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To read this article in its original form, visit RPS Voices.
SOMERSET, NJ - March 2020 brought about an upheaval to what “traditional learning” in schools looked like. News outlets and social media responded with a wide range of reactions, sometimes celebrating and sometimes condemning schools for their approaches. A series of questions began to consume the minds of parents, the most pressing being: “Is my child getting the most from their Remote Learning experience?”
For Rutgers Preparatory School’s teachers, Remote Learning became a unique opportunity to revolutionize already-engaging lessons, and an endeavor to further develop their craft. The RPS Tech Team’s forward-thinking prepared teachers for the Digital Classroom even before quarantine mandates were a possibility. Teachers were trained on platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet/Hangouts to allow for face-to-face connection with students. Our educators then worked tirelessly over the next few weeks to further master additional innovative and engaging strategies to use in the event that Remote Learning became a reality, which it did between March and June for Rutgers Prep and countless schools across the US.
In early September 2020, Kim Bosch’s article in the New York Times addressed the pressing question, “How to Tell if Distance Learning Is Working for Your Kid.” She suggests that there are five areas parents should consider when effectively addressing this question.
- It is clear how your school measures success. RPS’s Goals, objectives, and outcomes are routinely communicated from each teacher to each family. Progress reports are regularly sent, and parents are informed of performance on assessments. Gradebooks, feedback, and lesson plans are accessible to families.
- Your child is engaged. Engagement can be indicated if your child can answer questions about what they did in class for that day. Does your child know how to find information/resources from that teacher? Does he/she know the class procedures? Can your child tell you what they are doing and the goal? If the answer is yes to these questions, your child is engaged.
- You see a restructuring of assessment approaches. RPS knows that Tests and quizzes are not the only way to determine mastery of skills. Projects, small group discussions, forums, online interactive programs, educational games, and open-ended written responses are all valuable techniques that provide appraisals.
- The teacher focuses on relationship development. All aspects of instructional lessons can and should be utilized to develop relationships. Discussions and projects engage students and frequent communications home demonstrate a commitment to a partnership with parents. Getting to know your child is the foundation for learning and teachers make establishing a close relationship with your child and your family the priority. Open and continual communication is encouraged by our teachers.
- There is a focus on the objectives and outcomes. Your child’s teacher(s) pursue new strategies and methodologies to elicit mastery. The teacher may use interactive games like Kahoot or Socrative or reinvent traditional practices such as formal note taking and flashcards with the goal always being that any and every strategy has one purpose: meet the objective for each student. (Bosch, 2020).
The approach that Rutgers Prep’s teachers have taken to their digital classrooms is grounded in these principles above and more! Our teachers inspire academic excellence, exploration, enhancement of skills, and student engagement. School may be different than it was in the past, but the outcomes are the same; there is student involvement and mastery, we use creative approaches to instruction to meet our students’ needs, we practice continuous communication, and we value partnerships with our parents.