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Distance Learning with Motivated and Engaged Middle School Students?

LongIsland.com

When the Mineola teachers got the official call that schools would be closed on March 15th, they were not in a panic. They went live on March 18th without skipping a beat.

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When the Mineola teachers got the official call that schools would be closed on March 15th, they were not in a panic.  They went live on March 18th without skipping a beat.   Mineola, was ahead of other districts and digitally had things in place for years.  As a recognized Apple Distinguished district, that utilizes technology daily, Mineola was ready.

 

Some say it's extra , we say it's worth it!   


A group of teachers from Mineola Middle School had signed up for a Professional Development course earlier this school year that would use the Engagement Project and CoPilot from PERTS* to get continuous feedback from students (organized and designed by Jennifer Maichin, a learning specialist and teacher leader).  Some of the prior discussions revolved around “getting to know students as people”, “making sure students feel heard”, and “addressing disciplinary problems with empathy”.  We also had a year long focus on “growth over proficiency”, “actionable critical feedback along with reassurance”, quality over quantity with praise”, and finding a personal relevance in learning”. Who knew this would be of the most value a few months later?


These Mineola teachers believe strongly that teaching students to accept and give feedback and recognize mistakes will help them grow.  Growth Mindset has been part of a district wide initiative.  This prior teaching directly enabled our children to persevere during this difficult time.  


From the beginning of the year, teachers spent time differently in the classroom, building relationships and having students recognize how learning works and how their efforts impact their outcomes.  Participation in this group allowed the teachers to get continuous feedback anonymously from their students and the teachers would meet to discuss how to change things in their classroom as a direct result of their students' responses. 

  

 

Many teachers may feel pressure to get through the curriculum and that there’s not enough time to spend on things like this.  These teachers feel the opposite.  Investing the time has proven to be the most effective strategy in keeping students engaged.   Distance learning has proven exactly how positive this may have been.   Distance learning cannot be 'pile on work to keep kids busy', teachers must be cognizant of the social emotional wellness of students during isolation.  Feedback provides 'a conversation' for students that not only engages them, but when done well, provides a sense of belonging.

This group of teachers have close to perfect attendance on their live sessions that meet daily for each class.  The students have expressed feelings of frustration and lack of motivation, yet they continue to work hard and ‘show up’ because of the relationships and beliefs they have in their teachers and themselves.   They have had lots of opportunity through surveys and daily conversations to mold what their distance learning looks like and still make time for some fun virtual activities. 

 

The teachers were invited as a panel to the annual Carnegie Foundation Summit on Improvement in Education which would have taken place in California.  Instead, they participated virtually and had discussions with educators from all over the country in break out sessions.  Recently, these teachers were also interviewed by the BELE Network


How long will it be until the schools can return to normal?  What will the new normal look like?  How will we keep the students engaged and motivated? We are constantly adapting to the new world of education as we learn together, with our students, how to virtually educate and connect.  No matter when they get back, Mineola and their staff are prepared.  



The following teachers are participants in this group: @staci_durnin @SerioMrs  @mustangs1226 @michelefrascog1 @MsAmzler   @jennmaich   @leslievanbell  @MrsBorges_MMS   @MineolaMS  @MrsHazenMineola @KMurphyTeach

 

 

*PERTS is a Stanford University organization that helps educators apply evidence-based strategies in order to advance educational excellence and equity on a large scale.  Most of their research and programs focus on growth mindset. 

 

By Heather Hazen

 

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