A firsthand look at virtual learning with educators from The Bancroft School & Early Education Program.
Digital Learning Day 2021 | #DLD21
“What is going on? What is this going to look like? How am I going to do this with my students? Will I provide my students enough support?”
The dynamics of teaching have shifted tremendously in the last year — a change teachers at The Bancroft School and Bancroft Preschool & Early Education Program have seen firsthand.
Like teachers across the United States, Bancroft’s special educators adapted quickly to unprecedented challenges, to ensure their students were positioned for success despite their sudden change in routine, and parents and staff were equipped to offer the in-home support those students needed to thrive.
For more than 10 years, educators have marked Digital Learning Day in February as an opportunity to collaborate with peers, share ideas, try new tools and celebrate educational innovation — but that’s evolved this year, too, as we showcase teachers and staff who have found new ways to engage their students in the COVID-19 landscape.
We asked a few teachers at The Bancroft School and the Preschool & Early Education Program to reflect on their experiences — and their lessons learned — in the last 12 months.
For Elizabeth Kaighn, a teacher at the Preschool & Early Education Program, the greatest challenge was figuring out how to deliver Bancroft’s individualized approach to education virtually – while meeting each student’s unique needs.
“What a challenge – to figure out what would work best for each individual student and then deliver it in a way that was effective,” she said. “I remember how scary it was to learn a whole different way of teaching; to completely change my job as I knew it, during a time that was scary in and of itself, in a pandemic.”
Finding ways to engage students who were nonverbal, or who find it difficult to sit for long periods of time, proved especially daunting.
Like Kaighn, Elementary Special Education Teacher Stephanie McCormick took time to teach herself new techniques for her virtual classroom.
“My brain felt like a web browser with a million tabs open,” she explained. “I spent endless hours researching, watching YouTube videos, and reading blogs educating myself on platforms available in the technology realm.”
Kaighn, McCormick and their colleagues knew it was vital that they find ways to continue delivering meaningful instruction while helping students and parents navigate digital learning at home.
“It has required me to be extremely prepared with activities and materials while at the same time, requiring me to be completely flexible and okay with my plans taking a different direction,” said Kimberly Collins, a teacher in the Early Education program. “I always have a few backup plans. Flexibility has been the key this entire time. Being flexible with not only the kids’ emotions, moods, and activity levels, but also with what their caregivers are able to do.”
In reflecting on their own experiences and growth, each teacher said they’ve learned a lot about themselves, their students, and their teams.
“It allowed us to grow and learn from each other,” McCormick said. “It allowed us to feel like a family. To watch the students grow as virtual learners and be a huge part of that growth. The students are amazing and being able to see their smiling faces has made it all worth it!”
Despite the challenges of the last year, teachers have found their own silver linings – and celebrated the milestones and victories both big and small.
“There were also good surprises along the way,” said Kaighn. “Like when I realized I could do this, and (students) could do this. We could learn a new way to do things, and be successful.”
“I’ve had to revise in my heart and in my head, what makes me feel satisfied and successful as a teacher.”