This spring, two Carroll alumnae were quickly launched into the era of virtual teaching. Maria Franke '20, and Sydney Kennedy ’14, ’18, were supposed to work side by side this with second-grade special education students, but that experience was cut short in March by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Franke, a special education student teacher, was supervised by Kennedy, a cooperating teacher who had taught at Waukesha’s Hawthorne Elementary for three years.
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The transition, as it was for most businesses, was quick.
“We had gotten emails from the principal throughout day that this might be happening, so we were packing up iPads and sending books and supplies home with the students,” Kennedy said.
Not only did she have to supervise her grade-school charges via computer, but Franke as well.
Franke luckily had spent the fall semester at Hawthorne with another teacher. “I really appreciated the fact I already knew Maria, because it was easier to take on a student during this time,” Kennedy said. “If I didn’t have that relationship with her, it probably would have been 10 times harder.”
Franke appreciated working with Kennedy as well. “It was great for me, because she has a lot of the same ideas about teaching and lot of same inclusive practices about special education that I do. It was awesome to work with her and see her bring teaching strategies we’ve learned at Carroll into practice.”
Any grade schoolteacher can tell you the challenges of keeping youngsters’ attention on their work, but teaching in an online environment was understandably daunting,
Franke discovered virtual learning along with her students. “The most important thing I learned was to slow down. Through virtual learning, we’ve been able to see that we do need to break down lessons and give them step by step. During (in-person) school, sometimes kids can coast by and rely on asking the teacher questions later if they don’t understand lessons.”
Breaking down information into bite-sized chunks was a lot of work, but proved much more successful. And, as a result of Safer at Home, parents also became a bigger part of the learning process, Kennedy said. She and Franke accommodated working parents’ students to turn in assignments as they could.
Kennedy credits the families for putting in extra hours to support their students. “They’ve had to change their entire lifestyle to make this work, and it’s amazing to hear what they’re doing,” she said. “I heard a lot more from my students’ families, and it was really fun to connect with them in a different way. To see kids in their homes creates a different perspective on their life and a different relationship with you. We’re communicating better with our parents than ever before.”
Franke also praised parents’ involvement and determination. “At the beginning, it took a lot of parent support to figure out the routines of posting and how to hand in assignments,” Franke said. “It was a challenge for some, but now that we’re into it, there’s many fewer challenges too.”
She was among the 22 undergraduate and two grad students Kim Hofkamp
, Carroll’s director of clinical experience, was working with this spring when the pandemic turned things upside down.
She stayed connected with all teacher candidates via virtual meetings and complimented teachers and cooperating teachers, like Kennedy, for adapting to unusual circumstances.
“These cooperating teachers have just been fabulous in working hard to provide our candidates as real a situation as possible. For them to be figuring all this out and then working with an aspiring teacher, I give them a lot of credit for sticking with us,” Hofkamp said. “We want our candidates to continue to learn and grow through student teaching, whether face-to-face or virtual, and think carefully about students’ needs, and that’s academic and social emotional learning.”