As the world continues to change due to the spread of COVID-19, a new normal started last week as students in Kiowa County started school again, although in an entirely different way than most are used to. Parents, teachings, and students are learning to adapt to a continuous learning plan that involves a combination of work through packets of worksheets and virtual assignments.
“Students are adapting to a new way of learning. Parents are trying to help the best they can. We are all doing something new and unexpected. Adjustments will have to be made throughout the process. It's important we provide each other with grace and always put the kids before the content,” said Audrey Pore, who teaches 6-8 math and 1 hour of High School Algebra I at Kiowa County Schools.
Kay Unruh, who teaches second grade, along with third grade reading at Haviland Grade School, said there was a big challenge for her was figuring out how to deliver her lessons such as which websites would work best her grade level.
“We needed to take into consideration the technology families had available, the amount of work we assigned, the difficulty of assignments, the amount of parental guidance that would be needed - all of this in an effort to not overburden families, but to also give students the opportunity for continual education,” said Unruh.
Unruh, who has taught for 23 years, said she has never experienced anything like this during her tenure. Ultimately, she created a packet that included a variety of paper and pencil activities that her students were familiar with, along with online activities.
“I did a combination of a packet with paper-pencil activities that students were familiar with as well as on-line activities and communication,” she said.
The staff at Haviland Grade School surveyed the student body and provided access to technology to those who didn’t have any when it became apparant that they would not be returning to traditional classrooms after spring break this year.
Kim McMurry teaches English 2, English 4, College COmposition 1& 2, and Drama and Forensics at Kiowa County High School. McMurry said she is providing curriculum through email, Google Drive, and Zoom. Apps such as vocabulary.com and Quill.org have also been helpful as she tries to reach her students. She said she is thankful for the abundance of material available for remote ELA learning but admits that it is somewhat overwhelming at the same time.
When asked what her biggest challenge was, the veteran teacher said it is more difficult to reach her students now, and it can be hard to guarantee that a student is learning the skills when things are taught in a more distant manner.
McMurry, along with Unruh and Pore, all mentioned the wellbeing of their students as another challenge. Teachers and students spend a lot of hours together during the school year, and right now it is hard to how a student is doing emotionally when everything is virtual. Through all of this, teachers, administrations, parents, students, and many other people are working hard to make this the best experience it can be for everyone involved.
“I am proud of USD 422. We (the teachers) were given as much time and guidance as possible to transition to remote learning, and while it isn't perfect and we'll all need to continue to adapt our strategies, I'm confident that everyone is working as hard as they can to support the needs of all of our students. I'd do anything to be able to finish the Forensics season with this year's team, and I know the other coaches and sponsors feel the same way about their own spring events and activities. It's disappointing to lose these opportunities but necessary to safeguard everyone's health,” said McMurry.