Proximity Learning https://www.proxlearn.com Students First Thu, 21 Jan 2021 22:02:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://www.proxlearn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Circle-Logo.png Proximity Learning https://www.proxlearn.com 32 32 Teacher Goes Above and Beyond to Help Students Succeed Online https://www.proxlearn.com/teacher-goes-above-and-beyond-to-help-students-succeed-online?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teacher-goes-above-and-beyond-to-help-students-succeed-online https://www.proxlearn.com/teacher-goes-above-and-beyond-to-help-students-succeed-online#respond Thu, 10 Dec 2020 18:52:46 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=17025 The post Teacher Goes Above and Beyond to Help Students Succeed Online appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Teacher Goes Above and Beyond to Help Students Succeed Online

Written by Christina Peebles

December 10, 2020

Blog | Teacher Stories

During her online classes this fall, Proximity Learning middle school teacher Jennifer Hardgrave noticed abnormal behavior in one of her students. Amongst the boxes of student faces on her screen in Zoom, one of them stood out with how she was consistently squinting each class.

“As a teacher [you] notice things, and I had privately sent her a chat and asked her if she could see or did she wear glasses,” Hardgrave said. “She had broken her glasses and said that her parents would not be able to afford to get them fixed.”

Soon after, Hardgrave reached out to Proximity Learning’s support team to see if the school she taught at had a Lions Club in their local area. She said the Lions Club had often helped students get their eyes checked and, if needed, obtain a pair of glasses. By reaching out, Hardgrave confirmed there was one in their area and her student was able to get new glasses.

“Her demeanor and the way she participates [has changed] because she was struggling getting her work done on time,” Hardgrave said. “Who wouldn’t if you can’t see to do your work? That would be a struggle. So her whole demeanor, academia and everything has changed.”

She’s not the only student Hardgrave has gone above and beyond to help succeed. Even though she’s not physically there in the classroom, she ensures that she’s always available to meet with her students one-on-one during their lunch periods or after school if they need help. She also strives to be flexible with what her students need, such as by listening to what timeframes they need for projects.

“I think, as a teacher, that is just what we do,” Hardgrave said. “We’re here to walk the extra mile with kids.”

Going above and beyond is second nature for Hardgrave due to her passion for education that has burned strong since she was a kid. She’s never doubted that teaching was what she was meant to do.

“It’s a calling,” Hardgrave said. “When I was in first grade, I received a chalkboard from Santa Claus. I started teaching my stuffed animals, and ever since I’ve known I wanted to be a teacher. It was something that was deep within and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Additionally, Hardgrave ensures that her lessons not only develop her students as learners but as people. 

“I want to develop the writer in them instead of just check[ing] off a list [that] they can write a five-paragraph paper,” Hardgrave said. “The way I teach them how to edit and write is a little bit out of the box, but it also develops the person within them and them as a writer.”

Hardgrave decided to become a teacher for Proximity Learning due to her desire for a flexible work environment that would allow her to set up a classroom anywhere she wants to be. But, she is still able to teach and interact with her students face-to-face no differently than when she was in the brick-and-mortar classroom.

“The platform in which education is delivered to the students is the best I’ve ever seen because there’s an interactive teacher, because we’re there and the kids aren’t doing lessons delivered to them,” Hardgrave said.

Unfortunately, not all online learning platforms are as successful for students as Proximity Learning is. Hardgrave said she tried to help one of her friend’s kids with their asynchronous online schooling, but even she couldn’t figure out how to find the homework or get in contact with the teacher.

“It’s very difficult to shuffle through,” Hardgrave said. “I looked at it and helped one of our friend’s kids and I was like, ‘This is a nightmare compared to what we’re doing.’ It showed me that what we’re doing works and it’s right for kids.”

By connecting with her students face-to-face every day during class, Hardgrave said online teaching is no different from teaching in front of a physical classroom. Each day when she logs into Zoom, she can laugh and have fun with her students while providing them with guidance that makes a difference in their lives.

“People think that it’s so different from teaching in a brick-and-mortar school, but there’s so many similarities that if you’re a teacher, you’re a teacher,” Hardgrave said. “We still do so many things that are alike. I think Proximity Learning is the top, delivers the best in virtual learning and is really doing the best job and changing the pendulum shift out there of how we deliver education.”

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Hybrid Learning Can Widen the Learning Gap, Risk Health https://www.proxlearn.com/hybrid-learning-can-widen-the-learning-gap-risk-health?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hybrid-learning-can-widen-the-learning-gap-risk-health https://www.proxlearn.com/hybrid-learning-can-widen-the-learning-gap-risk-health#respond Fri, 04 Dec 2020 22:29:42 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=17011 The post Hybrid Learning Can Widen the Learning Gap, Risk Health appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Hybrid Learning Can Widen the Learning Gap, Risk Health

Written by Christina Peebles

December 4, 2020

Blog | COVID-19

In wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across the United States have been searching for how to keep students safe while also providing them with the learning experience they deserve.

In the middle of August, 12% of school districts said they planned to start their school year with hybrid instruction, according to a survey by the Center on Reinventing Public Education. Hybrid and blended learning options, a mixture of in-person and online classes, seem like a middle ground for reducing the risk to the virus while still allowing students to have a sense of normalcy by attending school.

Plus, the model allows for the most flexibility to meet the scheduling needs of districts. It gives schools the opportunity to implement a rotating schedule where they bring in smaller groups of students in the school at one time throughout the week, which can make it easier for administrators to enforce social distancing guidelines.

But, Harvard Epidemiologist Dr. William Hanage argued that the hybrid model is likely to be one of the worst options for virus prevention. Hanage said that many parents will need to seek child care on the days students are not at school during the workweek, which allows more opportunities for a child to become infected and bring it into school. 

Rather than decreasing exposure to COVID-19, the hybrid model can have more possibilities for increasing it compared to fully online or in-person models. 

Also, hybrid or blended learning may not be safer for teachers who are coming in contact with the same number of students, according to an article from Vox. Staff infection rates at schools using hybrid learning were actually higher than at schools with only in-person instruction, according to data from the COVID-19 Schools Response Dashboard on Sept. 22.

Additionally, many teachers at schools undergoing a hybrid model are having to be responsible for managing both in-person and at-home students. In some schools, teachers are having to do this during the same class, according to a story by nonprofit leader Brianna Donaldson. This doubles the workload for teachers and causes them to struggle to effectively cover content at a normal pace. 

Because of this, the hybrid learning model has led some school administrators to expect teachers to cover only half of their normal curriculum, according to Education Week. Instead of helping students stay on track with their learning by meeting in-person, this method of learning is causing children to fall behind in their learning and face a greater risk of catching the virus.

With our Enriched Live Instruction Model (ELIM), students didn’t miss a single beat when transitioning from in-person to at-home classes.

At Proximity Learning, we believe in connecting all learners with the expert teachers they deserve. Our new teachers undergo extensive training and guidance from mentors before logging into their first class so they feel prepared and confident to instruct effectively online. This way, students are receiving the highest quality education starting on day one.

When the pandemic closed the doors of schools across the country, our teachers understood the importance of being there for their students and providing them with as much normalcy as possible during a difficult time. Our classrooms go beyond just following the curriculum by being safe spaces for students to get away and connect with a teacher that values their wellbeing. 

With real-time online instruction, students are also right on track in their learning with students in brick-and-mortar classrooms, according to a recent independent study done by Chicago State University. In our AP Chinese classes, students excelled on their AP tests this spring despite the pandemic.

Attempting to obtain the best of both worlds with online and in-person learning can widen the learning gap, overstress teachers and put students and their families at risk for becoming ill with the virus. With ELIM, we can help school districts eliminate the education gap with our high-quality certified teachers, no matter where their students are learning from.

