Texas Teachers Overcome Physical Distance, Digital Divide To Stay Connected With Students

Many teachers feel a strong sense of responsibility to connect with their students in personalized ways to keep them from falling off the radar.

By Laura IsenseeMay 26, 2020 9:11 am, , , , ,

From Houston Public Media:

From her home in Aldine, bilingual teacher Rachel Clarke starts the week by making a special video for her fifth graders.

“Hi, students, hola alumnos, this is Miss Clarke,” she begins.

All 50 are learning English in the Aldine Independent School District. As the week goes on, she sends videos with personalized feedback to students within 24 hours of them turning in an assignment.

In one video, Clarke tells a student named Genesis she misses her a ton and is proud of all her reading — four books in one week.

Clarke’s spent 20 years in the classroom. Now teaching remotely from home, she’s found these videos to be essential. And she’s learned some things.

“It seems like the more personalized I can make it, the better,” Clarke said in an interview. “Also, that I absolutely need to get over whatever I look like on camera. Because it doesn’t really matter. You know, it doesn’t matter if my grays are showing or any of those other things. Kids need to see me.”

Texas students are wrapping up an unprecedented school year. Since COVID-19 sent everyone home to learn remotely, teachers have tried creative solutions to bridge the physical distance and some gaps in technology.

Another instructor in Clarke’s district set up a special Instagram account for middle schoolers. Sometimes, high school teachers will ask classmates to check in on their peers.

In Spring Branch, teacher Kristi Dina set up a carport classroom to coach a group of neighborhood kids in third grade math — on top of her regular teaching job, with about 30 students. Dina said the idea popped up because she was having trouble with her own son with math and realized he had about half a dozen classmates in the neighborhood. Once a week this spring, they gathered in her carport — socially distant — to review word problems.

“I think that’s what everybody’s missing the most, is that conversation that you have in talking back and forth. And that’s what they loved,” Dina said.

Read more.


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