For Calvary Elementary teacher Davette Mattingly, Distance-Learning has been as much about her own education as for her students.
“My Distance-Learning experience has been a learning experience for me as an educator,” she said. “I have learned to implement new teaching strategies, connect with my students daily through a computer screen, and worked countless hours finding lessons and resources to use digitally.”
In fact, the experience has made an experienced teacher feel new to the profession.
“At times I have felt like a brand new teacher trying to learn all of the technology requirements used to make virtual learning successful,” Mattingly said.
However, with so much new about this school year, Mattingly has tried to keep as much as possible consistent with a traditional school year.
“Honestly my daily schedule hasn't changed at all,” she said. “I feel it is crucial to keep students on the same routine therefore I strive to stick to my normal daily routines.
“When we are in person Mrs. Cochran comes in my room to co-teach for an hour every morning. During this time we do small group math rotations. I still want the students to have that small group instruction, so when virtual learning started I designed a Bitmoji classroom to stream on my Google Classroom page. I did this so that everything would be simplified for my students and parents. This classroom design has links to every single subject, special areas, daily websites, etc. All my students have to do is click where they need to go.”
And despite the obstacles an unprecedented school year has presented, Mattingly says the experience has had plenty of positives.
“I have been blessed during this virtual experience for sure,” she said. “I meet with my students five times a day for Math, Math (Number) Talks, Reading, Guided Reading groups, and daily Read Aloud. Each time I meet with them I have amazing attendance. My parents have been rockstars through this, and have definitely made education (even through a computer) a priority. If a student can't attend a meet, the parent contacts me and lets me know in advance. Life happens and sometimes things come up. I am flexible and the parents know that as long as their assignments are completed that day all is well.”
As important as those traditional assignments are, Mattingly has also found success in an area that has increasingly become a hallmark of the educational experience in Marion County Public Schools: Social and Emotional Learning.
“Something I have found successful is doing a weekly SEL check-in with my students. This is a private assignment, and they know that I will be the only one reading their responses. They simply tell me how they are feeling and why. This gives each student a chance to be heard. They can be honest with me which is very important during these unfamiliar times.”
Perhaps most importantly, Mattingly says she let her students’ parents know that the challenges of this school year would involve more than just learning content.
“When virtual learning first started I told all of my parents that this is uncharted territory for all of us, myself included,” she said. “I told them that we were all going to show each other lots of grace, love, support, and patience. I have been blessed beyond measure with the overwhelming support this year.
“My parents feel comfortable reaching out to me with questions/concerns, and we work through everything together. If I could send a message to all parents in our school district it would be exactly what I told mine at the beginning of the year. I can assure everyone that teachers are working even harder now trying to make this experience successful. Please give us your support, grace, and patience. We want nothing more than to have the students with us face to face, but that is out of our control. There are going to be technical glitches, and some days things will go smoothly while other days it will be a struggle. Through it all though please know we love your babies. We love our jobs, and we are working tirelessly for our kids.”