Until the COVID-19 curve has been flattened in America, the new reality for school districts likely includes a mix of in-person and remote learning. For most districts, the final months of the 2019/2020 school year saw a sudden pivot to distance learning. Educators and students alike had no choice but to engage with technology they may have, up to that point, had little experience utilizing. While some districts are returning to a classroom setting this fall, for many, the new school year will continue to include either full or partial remote learning.
In order to ensure that the most is made of this time and that learning continues for students, schools will need to take steps to set their educators up for success with this new teaching medium. Many practices teachers have come to rely on are being rethought in light of their new reality. Leading a classroom in person and leading a classroom remotely through technology require different approaches. Offering enough professional development opportunities for educators to master the software they are using should remain a top priority for school districts. Training and support in managing learners remotely, online assessment techniques, and remote communication will make a big difference when it comes to maintaining an educator’s effectiveness and impact on students.
The students themselves will also need additional support and understanding from their schools in the fall. Although some may be more technologically inclined than their teachers, few have actual experience with online learning and the new set of rules they had to adopt this past spring. Before actual lessons begin again, some groundwork will need to be set in place. Technology training for younger learners, time management, motivation, digital citizenship, online etiquette, and seeking help when a teacher is no longer just a raised hand away all represent new wrinkles to a young person’s educational career. The sooner this groundwork is laid out, the sooner learning can continue.
While this new landscape offers new opportunities to learn and new avenues to explore, it isn’t without some potential setbacks. Many students rely on the resources available to them in the classroom that they do not have access to at home. Every student deserves an equitable chance at an education, and schools may need to take additional steps to ensure the equity students experience in their school can be extended to their homes as well.
A major roadblock standing in the way for some children in a distance learning environment may be something we often take for granted—consistent and reliable access to the internet. Luckily, there are several low-cost and even free options available that educators can offer families without a reliable connection. With the proliferation and normalization of distance learning, equitability in education could take a hit without equal internet access.
The National Digital Inclusion Alliance is an organization dedicated to spreading digital inclusion and promoting equal access to the internet for all. Educators can visit their website at digitalinclusion.org for an extensive list of low-cost and even free options available to connect households to an internet provider.
A number of local libraries around the country have been offering free internet during COVID lockdown via their regular public Wi-Fi that extends into their parking lots. Anyone in range can connect a device to the library’s public network. This may be a temporary and somewhat limiting option, but if a family is within range of a library offering this service, they can easily park, connect, and download lessons or materials they may need for the day.
At ESS, equity in education is a big part of our mission. We strive to address the individual needs of each district we serve and offer a flexible program that is designed to meet their specific level of need, including features like multi-lingual training programs and incentives for substitute teachers who work in schools of greater need. Each of these ESS partner districts benefit from a substantial pool of available substitute teachers and a targeted recruiting campaign that draws from the district’s community to provide personnel that are not only qualified to do the work, but familiar with the student body.
ESS is also excited to announce our latest offering: virtual substitute teachers for districts choosing to have teachers instruct virtually for the upcoming school year, ensuring continuity of student education even through remote learning solutions. In the event students are required to return to remote learning during the school year, ESS can provide substitute teachers who have completed our intensive online virtual education training. Our virtual substitute teachers are proficient with popular remote learning platforms such as Google Classroom, Zoom, Canvas, and more. No matter what schooling looks for our partner districts this fall, ESS’ virtual substitute teachers can teach from inside the classroom, broadcasting to students at home, or fully remote, teaching from an off-site location in a fully virtual classroom setting. These substitute teachers are also trained to teach in a traditional classroom setting so they are prepared for any contingency. ESS works closely with our district partners for any specific training needs.
This flexible approach to providing substitute teacher services to our district partners will be an asset in the years to come. Districts are facing a slew of new compliance regulations as students return to a classroom setting and educational staff will need to be prepared to adapt to a new set of rules in order to maintain a safe learning environment. In addition to our existing industry-leading substitute teacher training, ESS is now including COVID-19 training topics for substitutes and contingency plans so that training can continue online if in-person training is not possible. Flexible training programs will make a huge difference when it comes to keeping ahead of an evolving educational landscape.
More changes are likely on the horizon for young learners, and school districts will need a substitute staffing partner like ESS in their corner ready to provide an individualized program and flexible services able to adapt to any changes that may come their way.
Contact ESS for more information about services we can offer your school district.