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How are schools impacted by teacher vacancies during COVID-19? https://www.proxlearn.com/how-are-schools-impacted-by-teacher-vacancies-during-covid-19?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-are-schools-impacted-by-teacher-vacancies-during-covid-19 https://www.proxlearn.com/how-are-schools-impacted-by-teacher-vacancies-during-covid-19#respond Wed, 28 Oct 2020 18:37:15 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16833 The post How are schools impacted by teacher vacancies during COVID-19? appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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How are schools impacted by teacher vacancies during COVID-19?

Written by Christina Peebles

October 28, 2020

Blog | COVID-19

In several states across the United States, schools are facing a shortage of teachers and substitutes exacerbated by COVID-19. It’s a looming problem across the country, and concerns of COVID-19 have caused an increasing number of teachers to leave or take time off from the classroom.

Teaching vacancies are projected to reach 200,000 in five years, almost double the number from 2018, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute. When schools are unable to connect students with certified teachers, equitable education is challenged.

A report from the Arizona School Personnel Administrators Association found that Arizona is currently facing the worst teacher shortage it has seen.

Across 145 districts and charter schools in the state, more than 750 teachers have quit since the start of the 2020-21 school year, according to the ASPAA report. Of these teachers, 43% said COVID-19 was the primary reason for their leaving.

Additionally, schools across the country are facing a lack of substitute teachers. During a time when schools are in need of substitutes the most, there is a smaller pool than ever before.

In Colorado, parents are volunteering to substitute to help alleviate the shortage, according to an article published by the Colorado Sun. Other districts in the state are offering staff members a financial incentive to step up and fill in when necessary.

A good portion of substitute teachers are retired teachers and they face a higher risk for complications from COVID-19 due to their age, Kallie Leyba, president of both the American Federation of Teachers Colorado and the Douglas County Federation, told the Colorado Sun.

Schools in Colorado are not the only ones scrambling to fill teaching vacancies with a last-resort alternative. In West Virginia, several schools have had to close due to outbreaks of COVID-19 and a shortage of teachers and substitutes, WCHS-TV reported.

To fill the gap, West Virginia’s State Superintendent of Schools, Clayton Burch, announced that college seniors can become paid substitute teachers during the 2020-21 school year before completing their degree. Burch said they will still have a mentor assigned to them.

Up north, a survey conducted by Education Minnesota between Sept. 23 and Oct. 5 found that 79% of educators in Minnesota who responded are feeling stressed, and 73% reported that they are feeling overwhelmed.

Overall, nearly 2,800 Minnesota educators said they are thinking about quitting or retiring, according to the survey.

“Districts need to remove all unnecessary tasks from educators’ plates, open negotiations on building-specific issues and generally abandon plans that ask a single teacher to manage half a class online and a half in-person at the same time,” Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, said in a news release. “That arrangement may have seemed like a good idea in August, but it’s not working in October and it may drive out hundreds of teachers by May.”

Teacher shortages have been an issue for schools for over a decade. As COVID-19 continues to cause teachers to take a leave of absence or retire early, we are here to continue to fill these vacancies with high-quality teachers so students have the equitable learning experience they need.

We are an online education company with a proven track record of success for connecting school districts with certified teachers that provide them access to an equitable, competitive education. For a decade, we have hired and trained high-quality teachers to connect with students through live video technology. By eliminating location as a factor, districts have the flexibility to hire educators from anywhere in the country to teach classes online, Education Week found.

We have one of the best solutions for closing teaching vacancies across the country. With our teachers, students who were unable to access a quality education are now just as successful as students in brick-and-mortar classrooms and are more than prepared for college.

Technology can play a big role in alleviating teacher shortages across the country. By implementing enriched live instruction into schools, any student can learn from the expert teacher they deserve.

Learn more about how our Virtual Teachers can help!

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Online Teacher Combines Passion for World Language, Technology to Personalize Instruction https://www.proxlearn.com/online-teacher-combines-passion-for-world-language-technology-to-personalize-instruction?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=online-teacher-combines-passion-for-world-language-technology-to-personalize-instruction https://www.proxlearn.com/online-teacher-combines-passion-for-world-language-technology-to-personalize-instruction#respond Tue, 20 Oct 2020 21:13:18 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16810 The post Online Teacher Combines Passion for World Language, Technology to Personalize Instruction appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Online Teacher Combines Passion for World Language, Technology to Personalize Instruction

Written by Christina Peebles

October 20, 2020

Blog | Teacher Stories

From a young age, Proximity Learning teacher Odalys Pacheco has been driven by her Dad’s voice at the back of her head saying, “Education is the only way out.” As the first one in her family to have a college degree, she has never stopped learning and pushing herself to be the best she can be.

“If I want to better myself,” Pacheco said. “If I want to be able to help my family, help my friends, help my community, the best way for me — and the only way I knew how — was to educate myself, and so I did.”

From high school technology electives, earning a master’s degree in instructional technology, and becoming a certified Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Pacheco’s passion for learning all she can about technology allows her to explore different techniques for reaching students in the classroom.

“[It’s] something that my dad instilled in me,” Pacheco said. “He said, ‘Technology is going to be the future. Make sure that you get really good at technology.’”

After teaching world language for 10 years in North Carolina, Pacheco worked in instructional technology where she provided schools in the state with professional development catered to their needs. She said she taught teachers how to utilize technology to make learning in the classroom more equitable and personalized to what individual students needed.

One of the teachers Pacheco taught had three students that needed help reading a novel — one was from Taiwan, one was Japanese, and the other one spoke Spanish. With technology, she taught them how to use an app that would translate the entire novel into the language they needed.

“I met with the students, and I said, ‘Hey, all you have to do is click here. It will do the translation for you, and it will even read it out loud for you. It will show you the different grammar parts of a sentence. That way you can practice pronunciation, see the definition, and the translation of the text,’” Pacheco said. “They were so grateful for it.”

The tool was also beneficial for English speakers in the classroom. Since it can read the novel out loud, Pacheco said they would press the button for the audio whenever they got tired of reading.

“The entire classroom was reading the same novel in four different languages at the same time, and I think that was the best part ever,” Pacheco said. “It was like, wow, you can use technology not just for creative games, but also just to hit all those different learning styles and means.”

When Pacheco recently moved to Florida, she said she was looking for more opportunities to grow.

“I lived in North Carolina for 10 years, and I just needed something different,” Pacheco said. “I needed something new, more opportunities for me to grow as a professional. That was one of the reasons why I moved to Orlando.”

Pacheco had left teaching world language in the classroom to pursue instructional technology. Years later, she wanted to mix her two passions.

“World language has always been my passion, and technology is just like the cherry on top that makes everything just beautiful,” Pacheco said. “I wanted to blend both of them. I wanted to blend technology and world language together. What better way to do that than to teach online?”

Proximity Learning, an online education company, hires and trains teachers to instruct students through live video technology. Because the teachers work every day with students and technology, Pacheco thought it was a perfect next step for her to teach for the company.

“I get to use technology, different applications,” Pacheco said. “I get to use everything that I have learned in instructional technology, and then come back and apply everything that I had learned as a world language teacher. I think that’s just the perfect combination to be successful as a remote teacher.”

With her hunger to pursue new opportunities and never stop learning, Pacheco said she wants to be a role model for her students.

“I was teaching them that it’s possible,” Pacheco said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter the situation. It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter your race. It doesn’t matter. If you want to, and if you want it bad, you got to do it.”

Not only was Pacheco working hard for herself, her family, and her community, but she was motivated to keep pushing by her students. She said many of her students moved on from her class and succeeded.

“Hearing those calls and getting those emails from them, saying, ‘Hey, I went to Columbia, and I got a degree in Spanish because of you,’ I’m like, ‘Wow,’” Pacheco said. “Stories like that make you keep pushing and make you want to better yourself even more because you’ve just planted that little seed in them.”

