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Teaching impacted by transition to distance learning

By: Sean Ibara

17 October 2020

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Distance learning has become the new normal across Hawai`i’s public schools because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

Local teachers are using trial-and-error to create a structured routine for their students. They have to work around the schedules of their students and parents, particularly for Elementary students. Overall, these changes have drastically changed the way that thousands of Hawai`i’s public-school teachers are delivering instruction.

 

“It took about two weeks to get our schedule situated and to get everybody comfortable,” said a kindergarten teacher who requested to remain anonymous due to the Department of Education’s privacy policies. 

 

Although the distance learning curriculum has required teachers to remain flexible with their style of teaching, the teacher said that they are continuing to make the most of the difficult circumstances.

 

“I do feel like it’s effective, given our situation,” the teacher said. “…It’s the best we can do [while] not being able to be face-to-face, cause then, through our virtual learning, we can still get on the computer, I can still see their faces, I can’t see their work so that’s kind of tricky.”

The lack of physical interaction with their students is one of the biggest challenges for teachers, especially for those who teach lower grade levels. 

“It’s really challenging to build community and have the kids get to know each other,” the teacher said. “… I can get to know them to some extent, but I think they have a hard time asking questions or talking to their friends cause that’s a skill that you have to teach.”

Kalani High School Principal Mitchell Otani encourages teachers to turn to colleagues and school technology coordinators during this unprecedented time.

“It has been entirely stressful,” said Otani. “Some people pick up technology very easily. Others, it has been a little more difficult so [my goal] is to exercise a lot of patience, understanding, and flexibility.” 

Department of Health guidelines state that the return to in-person instruction will depend on the volume of statewide cases and the severity of the community spread. If the number of cases per 10,000 residents remains at 36 and above over a 14-day period, schools will be advised to stick to distance learning. If that number is between 16 to 25, schools may switch to blended learning. If that number is five or less, schools may return to in-person instruction. 

According to Schools Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, the earliest return to in-person instruction would be after the Winter break.