Indiana K-12 schools moved all classes online at the end of March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and state orders to social distance. Some schools gave teachers an extra week of spring break to prepare for the rest of the semester being through a screen and no longer in person.
Jessica Sweet, a third grade teacher of 18 students at Eastern Greene Elementary School in Greene County, Indiana, said her school is behind in comparison to others.
“Jumping online, we weren’t prepared,” Sweet said.
Sweet said before the outbreak, teachers sometimes talked about online schooling in preparation for shorter periods, such as snow days, but it wasn’t considered as a long-term alternative. Eastern Greene is a more rural school, Sweet said, so not all the students have access to the internet or the technology to be able to do class online.
For those who aren’t able to access the internet, Sweet and other teachers have been making weekly packets of material. Parents or guardians are asked to pick up the learning packets every week so students can stay on top of the work.
“People are coming together and helping each other a lot,” Sweet said. “We’re all struggling.”
Sweet said she likes how much freedom the school administration has given teachers in terms of their curriculum and schedule. She said teachers can move at different paces and decide what they want to focus on.
Sweet and many other teachers are using Google Classroom. Sweet said she’s able to reach about 80% of her students through Google Classroom. She makes a video for them every day so her students see a face and have some familiarity.
“For me, it hasn’t been super challenging because I’m lucky enough to know a decent amount about technology,” Sweet said.
Every morning, Sweet reads a chapter from a book and then records herself doing different tasks such as math problems for her students to imitate. She has an optional Zoom conference once a week for about an hour where students can catch up with each other or ask questions.
Sweet said going online is a learning curve for everyone. She said if a student or parent has any questions to reach out to the teacher as soon as possible.
Robert Kunzman, a professor in the IU School of Education, said the dynamic of learning at home is tricky. He said any parent sitting down to do work with their kid knows how difficult it can be to understand the work their child is doing or put themselves in a teacher-like role.
He said there are some benefits to learning at home, such as flexibility. Students are able to spend more time on some subjects or go through others more quickly.
“There are all sorts of ways for your child to learn and grow,” he said.
Kunzman said he thinks public schools play a vital role in everyone’s lives. They allow for healthy meals, mentors outside the family, support networks and specialized learning supports. He said he believes people will come out of this pandemic with a greater appreciation for public schools.
Stacey Lynn, the mother of a fifth grader and high school student in Owen County, said Spencer-Owen Community Schools has been amazing when it comes to moving online.
Lynn said her fifth grader has been given weekly packets of work because the students were unable to bring home the school-issued Chromebooks. Her daughter in high school has a Chromebook she was able to bring home, so she’s been able to work easily.
“Honestly the school system has done an amazing job at keeping us all prepared through this,” Lynn said.