Everyday Education: Student Growth Is Occurring During COVID-19
Last updated 5/25/2020 at 11:41am
Educators are constantly being asked to assess students’ growth in all academic and functional aspects of students’ school lives. What exactly does that mean? Is it important? How is growth measured?
Typically, “growth” is determined by some numerical formula that even the best mathematicians may not understand. However, educators have always used their own professional “formula” to determine if a student is showing growth.
We’ve never just depended on or trusted a “growth” formula that only puts a numeric value on a student. Students aren’t numbers; they’re not statistics. Teachers know students as people, creators, problem solvers, friend makers, artists, readers, etc.
So, how is growth happening with virtual learning? How are students exhibiting the learning process and how are teachers assessing it?
Here are just a very few examples of what high school students are learning and how teachers are assessing growth in these less than normal times with virtual learning.
Students in Personal Finance classes are learning first hand about budgeting, lay offs, unemployment, stimulus packages and hazard pay. Some of our county’s most essential employees right now are our teenagers working at fast food establishments, grocery stores and other retail stores. Our business teachers are connecting their “standards” to these new norms and how they are relevant in these new times.
Our Health Occu-pation classes are learning firsthand about the career that is the most vital at this time. They are learning about “front line” work in our hospitals and nursing homes. They are learning safety protocols, how valuable PPE (personal protective equipment) is and the physical and mental demands that are being placed on medical personnel. Students who have been able to gain certain certifications during this time are already working in this high-demand field. The Health Occupation teachers are helping them with this transition. These students are most certainly showing growth.
Agriculture and horticultural students are realizing the importance of establishing/growing home gardens similar to victory gardens in the past. Teachers are providing them with current events, articles and information on food supplies, food shortages and what long-term effects farmers may be facing. And maybe most important — how the beauty of flowers, trees, shrubs, etc. can bring us pure joy in a difficult time. Growth in these subject areas is certainly happening.
Physical education teachers are challenging students to be both physically and mentally fit during this time. Some teachers and coaches are able to track students’ activity through various “apps” on phones and computers. Students are able to meet and exceed personal goals. Again, growth is certainly taking place.
What about our core and critical subjects — math, English, social studies and science? All students, not just those enrolled in English classes, are acquiring new vocabulary every day —”social distancing,” “unprecedented,” “essential.” Some English students are journaling each day to record the events happening around them and their feelings about it. Growing? Check. Students are listening to authors read their own works and learning about copyright laws.
Our students are not only learning about American and world history, but they are living it, creating it. When future generations read about this event, our current students will be able to give their testimony of their experience. Growth is taking place.
Science? That subject should speak for itself.
Math is perhaps the most difficult to deliver virtually, but with percentages, curves, data, statistics and occupancy restrictions, teachers are making these connections with kids and growth is happening.
So how do we, as educators, know the growth is happening? Not through a formula, that’s for sure. We reach out to kids every day. We contact them through all sorts of new cool ways: Screencastify, Google classroom, Google Meet, Zoom, Facebook, Instragram and Tik Tok. We communicate with students, parents, guardians and grandparents. We let them know we care about them and their families. We connect what is happening in the world to the standards we’re teaching. Our goal and focus each school day is still facilitating, communicating and differentiating.
Last, but certainly, not least, what are our seniors learning? Resiliency is the word that comes to mind. By definition, the word means the ability to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. This is the very essence of our seniors right now. Many of their “rites of passage” have been delayed, postponed or cancelled. No spring sports, no FBLA conferences, no senior trip, no musical performances - the list goes on. They are learning to be resilient. The class of 2020 will go down in history. They will create new ways to celebrate. They will establish new traditions. They are Tiger Strong, Blue Devil Strong and Hellbender Strong.
Transylvania County Schools’ motto is “Teaching everyone takes everyone.” There has never been a time when that motto has been more true. Teachers, teacher assistants, school nutritional workers, custodians, bus drivers, office administrators, parents, grandparents and community members are all working in new conditions to help our Transylvania County students grow mentally, physically and educationally.