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How These School Districts Planned Back to School During COVID-19 https://www.proxlearn.com/how-these-school-districts-planned-back-to-school-during-covid-19?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-these-school-districts-planned-back-to-school-during-covid-19 https://www.proxlearn.com/how-these-school-districts-planned-back-to-school-during-covid-19#respond Fri, 09 Oct 2020 18:01:05 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16765 The post How These School Districts Planned Back to School During COVID-19 appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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How These School Districts Planned Back to School During COVID-19

Written by Christina Peebles

October 9, 2020

Blog | COVID-19

Proximity Learning, an ESS company, co-hosted a webinar with the American Association for Employment and Education (AAEE) on Tuesday, August 25, to discuss how school districts in Louisiana and Georgia are planning to go back to school during COVID-19.

The webinar featured the back-to-school plans of three school district administrators. Daphne Donaldson is the director of human resources for the East Baton Rouge Parish school system in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Liz Young is the talent management coordinator for Fulton County Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. Nyree Sanders is director of human resources for Newton County Schools in Covington, Georgia.

Questions were asked by Jim Frenchak, a partnership director for Proximity Learning, and AAEE executive director Tim Neubert.

Table of Contents

What is your current plan for virtual vs. in-person learning for the new year?

Daphne Donaldson: For our school district, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, we have started virtually. Right now our students are learning in a virtual environment. The plan is to reassess after Labor Day to determine whether or not we will move into a hybrid environment and an A/B schedule. Our intent is to bring back our younger children, the elementary students, before we bring back the older students. We’re going to try to bring those students back first. Right now that’s our actual plan at this point. But it may change, and we’ve learned change is a major piece of this whole thing.

Liz Young: We are in virtual learning. We’re calling it universal remote learning. All of our students are engaged from home. We do have a plan to phase back in. It’s based on a matrix based on community spread, data numbers for when it’s safe to do so in it. Similarly, it will start with those younger students, focusing on pre-K to second grade first, as well as some of our special needs students that do need to come in and have that face-to-face instruction.

Nyree Sanders: I would say our plan is probably somewhat of a combination of what both ladies talked about. We don’t start in with students until September 8. But when our students do report back, we will start with self-contained special needs students in the buildings. Other than that, everyone else will be phased in over time, and we hope to have any students who chose in person back in the buildings by maybe the middle of October, but that is truly based on what happens with the data related to cases. Hopefully, if all goes well, we’ll see more students who chose in person back in the building by October.

When did your schedule start and what does it look like today?

Liz Young: Our schedule is gonna be based on age level. Our younger students have a different schedule [and] a different number of hours that they’re online than our middle school students. It’s all synchronous instruction. They’re logging in, they have a morning meeting, and they have math time or reading time. Middle school and high school are following a very traditional schedule, almost like they’re in the building. They’re logging into all of those classes every day.

Daphne Donaldson: We started back on August 10. Our employees returned on August 3. We’ve given some autonomy to our principals. But, the school day pretty much looks like the regular school day for elementary, middle, and high school students. One of the things that we’ve encouraged our teachers to do is to do a 20-20-20 type of thing. Where the students are not looking at the screen for straight long periods of time, but we’re being mindful of the impact of the blue light from the computer screen. We have a great educational technology department that has worked with our teachers to help them figure out taking instruction that’s normally face-to-face and moving into a virtual environment, but also maintaining quality instruction [while] being mindful of the technology and the impact it has on students.

Nyree Sanders: We do have schedules that we put in place for each level of student grade span. What we’re planning on doing, and it is subject to change, for elementary level students is to have school Monday through Friday, their regular school schedule. Except Wednesdays would be a modified day where the second half of the day they would be finished for the day and the teachers would have professional learning and do any types of student and parent conferences they need to do on Wednesdays, and that’s for our elementary. Then for middle and high school, we would have similar to where they still sign on and have school all day long, except for in the afternoons after lunch. It will be some type of asynchronous versus synchronous schedules and it would be either AB. So depending on what day of the week it is, they would not have instruction the entire day in the afternoons. We’re looking at a combination. Again, this is for our virtual students, but we also have a third option which is self-paced. For K-12 we are now offering self-paced, which means that those parents who choose not to have their students have a live teacher would be able to go onto the platform and work with their students to make sure that they do all of the assignments. We would just have a teacher providing support and checking their rosters for attendance.

Are they going the full scheduled day like they were attending full time in the brick and mortar?

Liz Young: At this time, they are. There has been some feedback that schools are looking at. That is a long day online for an eighth-grader. To be on there in class periods from nine to four is a lot, even when teachers hopefully aren’t lecturing the whole time. But, some schools are taking feedback to adjust that and maybe utilize some asynchronous instruction. The trick is to still have that schedule be aligned to the school day schedule so that when we do return face-to-face, it is a smooth transition.

What type of staffing challenges did your districts have in the spring, and what are they today? What do you do with the staff’s children?

Liz Young: As far as staffing in the spring, it’s been really interesting because it’s such a different year. But, in some ways, it’s been beneficial. People are deciding not to move in the middle of all of this, or there were other districts around us that decided to do a hiring freeze, which we didn’t do. So, there were more applicants available. We’re actually, in terms of hiring and vacancies, in a pretty good spot. Keeping an eye on the student enrollment and where those staff are going to be with all of the changes, I think is the tricky part at this point.

Liz Young: For a while, we were going to be going back face-to-face, so [the staff’s children weren’t] really on the table as an issue. When the decision was made to go to universal remote, that’s the next big thing. If I’m a teacher, and all of our teachers do have to report to the building, what am I going to do with my kids that now aren’t reporting to school? That was a really difficult decision for our leadership to make because not everyone who works in the district is in a position to be able to bring their kids to school with their space. But, that decision was made that it was in our best interest as a district for our employees to be able to do that. There is a waiver that they sign and they are able to bring if they work in a space, [like] an assistant principal in an office or a teacher in a classroom, where that can work and their kids can be there and be supervised and isolated. They are allowed to do that so long as they are school-aged children. So not infants, not college kids, but that’s how we’ve worked that out.

Daphne Donaldson: In the virtual environment, we allowed employees to opt to telework. We have probably about 1600 employees that are teleworking from home. Because of health reasons or childcare, they were concerned to come back into the building. They had to meet certain criteria and they also had to indicate they would be able to do their work from their home site without accommodation, and we had employees who applied for that. Some of those employees have since returned back to the building because they found it was a little bit easier to work in the building versus working at home. You have challenges when you’re trying to deliver instruction at home, so we provided that option. We’ve not brought back all of the employees. Our next challenge that we anticipate is going to be when employees have to return, and the childcare piece is going to be a challenge for us because there are some questions with regards to if we come back hybrid. How does that look? Do you allow the employee’s children to go back to their regular classes and attend those all day, every day, and what impact that’s gonna have on the legal implications of a fair educational opportunity for all students because there’s some concern that it looks a little bit unfair. We’re still looking into those things, and we definitely have some challenges. I think a big piece is collaborating with other districts, like we’re doing right here, to find out how they’re managing all of these things.

Nyree Sanders: In terms of staffing challenges, in the spring we were pretty much finished with hiring and, because of that, it did make it much easier for us to get through our processes and everything almost was already electronic. We were able to do a lot of things virtually, including interviewing, hiring, and participating in the AAEE virtual job fair to handle most of the staffing issues. Because we started earlier with contracts and hiring, we were able to get most of our teachers hired. We slowed down once we knew that our enrollment may vary for this upcoming year. We have a few positions that we didn’t fill towards the end of the school year, and now we’re working with those principals to try to find candidates who were qualified to come into the district. But in terms of staff with children, we are doing our best to work with individuals. We are asking those individuals who have medical issues or have childcare issues to let us know, and then we work with their principals to determine whether or not they can perform their job at home and still complete their entire workday and meet the needs of the students they’re serving. So far we have been able to work out most situations. It’s just a matter of transitioning students and teachers back in the building. How does that look? And when can we finally start that process?

