After experiencing distance learning in the spring with her son, Shelley Gonzalez knows that there are imperfections in the system.
“It was a lot of trouble shooting and it was very chaotic when we would do the Zooms and stuff, “ Gonzalez said, describing trying to help her son, who is going into second grade, with his assignments.
Gonzalez says she has more appreciation for teachers now, and she’s learning how to help her son by taking part in the Synergy Summer Institute. It’s an annual Miami-Dade County Public Schools conference in which teachers and parents can learn together. This year it’s all virtual, with live sessions and webinars.
“I’m hoping that I get a little insight of how to help my son with the social-emotional aspect that unfortunately is gonna be impacted by distant learning,” Gonzalez said.
She said from her experience, it’s crucial for parents to be involved in home learning.
“I think that’s the only way distance learning is gonna work,” Gonzalez said. “The child is not gonna grasp that information if the parent isn’t there reinforcing it, I felt like he got more out of lessons if I was at least within earshot.”
On the other side of the distance learning equation, teachers are learning a lot about the importance of giving kids structure.
“In the same way they would have in their classrooms, they still have that experience with their teacher where they can go to them regularly, they know exactly what‘s going to happen on a weekly basis, students need consistency,” said Stevie Peacock, a teaching coach at Madison Middle School.
For teachers like Peacock, professional development training such as the Synergy conference concentrates on reaching kids during the distance learning process.
“One-on-one zoom instruction, too, as well as lectures to the class and collaboration, the same best practices we would use in an in-person setting, we try to translate as much as possible to the online learning,” Peacock said.
“Connecting with students and relationships is number one to get them invested in their classes and courses,” said Ilia Molina, the Miami-Dade Schools director of instructional technology.
Molina facilitated one of the sessions on distance learning.
“So we’ve given tips and tricks to teachers about how do you start open ended conversations where kids can create relationships with the adults and create conversations with one another,” Molina explained.
Synergy, which is organized by the director of academic support, Sarah Chatel, is just the beginning. The school district is promising much more remote learning training for its teachers before school reopens five weeks from now.
Also, anyone interested will soon be able to watch the webinar videos from Synergy on the MDCPS web site.