Distance Learning: Math’s Worst Nightmare
Olivia Belcher, East Jessamine Middle School, Jessamine County Schools
My name is Olivia Belcher, or to my students, I’m often Ms. B. I am an 8th-grade math teacher in Jessamine County, KY. This year was an interesting year, especially for a first year teacher. As a first year teacher, I spent much of the year becoming comfortable with my teaching style and using my curriculum, and as soon as I felt like I understood what I was doing, we were sent home. Due to a global pandemic, two weeks became a month, and then we were informed school would not return. Thankfully, my district was no stranger to Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days. Our students knew to check google classroom for their daily assignments, and we had paper copies for the students who did not have internet access at home. We had no idea what was yet to come.
The last in-person week was stressful. What started as a typical week of test-taking and new content coverage quickly changed at 2 PM on Thursday, March 12th. Our superintendent sent a message to our principal instructing us to distribute the remaining NTI packets. With the school day ending at 3:40, time was limited. Various news outlets discussed COVID-19, but this news came as a shock to us all. Much of that last hour was spent scrambling to prepare work for students and distribute the work throughout the grade. Unknowingly, the next day would be my last with my students.
Hand-On Math from Afar
Teaching math to 8th-graders and ensuring they're engaged is a battle when in the classroom; this struggle becomes nearly impossible when instruction becomes virtual. My school also began using a hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum this year. Students had a hard time adjusting to this change. Their frustrations only grew once we moved online. After two weeks of traditional NTI instruction and a week-long spring break, teaching became video-based, and administration cautioned that this could become the new norm for the school year. We were moving into hands-on topics like volume of three dimensional figures, so we had to adjust the curriculum the best we could. I did the only thing I could think of to help: I brought home a small whiteboard and some poster paper from school. Posters about the volume of cylinders, cones, and spheres transformed my living room into a small classroom. Students seemed to have a better understanding, but I was struggling. There had to be a better way to teach this.
How Wipebook Saved Me
Video lessons consisted of me working out problems on a whiteboard and showing my students each step. This process was exceedingly tedious. After I finally worked through each step of the problem, I wrote the answer on the poster paper. In addition to the tedious nature of the whiteboard use, I wasted so much poster paper. I had a friend, Sabrina, offer me a tool I had never used: dry-erase poster paper. I was suspicious when she brought the Wipebook pad, but I figured it was worth a shot. I waited until Monday’s class nervously, and the lesson was so smoothly executed! I ditched the small board and conserved my poster paper. The Wipebook was a teaching lifesaver; it even had grid lines on one side! As a math teacher, saying I was ecstatic is an understatement. Wipebook changed the virtual teaching for me because it was so much easier than single-use poster paper and erasable boards. Because of Wipebook, virtual instruction got a lot easier!
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