How did you all get your teachers prepared for virtual instruction for this school year?

Nyree Sanders: In terms of virtual instruction, we had been trying to provide that to teachers even when they were at home working remotely in the spring. We’ve been doing lots of professional learning. In the spring [and] this summer, we worked with our technology team who created lots of professional learning to share with our teachers. We came back at the beginning of the year with pre-planning and set up a full day of professional learning for our teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, and instructional coaches. We’re calling it a vision of virtual excellence, and it’s the Newton County School System way of providing virtual instruction to our students. The goal is to continue to make sure that we allow professional learning time for our teachers even when students come back, but we have had a lot more time because we pushed our student report date back to September 8. We cut 10 days off of our student calendar, and now what we’ve had is pre-planning since August 14. Teachers have been in the building, so they will continue to get professional learning until students report on September 8. It has been very beneficial for them to have this time to plan together and to get the chance to troubleshoot what they know will be issues. We’re already dealing with issues with Zoom and technology and trying to work through those kinks now.

Daphne Donaldson: We had to do a lot of PD. We had already instituted a lot of stuff with Google classroom, and we’ve been doing Google training for several years. We have a great EdTech department in our district that has been pushing that information out. One of the interesting things is that, like most of us, you get the training and then you don’t do anything with it. So, some of our teachers and some of our employees had not touched it since they did the training [and] got the certifications. This was a great opportunity for them to go back and relearn some of those things, and so we’ve spent a lot of time this summer, in the spring, and just before school started with PD. We offer continuous PD for those employees. We also had to rethink and start training our operational people, because many of them did not have the skillset or knowledge to understand how to take their job that was based in a building and move it to a virtual environment, and they didn’t have the technology and the training. We’ve spent some time working with our executive secretaries, clerical staff, support staff, all of our departments, just trying to get them prepared for this change in the new stuff. It’s been a challenge, and we know that we’re going to have to continue to provide that challenge. Another piece was training students and parents on this new normal that we’re in. One of the things we started this past weekend was a community support team that goes out to the public libraries and works with families on connectivity and how to use the different systems at home so you can have some one-on-one assistance.

Liz Young: We also had a little bit of extra time for professional development. Our teachers started on August 3 and our kids started on August 17, so we had two weeks to get as much PD to those teachers as possible and allow them to plan to change their instruction. One of the biggest things for us was to get everyone proficient on Microsoft Teams, which we’ve had for a little while now. We had it in the spring, but we had several schools that were still utilizing Google Classroom and Zoom. It’s great to have some choice out there, but oftentimes for a district to just support one platform and have parents use one platform works out much better. A lot of that time was spent just teaching teachers how to utilize and leverage those tools in Microsoft Teams.

What kind of orientation did you do for new teachers?

Liz Young: We were able to do, utilizing Microsoft Teams, a virtual orientation for teachers. We usually call it, ‘New Teacher Celebration.’ It’s usually in person and it’s a big deal. We feed them and give them goodie bags, [but] we couldn’t do all of that. But, they tried to make it as engaging as possible. Also shortening that time span, because those teachers don’t want to be there online watching presentations all day long. I think we got them just what they needed to get them acquainted with the district and to welcome and celebrate them. We were able to still do some raffling and [we’ll] send them the prizes later. Most of the more getting acquainted with the district professional development came in those next two weeks.

Nyree Sanders: We are a Zoom district now, and so our new teacher orientation was delivered via Zoom, but we had the new teachers report to their buildings. They were able to go to their building [and] social distance. There were packages delivered to each new teacher so they would have what they would need to start working on the classrooms. Principals did a few things to make them feel like they were being onboarded and welcoming them to their school, and most of the training has just been focused on virtual instruction and the expectations around what their work would look like, and it was fairly successful. Most of our teachers were able to participate, and that usually isn’t the case. We usually have lots of issues with scheduling, but we were able to work through all of that and those who did not come to the building were able to log in and get the orientation that way.

Daphne Donaldson: We had a virtual new teacher orientation, and we did that through Microsoft Teams. It was a half-day event for three days. They had a bunch of breakout sessions that they were able to attend. It was a really big collaboration with multiple departments within the district, as well as external vendors and organizations to provide support. We tried to make it very exciting. Normally, we do the big thing like everyone else. You try to just make it sweet and wonderful and happy. But, we did the same thing. The cool thing about this is that everything was recorded, so those teachers were able to go back and watch some of the training that they received later on. They have access to that, which is great because sometimes you go to a great orientation, great training, and you don’t remember anything, or you missed something or you didn’t take a note or you missed a great session. We also held an HR boot camp for administrators to onboard new administrators as well as experienced ones on just understanding how to lead in this new environment of virtual education in a virtual workforce and how to prepare for that. Then we also had a bunch of virtual boot camps. But, we also hosted an operational support boot camp for clerical and support employees. We tried to make sure that everyone understood the new roles and the new normal of possibly working from home.

What kind of technology is at home, and what kind of issues are there?

Liz Young: I’ll start in the spring when it was all of a sudden we were doing this. Our middle and high school students were already one-to-one. All of those students already had a district device that they were able to bring home, and immediately the district started rolling out getting devices to elementary students focusing on older grade levels or more need-based first. Internet access is the next biggest thing. When you roll out devices to kids, they have to have internet access too. A lot of what we did in the spring was not the synchronous instruction for that reason. There was much more asynchronous instruction. Students that didn’t have access received packets. Now with it all being synchronous, the district’s done a great job of getting devices to [students]. The other thing we did was implement hotspots as needed. So when you call our tech hotline, the first question they ask you is, “Do you need internet?” They’re now able to deploy those hotspots to students that need them. The vast majority of our students should have access to a device as well as access to a hotspot.

Daphne Donaldson: We started in the spring as well. We were very fortunate that we had a pretty much one-to-one at the high school level. But, we deployed devices. Our principals and employees in the district made sure we got those out to families, as many as we could connect with in the spring to get them started. Connectivity is a major issue. How will kids get online? We are offering hotspots as well. We’ve worked with several providers that have provided us with hotspots for those families, and we still have some students and families that we haven’t connected with, which is a challenge. Lots of districts are going to see that. You’re going to think you’ve caught everyone and you’re not going to catch everybody. We have 40,000 students, so we want to make sure every one of them has that connectivity. One of the other pieces is we have a website where families can go on to request hotspots, and we also have open Wi-Fi on our campuses. In the spring we opened up the campuses and families could come and park in a parking lot and access Wi-Fi there. Our IT department also collaborated with the housing authority in our area, so there’s Wi-Fi available for the children who live in some of our public housing units across the city. That’s been a big help as well. Our public libraries have Wi-Fi availability. But if you’re in a rural area, I think the rural communities are probably the most challenging because they don’t have towers. Most of us can take our cell phones and pay $10 and change our cell phone into a hotspot. But if you live in a very, very rural community, that’s a challenge because you don’t have any towers. I know that those challenges look very different in different places, but that’s how we’ve been doing it.

Nyree Sanders: We are not a one-to-one district. We would like to be, so we do have a plan to make that happen. But, what we were having to do in the spring [and] now is contact our families to find out if they need multiple devices. We’re able to get those to them. Not all students in our district need devices, so it’s a matter of getting with those families individually [and] finding out which devices they need. We’re offering the iPads for our younger students, Chromebooks for older grades, and the mobile hotspots as well. It’s been a challenge getting enough technology for all of the students who need it, and then for those individuals who live in rural areas. [We] tried to troubleshoot other options for them when they don’t have the internet bandwidth that they need.

