Going the Distance
By Jody Steele
The Academy at Ocean Reef is well in to Distance Learning at all grade levels from PreKindergarten through Eighth Grade. Jerome Murphy, Head of School, explained how the students began on March 24th and will most likely finish the school year on this platform due to the closing of all Florida schools.
Faculty met with Jerome Murphy and together planned the switch from the traditional classroom to the Google/Zoom program over their Spring Break. They were happy they had the time to review their curriculum and examine goals and objectives for this new type of learning environment for the students. It was quite an accomplishment for the school team to develop this alternative form of educating each child in such a short time.
Focusing on reading, writing, and mathematics seemed to be the best approach from an academic point of view. However, to enhance the program, they sprinkled in a bit of art, music, technology, and even physical education. Considering the attention span of the different age groups, class times were shortened and a number of breaks were added to the school day. Older children have a bit longer day and everyone has a lunch break. I was impressed to hear that teachers were offering individual online help after scheduled classes and also office hours—again online. This extra support is a key to success for the students.
Challenges for All
The interaction in a classroom between teacher and child along with the social and learning opportunities among children helps to build exciting learning. Replicating that type of classroom communication is a challenge to do online. Faculty have been meeting weekly (also online) to try and create lessons that involve students and provoke high interest. This sharing and brainstorming has helped the faculty develop some amusing classes for the students.
Jerome Murphy recognized that there was going to be a learning curve for everyone involved and it was important to evaluate the success of the program as it developed. Surveys were given to teachers, parents, and most importantly to the students to check highpoints and the low points. Examining this information has allowed the Academy to make adjustments to strengthen the program on a consistent basis.
Before the close of the school year, teachers will meet online with each student to check competency of skills and proficiency levels in core subjects. This individual evaluation will help plan for any needed review over the summer and guide faculty in making any curriculum adjustments for next school year.
The Big Loss
Jerome Murphy has been spending school days in an empty Academy and shares that it is not a school without the children. The teachers miss the children and of course the children miss their friends and their teachers. One teacher did a lesson from the classroom a few days ago, and the students were “over the top” just to get a glance at their room. Social engagement is a big part of learning and the Academy is looking forward to getting back together again. Usually, the Academy has a Spirit Week to add extra fun in to the school day, so a Virtual Spirit Week was added to the program. From crazy hats to costumes, the students shared their spirit to online education. Kudos to Jerome and the faculty for doing their best for the children during this challenging time.