Navigating Learning Environments

African-American girl remote learning using tablet.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused students and faculty to have to adjust to learning and working from home. In addition, most have transitioned to a hybrid schedule: experiencing school both in-person and remotely.

To address the impact that the pandemic has had on education, Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) focused on navigating an unprecedented learning environment during an installment of its “Heads Up: Coping through COVID-19” webinar series.

The event featured Amanda Isabelle, Superintendent, Mascoma Valley Regional School District, Erica Wood a sixth grade teacher at Chesterfield School and Levi Skarupa, a sixth grade student at Mastricola Upper Elementary School.

Stepping up to the challenge

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned this pandemic, it’s that nothing will stay the same,” said Isabelle. “We have had to learn to adapt, be flexible and to really work hard to make sure that we were ready for the next thing that’s going to be thrown at us no matter what it was.”

Change is a constant, but even more so during the last year when Wood, Isabelle and Skarupa faced complex issues such as balancing work and household responsibilities and navigating online platforms like Zoom on a daily basis.

As a teacher and a mom of three, Wood stayed organized by communicating realistic expectations and creating an at-home school schedule so her children would know exactly what they were supposed to work on.

“We each have our own dedicated workspace,” said Wood. “Setting up a space and making it comfortable is important, it makes you feel like it’s going to be a good place to get work done.”

For Skarupa, the hybrid model has posed challenges like remembering to bring work from home to school and vice versa, but overall he has enjoyed the balance of time at home and time spent at school.

Staying connected, engaged and on track

Helping children stay engaged with school and connected to teachers is crucial, especially in areas that have limited access to internet and computers.

“We’re a fairly rural district, so we had to make sure that our teachers were able to teach from home with the devices they needed,” said Isabelle. “Our busses would also run the bus routes and drop off lunches and supplies, like mobile hotspots, to students in need.”

Though extracurricular activities like clubs and sports look different now, Isabelle pointed out that children want to have connections with their peers and schools have resources in place to make that possible.

And for students who need further support, emotional or otherwise, schools are providing the help of guidance counselors and social workers to keep things moving forward.

Whether a student, faculty or parent, the key to navigating challenges brought about by the pandemic is communication.