How will providing instruction and assessments be impacted by this new school year?

Nyree Sanders: We have lots of practice with [online assessments] here in Georgia, so that won’t be anything new. The difference would be, if we’re talking about students who are not in our buildings, taking any state assessments. We’ll be watching for more direction on how that looks. But in terms of the formative and summative assessments that our teachers would typically do, they are planning to do that. They want to be able to check for understanding as needed and find creative ways of being able to assess students virtually. I want to hear from other districts. We want all the ideas we can get when it comes to assessing our students because they will need a lot of it especially considering that huge gap in time since they got real, consistent instruction.

Daphne Donaldson: For our state, one of the burning questions for HR is our employee evaluations because it’s 50% student performance, 50% observation, The observation model that is currently designed within the statute does not fit the virtual environment. Those are some challenges that we’re working out with our local department of education to assess. You’ve got assessments at multiple levels. You have not just the student assessment challenges, but you also have the employee assessment challenges for evaluations because, in many states, it’s tied to certification. We’re still trying to figure that piece out. Now, one of the things that we did over the summer is we had our state-funded, comprehensive summer programming. We were able to deliver instruction to families and students who wanted to sign up. We had a good number of students that participated. It also was a great practice run for our teachers and staff to figure out any of the issues and topics that we need to work on. It allowed us to drive the direction that we were going to go in for the beginning of the school year. The challenge is based on if we’re having to stay virtual and having to do state testing from home. How does that look? Companies and organizations have been doing it for years. We just haven’t been doing it in K-12 education. But, we anticipate that we’ll figure it out and work it out. It’ll be bumpy in the beginning, but we will figure it out.

Liz Young: As far as state assessment for students as well as teacher evaluations, I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about that. As far as school-based student assessment, that’s going to happen virtually as long as we’re in that virtual environment, and our superintendent has said grades are going to count. I don’t know exactly what that will look like. But, it’s happening because the teachers need to assess the students and ensure that they’re learning the material.

How will providing instruction and assessments be impacted by this new school year?

Nyree Sanders: In terms of gaps, I think the biggest difference will be the types of technology that veteran teachers have been exposed to versus our new teachers out of college. They’ve been on these platforms. They have taken coursework that would help them to use the platforms much better than our veteran teachers, so they do need more training. But in terms of the comfort level, it’s the same regardless of the age of the teacher because they went into this profession to teach students live in person. I don’t know if there is a way to give them the skills they need to do it because none of our teachers are really comfortable doing that when they are expecting to start off the year with a classroom of students in front of them. But in terms of technology, we do see that. Our veteran teachers, it just takes them a little bit longer to get the hang of some of the new technology that they haven’t been exposed to before.

Liz Young: It’s the type of technology like I was saying in terms of transitioning to Teams. If you’re a teacher and you’ve been doing Zoom and Google Classroom all along, then it is a big transition to then go to a whole different platform. Even for me, doing interviews and meetings was a bit of a transition to start using Teams. But, in terms of just instruction, those gaps in person become the same gaps virtually. Like if you want to lecture all day long in a real classroom, that’s going to be a problem virtually as well. I believe the work we’ve done with teachers, even when it wasn’t virtual, is going to help virtually in terms of our PLC format so that they’re all planning together. As well as our instructional strategies and how we format that good instruction in real life should lead to good instruction virtually.

How are you handling student teachers this year?

Daphne Donaldson: We’re allowing student teachers to work within our school system this semester, which is a great opportunity for those student teachers to practice in a virtual environment. Once we move to hybrid, they get to practice in a hybrid environment. It’s gonna make a really big difference for them as they come out of college prepared for this new normal knowing that technology is here to stay, and it’s not new. It’s been around for years, starting with Blackboard. I remember when Blackboard was free, and teachers could use it and I used to use it and I haven’t been teaching for 15 years. I used it in the classroom and I thought it was an amazing tool. To see how everything has evolved into great concepts like Proximity Learning. I think that is the future and our teachers have to be prepared. Now, we have seen an uptick in our district of retirements from some of our veteran educators because they feel like this is way too much, having to learn a whole new system, and then the health concerns, and the stress. So, we have seen a small uptick of retirements that have hit us and we anticipate a few more once we come back to that face-to-face model and environment.

Liz Young: We call [them] teacher interns, not student teachers. It’s a year-long program where they start during pre-planning and they’re involved with their school and cooperating teacher all year long. The only difference this year … is that students from most of the universities around here aren’t supposed to be on their campus and they’re not supposed to be on our campus either. While our teachers [and] our employees are reporting to the building, our teacher interns cannot. But they still got a laptop from us and they have a cooperating teacher, so they’re still completing their student teaching and engaging with their cooperating teacher and students virtually. For most of the first half, they’re more observing and meeting in those PLCs and planning. It’s not until the second semester that they start teaching some more lessons and taking over the class. Presumably, they’ll be back in person by the time they’re ready to start doing more teaching.

Nyree Sanders: Our student teachers have not started yet, but it will be a similar process to what Liz [spoke] about. When we do start with students in September, those individuals who have that option to come to the building will be allowed to. I didn’t mention when we talked about technology that we use audio enhancement devices and cameras that are installed in all of our classrooms. That’s one benefit for those teachers who do decide and are able to come to the building to work. They already have that as well as using Zoom, but they have different tools that are not available to them at home. That’s made a difference for a lot of our teachers wanting to come. That’s something that we like to do with student teachers to give them more experience because it’s not necessarily something that they will see in most classrooms. So, it’s recording the lessons and sharing that feedback with them. I feel like this will give them a lot more opportunities to get feedback than they would have received if it was just them in one classroom with the teacher. We’re hoping that we’ll have more of them that want to come back to the buildings when we start in September.

What kind of efforts is your district taking to reach your most at-risk students?

Daphne Donaldson: We started a community support team made up of paraprofessionals that work in our district. It’s kind of a career ladder opportunity for these paras who may be interested in becoming teachers or pursuing degrees in social work, or anything like that. They go out and represent the district at local libraries and churches to help get us connected. We also have a call center … where we’re going to be calling families and trying to reach out some more, especially when we don’t have correct information on where students are living. We’re going to be calling their emergency contacts, and we’re going to use a call center to do that. We actually will use some of those paras to do that. We call it a repurposing of employees so they can do some different things in this new environment because many of them might not be needed as much while we’re virtual. I believe in getting work out of everybody, so this is an opportunity for them to show their talents. We’ve got an amazing team. They volunteer to do it, and we are paying a stipend. But, we’re also going to encourage them to go into our career ladder program so they can move into different opportunities within a district so we can kind of grow our own.

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How Much Do You Know About Teacher Shortages? https://www.proxlearn.com/teacher-shortages?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=teacher-shortages https://www.proxlearn.com/teacher-shortages#respond Mon, 21 Sep 2020 21:33:54 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16579 The post How Much Do You Know About Teacher Shortages? appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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How Much Do You Know About Teacher Shortages?

Written by Christina Peebles

September 21, 2020

Blog

K-12 schools across the United States are facing a worsening shortage of teachers. While schools have struggled filling vacancies for years, the shortage is expected to be exacerbated this fall by teachers not wanting to return to in-person instruction due to the risk of COVID-19.

The teacher shortage is projected to reach 200,000 in five years, almost double the number from 2018, according to the Economic Policy Institute. When schools are unable to find qualified teachers, providing students with equitable education is more challenging and their learning is threatened.

The shortage is a widespread problem for the country. 95% of U.S. states and territories reported a shortage of special education teachers during 2016-2018, the most out of any subject area according to Education Week. Math, computer science and science are other challenging subjects that most states have struggled to find teachers for.

