The Vermont Agency of Education approved a Continuity of Learning Plan for the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) on April 8. The plan lays the foundation for remote learning across the district, with specific guidelines for all teachers regarding communication with students, online class time, internet accessibility and plans for coping with teacher absences due to illness.
On Monday, April 20, The Valley Reporter caught up with Waitsfield fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Dan Greenleaf to talk about the process of implementing this remote learning plan. Greenleaf said building his remote learning skill set was difficult at first. “I have an app on my computer that says my weekly computer time is up 740 percent! There’s been a learning curve with getting comfortable with the technology.”
The learning plan requires that all students have daily “time on task,” or daily allocated hours of learning time meant to keep students engaged in a consistent routine while they work from home. For Greenleaf’s students, this time on task looks like Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9 a.m. math classes and Tuesday and Thursday reading groups, along with plenty of one-on-one conferencing with students throughout the day.
TIME ON TASK
On days with less time on task, Greenleaf noted that students started working later than normal. “On days with more flexibility, students are starting their school days late. I see that they’re completing assignments, significant assignments, late afternoon and even into the evening,” said Greenleaf. “It’s funny to me because I’m a morning person, so I laugh when I wake up and see all that has been accomplished.”
Communication is another vital part of the learning plan, which requires teachers to use a variety of digital platforms to communicate regularly with students. In his classroom Greenleaf uses a variety of communication platforms: email, telephone, video-chatting apps, etc. Still, he finds that video-chatting platforms have been the most rewarding communication tool for remote learning. “I’m realizing, even if it’s through a computer screen, how nice it is to be able to laugh and joke a bit together and at least make some eye contact,” said Greenleaf.
Assuring that all students have internet and technology access is another pillar of the remote learning plan. “We’re very lucky in that regard,” said Greenleaf. “Waitsfield has been one to one in its student-technology ratio for four years now. Every student has a Chromebook. All students have internet access.”
Additionally, the remote learning plan requires teachers to create a “3-deep plan” in case staff members become ill. “For me, Lee Van Dine is my first deep. Tom Young is my second deep,” said Greenleaf, explaining how under this plan teachers work together and arrange to cover each other's classrooms if need be. “The 3-deep plan is to allow that education to continue should somebody get sick and be unable to teach,” said Greenleaf.
Finally, the remote learning plan states that, with a commitment to do no harm during this pandemic, students will not be penalized for not complying with work or class meeting requests. When asked how he keeps students motivated to learn despite the lack of consequences, Greenleaf said motivation to learn hasn’t been an issue. “I haven’t had to think about that policy at all. Attendance has been really good. The students get a lot from being together. They get a lot from seeing their classmates, even if it's on the video screen.”