Perception of Remote Learning

Perception of Remote Learning
Posted on 05/07/2020
REACH High School Principal

Educators are planners. Most like to take their time planning to make sure that every single student receives the best education possible. Typically, when undergoing such a large venture such as district-wide remote learning, the planning would take place over the course of a minimum of a year; longer if possible.

As it is well known, no one had a year to plan, or a month, or even a week once the outbreak of the Coronavirus became a concern. It was merely days that were available to plan a completely new learning platform for students. The majority of districts in the nation were completely at a loss. Nationwide, many students went a month or longer before a plan for instruction was implemented.

This was not the case in Castleberry ISD. With the recent final installation of the third internet transmission tower, 92% of our families already had the capacity for free internet provided by the district. The other 8% were quickly provided hotspots so that they could be connected to learning as well. The students at REACH High School did not miss out on a single day of instruction.

Even under the best conditions, the change is an adjustment for everyone. But, in Castleberry ISD, it is a smooth adjustment thanks to our district leaders and school board who were planning and implementing necessary changes over spring break.

However, as with most students across the district, REACH High School students found their lives turned upside down. The day before spring break was the last day of school, as they knew it, without any warning or any chance to say goodbyes to their school family.

REACH students went from a very nurturing, caring learning environment to most working alone in their rooms for countless hours at a time on their netbooks. The exception is for those whose help is necessary to step up and help with younger siblings while their parents work. Or, in some cases, many students are working additional hours at their own jobs to help out their families.

The REACH team understands the struggles of our students. It is this positivity and understanding that has been the foundation for a successful remote learning environment.

Mr. Rivers, social student teacher, illustrates the positivity and mind set of the REACH family. "Remote learning has brought many additional challenges to our school and district, but our students at REACH High School have been PHENOMENAL!!!  I'm so proud of their effort as they take on additional roles of helping with younger siblings, working to help support their families, yet still staying focused on their education. Couldn't be prouder!!!" 

The embedded school culture at REACH High School is one that makes it not seem like a school at all. It’s a safe learning environment in which all students and staff belong.

Abby S., a senior at REACH, shares, “REACH High School is different from any other school. REACH is a school where you’ll connect with not only students but with the teachers. The principal and teachers at REACH are so determined to get you to graduate. I honestly couldn’t ask for anyone else. Each teacher will make sure you never give up. When you’re thinking about it, they’ll be right beside you to pick you right back up and make sure you stay up. REACH is just an amazing school that I’ll never forget about. You will for real REACH your goals.”

Abby’s aunt, Norma Sauceda adds, “REACH has been there for my family and my niece, Abby. Especially during the difficult times she experienced losing both parents. REACH became a family to Abby by being there for her in so many ways. I thank God for the amazing principal, terrific teachers and the wonderful counselor for helping, saving and reaching out to my niece, Abby.”

In our time of remote learning, suddenly, a text, or an email, or a phone call has to be enough for our students. Teachers have the tough job of trying to help students stay motivated. Students have the tough job of trying to focus without their teachers right by their sides to encourage them to get back on task or to ask if they need any help.

Alondra R. explains, “Well, in my opinion, remote learning has been a bit difficult for me because it’s not the same as being in school where the teachers are present to help us students and to motivate us.”

The teachers and the principal still reach out and try to say all the right things but it just isn’t the same for many students.

Josh C. has kept his eye on the graduation prize consistent enough to earn the reward of completing all of the requirements for graduation during remote learning. But, it wasn’t easy. “My opinion about this situation is it’s tough even though the teachers are trying their best and hardest teaching their lessons. I prefer to still be at school and learn in the classrooms because it helps me more and I feel like it helps the students also to learn in person. But, I know everyone is trying their best and taking this online remote learning serious.  Everyone is wanting to move on and succeed no matter what situation it is of what’s happening. Hopefully, everything can go back as normal and students can get all the help that they need and become really good students to show and prove what they can do in their classes.”

Just like students, teachers also have found themselves trying to balance all of the components of their new lives of social distancing and isolation with their families.

Mrs. Flowers, science teacher at REACH, reflects, “Remote learning has been a huge learning curve for not only our students, but teachers and parents. Even though most of our learning is already remote, it still took some time, patience and adjustment to catch a rhythm to the new ‘norm’ especially when I had to incorporate my own children's learning on top of making sure REACH students are still reaching success.”

Yes, the majority of the instruction at REACH, during “normal” times, is already remote, in a sense, as a system of structured on-line learning is the norm. Thus, the strain of change wasn’t as drastic for as many of our students as perhaps our other students across the district. Students at REACH merely continued where they were prior to spring break in all of their classes, receiving additional classes upon completion.

Perla Prado, math teacher, recognizes the perseverance of successful students thanks to the assistance of all of our stakeholders. “With this new season of remote learning, our students continue to strive and move forward in achieving their goals. Although they are sad that they can't interact with their fellow peers, they have worked hard to stay on track. Great job parents, staff, and everyone in our district for the wonderful support given to our kids.”

The support of all stakeholders, compounded with the fact that Castleberry ISD is many years ahead of its time in regard to technology, allows students to excel in the current conditions.

Jadyn R. spends more time on her classes than in any other area of her current life. She has completed four difficult classes since the new process began. “The remote learning is very helpful. For me, things like school are easier on a computer. I understand the material a lot better, and if I need help, all I have to do is ask a teacher for help. I feel like it has been very supportive and constructive.”

Remote learning would not be so successful without the specific support of our parents. The blessing of having parents as partners in the education process is key and the “secret” to success.

Tammy Hassebrock, Jadyn’s mom, sends inspiring emails in support of the team. “Because of you and all the caring teachers not only is my daughter graduating, she's graduating a year early. They have kept in constant contact with Jadyn, and myself.  If she had this kind of caring before, she would never have been off track. So, thank you for all you guys have done for us. My daughter's success is because of you all.” She follows with, “I am one of your biggest fans. I cannot say enough good things.”

The inspiring, heartfelt words of our parents are always unexpected, somehow, but always appreciated. Each member of the REACH team is fulfilling their mission and doing what they love. Watching our students grow, flourish and succeed is the reward for us. Kind words from our parents and caregivers are an added bonus.

Faithlyn M. is another one of our REACH students who devotes countless evenings and weekends focused on learning, quickly finishing three of her classes. “For me the lessons have not changed. The videos and lessons I have, have been there from the start. It’s a very simple and easy process for me. All my teachers are just an email or text away.”

Overall, the remote learning experience, with the perception of a negative, has been a positive for the REACH family. It has more deeply bonded the REACH family and has extracted the individual inner strengths of both students as well as staff.

Mrs. Mihalicz, ELA teacher, expresses the feelings of the team regarding the journey as we all look forward to the rainbow that will shine brightly very soon at graduation. “I am completely floored by the amount of dedication that has persisted during remote learning. Our students are flourishing, using teachers as resources. Communication between teacher, student, parent and principal has not been negatively affected. If anything, it has excelled! I am proud of our kids, yet I miss them terribly. I look forward to seeing them in my remote classroom. That being said, I cannot WAIT to watch them walk across the stage!!”

One of our 18 students who will be walking across the stage, Keila A., concludes with her perspective regarding remote learning. “In my opinion, my remote learning experience has been great. The website sometimes has its glitches but when I contact my teachers they answer consistently every time. I feel supported as the teachers regularly check in to see the goals we plan on completing and to see if we’re on track. Although I do miss the experience of REACH, learning remotely has been a good experience overall.”

The exact date for graduation will be shared as soon as it is available.