The shortage has also negatively impacted bilingual and English-as-a-second language instruction with 30 states and the District of Columbia reporting a shortage of teachers in these areas during 2018-2019, according to the Center for American Progress. Bilingual students are resultantly facing a lack of access to personalized instruction from a teacher that can effectively communicate with and mentor them.

Why do teacher shortages exist?

Teaching has been unable to keep up with other professions due to low salaries, difficult working conditions and lack of career growth opportunities, according to the Center for American Progress. From 2010 to 2018, enrollment in teacher-preparation programs has decreased by a third due to these high levels of dissatisfaction in the field, Education Week found.

Additionally, not only are fewer students becoming teachers but 44% of new teachers leave the field within five years, according to a report from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

Compensation is a large factor for this growing lack of certified teachers across the country. Teachers are paid less than other college-education workers with similar experience, according to a recent report from the Economic Policy Institute. This discourages enrollment in teacher-preparation programs and challenges school districts to retain current teachers.

Teachers have said they are overworked in the brick-and-mortar classroom, resulting in burning out and eventually leaving. The job can become too intense with the extra responsibilities of working with school administration and parents on top of their classroom workload.

This struggle to keep certified teachers in the classroom has exacerbated due to the spread of COVID-19 across the United States. Teachers who are unhappy with their districts’ plan to reopen this fall said they intended to either retire early, take an unpaid leave of absence or quit teaching altogether to protect themselves and their families, according to an EdWeek Research Center survey.

Additionally, nearly 1 in 5 teachers said they would not return to work if their school reopened the building for in-person instruction, another EdWeek Research Center survey found. Almost half of the teachers surveyed said they are vulnerable to the virus due to advanced age, being immunocompromised, having asthma, being pregnant or more.

Teachers have been going above and beyond to provide students with effective instruction for years, but the added stress of the risks of COVID-19 and learning how to teach online can be too much for one person to handle.

How can teach shortages be alleviated?

For school districts who have difficulty with hiring teachers due to location, such as schools in rural areas, remote learning can be beneficial to alleviate teacher shortages. Education Week found that an all-remote schedule provides districts with the flexibility to hire high-quality teachers from anywhere in the country to teach classes online. 

For subject areas that struggle with obtaining teachers the most, like special education and science, the ability to connect students with a high-quality instructor through live video can be very beneficial to providing an equitable learning opportunity for students in schools challenged by the shortage.

In the past decade, school districts are increasingly seeking outside aid to combat their teacher shortages. Proximity Learning is an online education company that partners with school districts to fill their needs for high-quality, certified teachers that are trained in the virtual classroom.

For districts in rural communities where access to technology and quality teachers is a challenge, connecting students with a Proximity Learning teacher through live video allows them to have the same learning opportunities as students in urban and suburban schools.

Even when COVID-19 disrupted education at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, students in Proximity Learning classes were able to continue learning online without missing a beat because they were already used to the technology and environment.

Online classes can be just as effective as in-person learning with proper preparation and training. A recent study from Chicago State University found that the grades of students in a class taught online by a Proximity Learning teacher are right on track with the average U.S. middle and high school grades.

With synchronous live instruction, teachers can connect with students face-to-face from the safety of their home without the added stress of the brick-and-mortar workload. Proximity Learning does all the work with the school district and scheduling, allowing teachers to focus solely on their passion for teaching students.

Technology can be powerful in combating teacher shortages by connecting learners with the expert teachers they deserve, no matter where they are.

Learn more about how our Virtual Teachers can help!

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Despite Pandemic, Students in Online AP Chinese Classes Saw Sweeping Success https://www.proxlearn.com/despite-pandemic-students-in-online-ap-chinese-classes-saw-sweeping-success?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=despite-pandemic-students-in-online-ap-chinese-classes-saw-sweeping-success https://www.proxlearn.com/despite-pandemic-students-in-online-ap-chinese-classes-saw-sweeping-success#respond Wed, 16 Sep 2020 23:17:38 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16567 The post Despite Pandemic, Students in Online AP Chinese Classes Saw Sweeping Success appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Despite Pandemic, Students in Online AP Chinese Classes Saw Sweeping Success

Written by Christina Peebles

September 16, 2020

Blog | Teacher Stories

Despite k-12 education being turned upside down as a pandemic closed the doors of many U.S. schools and lent learning into the hands of technology in the middle of the spring semester, College Board’s Advanced Placement exams didn’t falter.

AP students wanting to earn college credit continued their studies from home to prepare for a new online format of the exam. While technology is typically turned off and buried in student backpacks during AP testing, Proximity Learning Chinese teacher Hsin-wei Grace Chang said she had students take the AP Chinese exam on their cell phones this past spring.

“This year’s really, really different from the previous years,” Chang said. “A lot of pressure, but, at the same time, it increased the bonding of the teacher and the students. … I think our relationship [is] even better because they are used to having Chinese class online.”

As a teacher for online education company Proximity Learning, Chang had been teaching her AP Chinese students online since the start of the school year. When schools closed due to COVID-19, her students were already familiar with the enriched live instruction model. 79% of Chang’s students said there wasn’t any noticeable change in their online learning experience with her when they transitioned to learning from home, according to an anonymous student survey conducted by Proximity Learning.

“It is my favorite class,” said one of Chang’s students in their survey response. “Learning is going well as always.”

When Chang received the grade report for the AP Chinese exam, she was very excited by the success of her students. Out of the 41 students from her classes at Frisco ISD that took the exam, 40 of them scored a passing rate of a 3 or higher.

“I really appreciate this opportunity [to] teach AP Chinese at PLI,” Chang said. “We started designing [the] AP Chinese curriculum in 2016, so just four years and our students got such a successful result in an AP exam. That’s very encouraging.”

Through education, Chang said she has been able to fulfill her dream of sharing what she knows about the Chinese language and culture with others. She said she especially enjoys the challenge of sharing a different perspective with her students.

“I keep telling my students the language reflects what the people think,” Chang said. “If you ask me why the Chinese language is so different from the English language, other Western languages or other languages, that’s because the way Chinese people think is different.”

For students in her upper-level classes, she challenges them with more discussions about the reasoning for what they are learning because they already know some Chinese.

“I’ll ask them, ‘What do you think? Why do Chinese people have this kind of practice? Why do Chinese people use this kind of language? [Why does] the sentence structure look like this?’” Chang said. “In order to give them the fish, I think it’s better to teach them how to fish.”

Chang has been teaching with Proximity Learning since it was formerly known as My Chinese 360 in 2011. She said she was the first Chinese teacher the company hired in the United States and has since worked on the curriculum development team to build the Chinese 1, 2, 3, 4, and AP Chinese curriculum.

“Teaching is my passion,” Chang said. “I enjoy sharing what I know about Chinese language and culture with people. … I think to teach is a way to touch people’s lives. I believe there is no greater joy than teaching.”

My Chinese 360 began with a Chinese program, and as more languages were added to the program Chang said the name changed to My Language 360. She said they tried different platforms and technology to improve their teaching while designing their curriculum. After becoming Proximity Learning, she said the company gained an increasing number of courses and electives.

“I think this company has a bright future,” Chang said. “The goal of this company is to offer qualified teachers to students, and I really appreciate teamwork in this company. I think that’s very precious, and that will be one of the reasons why this company becomes so successful.”

