of online instruction under their belt after all Ozaukee County schools were shut down on March 13.

Students in fifth through 12th grades have school-issued Chrome Books, thanks to the district’s one-to-one device initiative. Younger students are using personal computers or loaned school laptops. 

Seventh-grade students in teacher Nicole Pabst’s English class are journaling their at-home experiences as a way to cathartically reflect on their new reality.

“I’ve been assigning them daily prompts. It’s a way for them to reflect on what life is like for them in their homes and write down their feelings,” she said.

Pabst is also in the middle of teaching “Tuck Everlasting” by Natalie Babbitt, conducting small-group discussions through Canvas, an online platform used by the district.

“A lot of kids block their screen during the live video, but the ones who don’t are definitely sitting in the lounge chair, and mom is working in the background in the kitchen. It’s definitely a different take,” Pabst said.

Elementary school teachers are splitting lesson-planning duties among themselves and teaching specific content to the entire grade level.

“We’re dividing and conquering the work. It was different for all of us, so working together really made a difference,” said Kennedy Elementary School kindergarten teacher Laura Jarvis.

“The planning for a virtual lesson isn’t any different than planning for a classroom lesson, but you have to be more selective. You can’t teach everything.”

Teachers said there haven’t been many technical glitches, but when the online initiative began, they experienced delays in uploading video lessons because instructors around the world are using the same software.

One of the repercussions of not being in school is a lack of social engagement among peers. A first-grade student at Woodview Elementary School celebrated a birthday last week, so teacher Karla Piaro assigned her class to create digital birthday cards and post birthday greeting videos.

“I’ve been thinking about how I can continue those connections without the face-to-face interaction,” Piaro said. “Socialization is a very important component in education for younger students. It’s not easy to teach online.”

In order to create a structured routine, students are required to log in at a set time when attendance is taken. Teachers said they haven’t had many tardy or absent students, but in the event they are, teachers will call home to check in.

“I’ve only had a few students not log in for class. When I call the parents, it’s most likely they are working from home, too, so they are able to get their son or daughter on track,” Pabst said.

While students have a strict regimen, teachers are discovering they are often working beyond set office hours to adapt their curriculum and respond to questions from students and parents.

“The biggest thing is trying to maintain that balance between work and life knowing that parents are really stressed with having their kids being home and a lot of them having to be at home themselves,” Burgos said. “I try to make my students as independent as possible and convey to parents I am working full time.”

Grafton High School Communication Arts Department Chairman Brian Durst said the virtual learning experience is helping teachers improve their instruction.

“Teachers are proving that they are also learners,” Durst said. “Everyone has adapted to online instruction with not much formal training. Teachers are problem solvers.”



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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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