From brick and mortar to remote learning: Advice from educator David Pines on how to best support your students

By Yamanda Boukmakh, Head of Partnerships

 

“At the end of the day, you are always thinking about the students.”
∼ David Pines, M. Ed. and Humanist

 

A month into his retirement, David Pines returned to teaching 8th-grade mathematics at Toby Farms Intermediate School in Pennsylvania, something he had not done in 45 years. This blog is an excerpt by Yamanda Boukmakh, Head of Partnerships at CanopyLAB, who interviewed David about his experience returning to the classroom merely a couple of weeks before the school closings due to COVID-19. The following is a collection of David’s reflections, learning, and advice for fellow teachers that are embarking on the same voyage of remote teaching and learning.

 

Come together as a school

Within 72 hours, every teacher had to create a website based on the school’s framework and regulations. Each and every one of us had to learn how to use Zoom and Google Classroom (which was provided to the entire school district for free). We had two teachers in our faculty who were sort of the “go-to resources” for Google classroom, finding and sharing all these great add-ons and apps… And so we kind of created this little inter-group technology support team.

 

We had two teachers in our faculty who were sort of the “go-to resources” for Google classroom, finding and sharing all these great add-ons and apps… And so we kind of created this little inter-group technology support team.

 

Every day the entire faculty has a Zoom meeting to begin the day and another at the end of the day…These are two things that keep the faculty highly connected. I actually get up and look forward to these faculty meetings every morning and I love them every afternoon because they are a great ending to a tedious day. The key is 15-minutes. Fifteen. Unless there are issues to deal with, then some teachers stay on to discuss the problem in smaller groups, but the school day starts at 9:30 am and ends by 4:00 pm for all teachers.

 

Help students be comfortable with the device and platform

Another challenge my students had, in the beginning, is that they never had any training on how to use Chromebooks when we were in the classroom… they had never really tried to create a Google Doc or any other sort of program to support in-classroom learning. So I tried to teach them how to fly the plane without ever being passengers… you know, I regret that we did not have any time in the classroom to do any of this. But I now think that they’re much more prepared for this kind of thing, and I think teachers and faculty in many ways, are much more prepared for the blended learning model, blending a textbook with a Chromebook.

 

So I tried to teach them how to fly the plane without ever being passengers… you know, I regret that we did not have any time in the classroom to do any of this.

 

Provide students with clear guidelines

Every teacher had to have at least 4 hours of posted classroom time available on Zoom every day, 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon. Something I did not do right away is post my individual classroom hours on Google everyday so that students can easily find it when they sign in… I’ve done it in the past three weeks and the number of students who have come in to have discussions and ask questions has tripled!

 

Creating a manageable structure is key

Students’ homes are not necessarily an environment that is conducive to learning, but they do their best. I often ask my students that after getting themselves ready in the morning, they should spend the first portion of their day on math or language so they can create some kind of discipline: Get up, wash up, have a bit of breakfast and then sit down somewhere where you won’t be disturbed 30 minutes and work on writing something like math or science. I make sure it is very manageable, remind them to take 15-minute breaks so they are not overwhelmed because we are not trying to replicate a school day and we as teachers need to adjust to the fact that they do not have a lot of capacities that support learning.

 

Want to know more about our interview with David? Read the previous blog post where he shares his experience returning to the classroom merely a couple of weeks before the school closings due to COVID-19. Read the post here.