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Math and Music Mix in this Teacher’s Online Classes https://www.proxlearn.com/math-and-music-mix-in-this-teachers-online-classes?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=math-and-music-mix-in-this-teachers-online-classes https://www.proxlearn.com/math-and-music-mix-in-this-teachers-online-classes#respond Wed, 26 Aug 2020 22:05:37 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16442 The post Math and Music Mix in this Teacher’s Online Classes appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Math and Music Mix in this Teacher’s Online Classes

Written by Christina Peebles

August 26, 2020

Blog | Teacher Stories

Drums, tambourines, congos, cabasas, and bongos often make a guest appearance in Dion Lucas’ classroom. Growing up under her mom’s dedication and passion for music and teaching, she said she hopes to continue passing down that love for learning to the next generation in her Proximity Learning online classes.

“I’ve been playing drums for over 25 years, so I incorporate a lot of music into my math lesson plans just like my mom,” said Lucas, a Proximity Learning math teacher.

Whether it’s through transforming nursery rhymes or raps into math lessons, Lucas’ love for music helps her instruction be more engaging and memorable for her students.

Lucas said she found her start with drumming when she played trumpet in middle school. During band class, she sat near the drumline and gradually fell in love with the rhythm.

“It wasn’t very popular for girls to play drums, and so I had to tell my parents, ‘All I do is think of drumming, so I think I should be a drummer, not a trumpeter,’” Lucas said. “So I saved up my money to show how serious I was about buying my first drum set. … My parents still have my first drum set in their basement in St. Louis.”

While Lucas said she loves reading and writing, her preferred way to express emotion has always been through the rhythm of drumming.

“It was just, you speak in a rhythm, you talk in the rhythm, your heart beats to a rhythm,” Lucas said, “and it’s just so soothing that sometimes if I want to express how my day went, I just get my drum pad … and then that expressiveness just comes out of me.”

Lucas’ love for drumming doesn’t show up in just her teaching. Additionally, she enjoys providing wellness coaching and music therapy in her community by helping family, friends, and students meet their physical and mental needs.

“I found … a lot of times students like to work with music in the background,” she said. “It helps with memory, it helps reduce agitation. … So, it’s very therapeutic. I find music therapy to help a lot of students.”

In stressful testing environments, Lucas said her math songs help students process information when they sing it in their head step-by-step. By supporting her students in their success in and out of the classroom, she said she can help them move forward and become more productive.

Lucas has been teaching mathematics for over 15 years, but recently moved online with Proximity Learning when she said her job began getting in the way of her being able to spend enough time with her family.

“I needed a change,” Lucas said. “So going into this new year, this new decade, I reached out to teach virtually so I can work from home [and] spend more time with my family. The invitation came out to join Proximity, and I accepted that, and I’m so grateful to be a part.”

When asked in school what she wanted to be when she grew up, Lucas knew she wanted her answer to be something she enjoyed doing. If she could get paid to do it, she said that was just a bonus on top of being able to share her love for music and education with students,

“I really enjoy learning and being part of school, so I became an educator,” Lucas said. “My parents are educators, my grandparents are educators, my cousins, so they really instilled [paying] it forward to the next generation.”

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Top 10 Things Teachers Need to Effectively Prepare for Online Classes https://www.proxlearn.com/top-10-things-teachers-need-to-effectively-prepare-for-online-classes?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=top-10-things-teachers-need-to-effectively-prepare-for-online-classes https://www.proxlearn.com/top-10-things-teachers-need-to-effectively-prepare-for-online-classes#respond Fri, 14 Aug 2020 19:09:45 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16151 The post Top 10 Things Teachers Need to Effectively Prepare for Online Classes appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Top 10 Things Teachers Need to Effectively Prepare for Online Classes

Written by Christina Peebles

August 14, 2020

Blog

Besides when schools closed due to COVID-19 at the end of the previous school year, you may have never taught online before in your life. With the first day of school just around the corner, you may be wondering how to engage students and make your lessons more effective this time around. Proximity Learning, an online education service company, has been training teachers for a decade on the best practices for remote teaching through live video, so here are our top 10 things you need for successful online classes!

1. An Office Space Dedicated to Distance Learning That is Free from Distractions and Conducive to the Learning Environment

Not every teacher has a separate room that allows them to physically close the door from any outside distractions for a day of classes. One of our teachers taught underneath her son’s bunk bed for a month of teaching online, and her students never knew.

We advise that you try your best to designate an office space that is free from any distractions or noises if possible. The first spot you try may not end up being the last as it can take some experimentation to find out how you work the best from home.

If you teach standing up and walking around in the classroom, try finding a spot in your home where you can do that as well to help make the transition to teaching online easier and feel more comfortable. Zoom, a video conferencing platform, allows users to personalize their background with or without a green screen, which can aid with separating your work life from your home life. Not everyone works online the same, so finding your way to become and stay organized is key to successful teaching in the virtual classroom.

2. Appropriate Technology i.e. Computer, Headset, Tablet (if needed), Webcam

Having a computer and a webcam is essential for connecting with students via live video. A headset is necessary for being able to block out extraneous noises so that you can hear what students are saying, and they can hear what you’re saying with a microphone close to your face.

A tablet can be connected to the computer and used as a virtual whiteboard with a tablet pen. While not necessary, a tablet can be a necessity for teachers who enjoy engaging students with whiteboard diagrams and notes in the classroom.

As an alternative, Proximity Learning virtual teacher Cody Reid bought a document camera that could connect to his computer via USB and allowed him to use pen and paper to illustrate concepts for students. Another method teachers can employ is using their cell phone camera as a document camera by logging into Zoom with their phone and spotlighting the cell phone video.

If you don’t have all the technology you need, look for used electronic stores near you or at online marketplaces for electronics at a discounted price!

3. Knowledge of the Learning Management System and Video Conferencing Software Being Used

Proximity Learning utilizes Canvas, Zoom, and Teachable as the foundation of our digital learning environment. But whatever the software may be, setting aside adequate time to learn the platforms you will be using in the online classroom will help make your class run more smoothly in the long run.

We advise that you watch video tutorials, spend time practicing different features, and ask experienced teachers for help. Important features of your video conferencing software that you need to know include understanding how to control meeting settings, such as chat and student microphones, to minimize distractions.

Proximity Learning online teacher Lizette De Luna emphasized that teachers learn the programs they will be interacting with before logging on for class. She noted that students can see through teachers easier online, so it is key that teachers are confident and familiar with the tools they are using for a class to go smoothly.

4. Easy to Access Overviews of Lesson Plans or Week at a Glance for Students

More so now with distance learning, it is critical that students can easily access and view lesson plans online so they can stay organized and know what their workload will be like each week. At Proximity Learning, we utilize a feature of Canvas that allows us to send announcements out to students for them to view their Week at a Glance on the same platform where they access their assignments, grades, and all other information about their classes.

Proximity Learning virtual teacher Cori Allan said she schedules her announcements on Canvas at the end of each week to be sent out to her students on Sunday or Monday. Allan’s announcements tell the students what they will be learning about and what homework they will have for the week. By sending them out early, her students can see them before arriving to class and feel prepared for the week.

5. Plans For Students Who Cannot Attend Live Classes

Absences may occur in the live class session as they do in in-person classes. But in an online learning environment, there are easy fixes to ensure students don’t fall behind. Here are our suggestions:

  • A recording of the live lesson can be posted for students to watch at any time. With just a click of the ‘record’ button, Zoom easily allows you to tape and share lectures with students.
  • Peer study groups can be set up for students to gather and discuss what they missed in class.
  • Post any class materials you have, such as PowerPoints, etc., on Canvas or your school’s chosen learning management system for students to access later.

For students who are unable to attend live sessions from home, paper packets have become a popular way to keep students on track.

6. Routines, Procedures, Expectations – Participation Policy, Late Policy, How to Enter Class, How to Leave Class, What to do if you walk away from the computer, etc.

In advance of the first day of class, it is important to set routines, procedures, and expectations so students are prepared and have an understanding before logging in for the first day. Since many younger students are new to learning online, more communication is better than less. Make sure your students know where they can access the link to class and how to get there, and then how to log in for class and how to log out. Set expectations for logging in, such as should they have their video and microphone on? Will they be expected to complete a bellringer at the start of class?

