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Parents, teachers adapt to online learning

For the past month, Lunenburg County teachers, students, and parents have been adapting to a new way of learning since the COVID-19 pandemic caused Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) to open 100% virtual on Aug 24.

Overall, LCPS Superintendent Charles Berkley said, “virtual learning is going okay.” There are a few hurdles we have had to overcome, and we are constantly making adjustments and improvements.”

Berkley further said the majority of parents and students are adjusting to the virtual learning platform and are being very successful, however some are having difficulties with internet availability or have not attempted to put forth an effort to connect, which has created some issues.

“We are constantly reaching out from the school buildings to assist or help students and parents in their needs and problems each day and will continue to work to improve accessibility and answer questions/problems as they occur,” he said.

LCPS teacher Michelle Bolter said each student’s situation is different when it comes to how they are progressing with virtual learning.

“Virtual learning has taught me to celebrate small victories for each individual student,” Bolter said. “While one student is completing all his or her assignments and is on track with each lesson, another may be sitting at a Wi-Fi site doing his or her very best to complete overdue assignments.”

Phillip Townsend now spends many of his school days learning from home with his dog, “Blue,” by his side.

As an educator, even though teaching during this school term is very different, Bolter said she must do her best to help her students.

“We have to be our students’ advocates and cheer them along in times like these,” she said.

Virtual learning not only means students have to learn in a new way. Teachers like Bolter are also learning how to teach in different ways despite changes.

“I teach a hands-on subject where learning is experiencing and seeing many amazing things in nature. From microscopes to science experiments, these activities make science fun and memorable.” Bolter said. “It is challenging to not be able to let the students experience these fun classroom tasks. Virtual learning has made me try and “think outside of the box” with activities that will engage my students. I want them to feel like they are sitting in the classroom.”

Bolter said she is doing just that by using Zoom meetings, virtual field trips, recorded experiments, and recorded face-to-face lessons to capture students’ attention.

LCPS educator Scott Wilson said he, too, has learned new things in the past month of virtual learning and is pleased with his students’ progress.

“My goal for my students’ virtual learning experience is to make it feel like the lessons that I present on Canvas feel like they are in the classroom with me,” Wilson said. “The feedback that I have gotten from students has been positive and very appreciative of the lessons that I have posted on Canvas.”

When it came to learning the virtual learning platform called Canvas, Wilson, who has been teaching since 1996, said he is ‘old school’ when it comes to teaching math, so the virtual learning platform was a challenge.

“The biggest challenge for me was learning new technology and a new learning platform. However, after a month using Canvas and other new technologies, I feel very comfortable using them, and I have enjoyed learning something new.” Wilson said.

Parent Ashley Schenck Sweitzer said while she feels most of the teachers are doing an amazing job at handling the virtual learning that even though all four of her sons have great teachers, one of her sons is looking forward to going back to school in person.

“My son actually said to me, ‘Mom, I miss school.’ Put these kids back in school where they belong,” Sweitzer said. School is very important to some children, that is where they get interaction and food prepared for them. I just pray that they will be back in school soon.”

Sweitzer, who works full time, said that virtual learning has meant a change for her household.

“Honestly, I just try to do the best I can,” Sweitzer said. “I have a 15-year-old who stays at home with limited interaction with people. I have a full-time job, so when I get home from work, I then try to work on his school work with him. Some days he doesn’t get much done while I am at work. When that happens, he has to come to work with me so I can monitor him actually doing his school work. I’m sure children that have a stay-at-home parent handle it a bit better. I feel for those children that don’t have help at home, don’t have internet access, and are having a difficult time with it all.”

Nikki Hawthorne said virtual learning has been good for her family but that they have found a new respect for teachers.

“It’s has been challenging at times, but also very rewarding,” Hawthorne said. “My husband and I love how flexible the schedule can be. We also get to see a different side of our kids, and how unique each of their learning styles are so we are learning too.”

As a childcare provider Hawthorne also sees the challenges and rewards.

She said recently progress reports were sent out from LCPS, and a few parents thanked her for helping with schoolwork.

“I was filled with joy and appreciation, because of the parents support at home,” Hawthorne said. “I find that if the parents take it seriously, the kids do too. But again, teachers are appreciated.”