Teachers adjust to “At Home Learning”

As the Souderton Area School District closed its buildings for the year, teachers have had to adjust to teaching virtually. Teachers are using technology to connect with their students.

As per Governor Wolf’s orders, The Souderton Area School District abruptly closed district buildings on March 12, as the novel coronavirus spread throughout Montgomery County. Initially, the school district set up a two-week enrichment program for students, posting materials and assignments for the students that, although not graded, were highly encouraged.

With guidance from the State on extending stay-at-home orders, the school district’s administration rolled out a more comprehensive ‘At Home Learning’ model. Teachers and students across the district began utilizing on-line programs such as Schoology, Microsoft Teams, and Gmail to work on assigned material that would be graded.

Adjusting to ‘At Home Learning’ has been a challenge, according to physical education teacher Karin Clark. “It’s definitely taking more time because I have had to revamp everything. With all of the lectures and projects I would normally do in school, now I have to convert them virtually,” said Clark.

Clark, who also teaches the Unified PE course, says teaching that course has been particularly complex, as it relies strongly on personal interaction. According to Clark, she has had the “Partners” send the “Question of the Day” in video format to the “Students”, as well helping lead the class with their exercises.

“That way, students that can tap in virtually, will have something that can connect them,” says Clark.

According to science teacher Caitlin Warren, she has also had to adapt to the “At Home Learning” with hands-on learning being “the biggest loss” in her classes.

“That’s what I love the most. I love being able to explain something in five to ten minutes, have you guys do a lab, walk around, give some feedback and then at the end talk to you guys about how the lab went and how that connects to what we are learning. We do not have that in our current environment, so what I have been doing is trying to make things different.”

To that end, one week, she had her students do a scavenger hunt to find and take pictures of plants that belong to each plant category. According to Warren, she has also tried “bio-simulations” online, as well as having her students watch videos online.

“But, it still does not replace those hands on learning activities with in house collaboration,” said Warren.

Math teacher Laura Szatkowski says she also prefers being inside of the classroom.

“I definitely prefer teaching in person. I like the interaction back and forth. It is very quick and easy to see when someone is not understanding something, as you are having that interaction in person and face to face. I could do a quick walk around the room and have an idea of if they got it or if they didn’t. The interaction and seeing their expression can’t be replaced by the computer. That’s been the biggest challenge,” said Szatkowski.

The district’s ‘At Home Learning’ with graded material is set to continue until May 29. After that time, optional enrichment material will be put on Schoology for students to finish out the school year.