Furthermore, be prepared for the unexpected. Keeping students on a schedule during class is essential according to Proximity Learning online teacher Kris Wedington. She said interruptions occur online just as they do in brick and mortar schools. While teachers can try to minimize them the best they can, presenting a professional appearance when they do occur is important to maintaining control over the classroom. Wedington advises that if something urgent occurs and teachers need to step away, they can tell their students to carry on with the assignment so the issue can be taken care of.

Additionally, De Luna said that teachers can put on a short educational video for the class so that they can check on children or attend any other urgent matters. The transition time between classes is also a good time to check up on children. For lunch, she advised preparing meals in advance to make efficient use of the break. Once in a routine, she said teaching from home will run smoothly.

Working online for Proximity Learning, De Luna said teachers have the advantage of choosing their hours that can work around their family’s schedule. Nonetheless, she advised holding children to the same expectations as if they were still in the brick and mortar school.

7. Have Flexible Due Dates and Office Hours For Students Whom May Have Questions Outside of Class

Just like how you can utilize live video to engage students during class, video conferencing is perfect for holding office hours as well. Having times where students can connect with you for help along with flexible due dates are important for keeping students motivated during a difficult time where they may be learning from home.

Proximity Learning online teacher Marcia Hammond enjoyed hosting office hours because it was a way for her to connect with students beyond the virtual classroom. She said she was able to connect with students individually during this time and personalize her instruction to meet them with what they were passionate about.

“We were able to do specific, … differentiated reviews that helped them to grow, and really, to me, that’s what teaching is all about,” Hammond said. “As long as a student is able to learn something new or be able to apply whatever it is I am trying to teach them, that means the world to me.”

8. Have Presentations, Games, and Other Lesson Enhancements to Help Students Have Fun During the Lessons

With a world of technology at your fingertips, there are many different resources that can be used to engage students online. In math classes, Reid implemented a fun, free math game from Prodigy to engage students in and out of the live class session.

If you prefer traditional, hands-on activities, Proximity Learning teacher Casey Harris found a way to conduct science experiments online by having her students make ice cream with common household items.

9. Create Assignments that Will Allow for Multiple Modalities But Are Easy to Grade

In an online environment, there are a lot of opportunities for students to engage in different mediums of assignments. Reid utilized Pear Deck to implement interactive questions into his presentations that allowed students to answer by drawing or typing. Other great, free resources we recommend using in your online classes are NearPod and CK-12.

For teachers who may not have a lot of flexibility in their day, De Luna advised teachers to research and take advantage of automatic graders to save time and avoid getting bogged down with grading tons of assignments. Proximity utilizes Canvas for efficient grading, but other learning management systems like Blackboard have automatic grading as well.

10. Praise Students Often

Lastly, it is essential that students still receive acknowledgment for their hard work. During a difficult time where it’s still not clear what the upcoming school year will look like, it can be easy for students to lose motivation and become frustrated.

De Luna uses animated emotes, such as clapping hands and hearts, to praise her students for doing well. ClassDojo or other reward systems are also great to use in the virtual classroom. Because you are not physically in the classroom with them, remembering to acknowledge the work they are doing is important for keeping students engaged and wanting to learn.

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Online Classes Allows Teacher to Get Closer to Students, Personalize Learning https://www.proxlearn.com/online-classes-allows-teacher-to-get-closer-to-students-personalize-learning?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=online-classes-allows-teacher-to-get-closer-to-students-personalize-learning https://www.proxlearn.com/online-classes-allows-teacher-to-get-closer-to-students-personalize-learning#respond Fri, 31 Jul 2020 19:07:05 +0000 https://www.proxlearn.com/?p=16003 The post Online Classes Allows Teacher to Get Closer to Students, Personalize Learning appeared first on Proximity Learning.

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Online Classes Allows Teacher to Get Closer to Students, Personalize Learning

Written by Christina Peebles

July 31, 2020

Blog | Teacher Stories

“Hey, I’ve seen you do well,” virtual math teacher Cody Reid said to his student. “Don’t shut down on me yet. Alright? Don’t shut down on me yet. Don’t say I can’t. Alright? Because I know you can do it. I’ve seen it. I know you can do it. It’s going to suck. It’s going to be terrible. However, that’s short term. Long term, you’re gonna go, ‘Oh my gosh, Mr. Reid. You’re right. I can do this. Here we go.’”

A teacher for online education service company Proximity Learning, Reid had been connecting with students for class through live video streaming long before the pandemic came and disrupted the end of the spring semester. But as students began logging into his class from home, he realized he had an opportunity to personalize his instruction and build better individual relationships with his students.

“[The students are] not in the same house,” Reid said. “They’re probably not even in the same neighborhood. When they’re in the classroom, it’s harder for them to speak up. However, when they’re sitting at home, they’re in their environment. They’re at a place where they’re most comfortable. It allows me to sit there, work one-on-one, [and] nudge them a little bit.”

With large amounts of uncertainty and no answers of what the future held, Reid’s goal was to try his best to uplift the spirits of his students while stuck at home. He aimed to have the hour and a half he met with students be a bright spot they would always be looking forward to in their day.

“That was my goal, so there were various math games I brought back out,” Reid said. “[I kept] students engaged that way, and their competitive [side] kicked in a little bit too. So it got pretty interesting, and then I brought back Prodigy gaming.”

Prodigy is an online game that combines role-playing with math. Students battle creatures in the game and capture them by answering math questions adjusted to their skill level. Reid implemented this game in the class as a way for his students to actively continue learning in a fun, positive way. Furthermore, he realized this was an opportunity for them to strengthen skills they hadn’t yet mastered.

“At the beginning when they first start playing, they take a pre-assessment which adjusts to where they’re at,” Reid said. “So I had students who were in seventh grade, but I discovered that they’re at a fourth-grade math level just because of one little skill that they hadn’t fully developed. So that … allowed me to [reflect and say], ‘Okay, we’re working on these skills in seventh grade. This is why they’re struggling with that skill because they don’t have a prerequisite back from fourth grade.’ So, it allowed me to really adjust that way, too.”

Not only were his students stuck at home, but they were suddenly cut off from being able to see and socialize with their friends and classmates at school. The math game allowed Reid to bring his class together in a different online environment then they were used to. Outside of their regular live online classes during the week, his students quickly began battling him and each other in the game.

“It didn’t take long for them off-screen to battle each other,” Reid said. “I could sit there and track their activity. I had students before they even said anything the next day, I could see they had done like 200 problems before they even showed up to class the next day.”

The math game was a fun, educational distraction for the students from the world outside of their homes. With the feelings of fear and unknown that come with living during unprecedented times, Reid said he focused on prioritizing his students first and foremost so he could ensure they are taken care of.

“Everything I do, decision making, lesson planning, relationship developing, I’m trying to put students first,” Reid said. “I have to ensure their safety and ensure their mindsets are well taken care of, cause I know they are probably scared out of their minds.”

But, the uncertainty persists as the beginning of a new school year is around the corner and many schools are grappling with how to reopen. With the possibility of teaching students from home again, Reid said his biggest takeaway from the end of the spring semester was to emphasize building relationships with his students before doing any form of curriculum instruction.

Reid said he got a sneak peek into the lives of his students outside of the physical classroom by seeing their home life on the other side of the screen for the first time, which gave him a unique opportunity to learn more about his students individually and be more personable with them. Because of this, he was able to form deeper connections during a difficult time.

“It’s never not what you know,” Reid said. “It’s the love that you can show them [and] the respect that you can show them, because it will never matter how much you know about the subject if you don’t show that you care to the students.”

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