ODEM – On March 13, students and staff at Odem Junior High were happy to get a much needed break from school. Everyone understood when they came back from spring break, they would continue full steam ahead through the end of the year. Although there had been some speculation when colleges were given an extra week off, nobody ever thought remote learning would be the new norm of teaching over the next nine weeks due to COVID-19.
Teachers and students began remote learning on March 30. The week prior, staff met with administrators and began communicating with parents and guardians.
Odem Junior High staff worked quickly to devise a list of students who had internet access and devices and those who didn’t in order to prepare for the weeks ahead. Additionally, paper packets were compiled and given out to students, including assignments for core classes, band and PE. Students working with paper packets were instructed to take pictures of their finished work and email it to their teachers. Students were also given an opportunity to borrow electronic devices and were provided Chromebooks which were distributed by a safe drive-thru pickup station organized by staff.
Fortunately, many of the OJH teachers and students had used Google classroom as a resource during the school year and were comfortable with the platform. Seventh grade math teacher, Mandi Sykora reiterated, “We, teachers and students, were lucky because we were familiar with how the online platform worked.”
They were just not accustomed to exclusively teaching and learning online. Although there were some bumps along the way, most of the students were able to access Google classroom and communicate with their teachers effectively.
Teachers have since incorporated Zoom and Google Meet video sessions in their daily routine, so students can ask questions if the need arises. Many students found the opportunity for video meetings beneficial. Zoe Garcia remarked, “The students get to do their work at their own pace. Since we are given due dates, we are still responsible for turning it in.” Teachers have increased their efficiency with remote instruction by creating videos of themselves teaching, or by inviting the students to join their video meetings and go through lessons together.
One of the big disadvantages of remote instruction, however, is the lack of physical contact with each other, which some students see as a drawback. Samantha Sharpe remarked, “I can’t talk to my teachers face to face about what I am struggling with in a subject, and plus there are a lot of distractions at home.” Landin Ballard added missing his teachers has been one of the negative aspects of remote learning. Staff and students agree they miss seeing each other in the hallways and in class.
Despite challenges, during this time, OJH teachers have been proactive about the remote learning. Sixth grade science teacher Belinda Ruiz applied for and received a $1,000 voucher from the Keep Kids Learning Program which is supported by Bill and Melinda Gates. The voucher had to be used to help her students during the COVID-19 crisis. She could use it for books or other essential items named by Ruiz to keep her students learning at home. As a result, Ruiz dropped off science goodies to her students on April 28.
Ruiz stated, “I was excited to have the opportunity to give my students a resource to not only help them understand science but also a card game to have fun with their families during this challenging time.”
All in all, teachers and students have successfully made adjustments to the remote learning setting and more students have been appearing in the meetings with the teachers to get extra help.
While it has been a learning experience for all, OJH would like to thank their staff, students, parents and guardians for working so hard during these vexing times. Both staff and students can’t wait until they can come together again in the school building as soon as everything is safe for them.