‘We’re ready’: Spokane teachers prepare for remote learning

SPOKANE, Wash. – Finding ways to teach kids online and have them want to learn is not easy. In just a few short weeks, students will have to log on and learn in Spokane Public Schools.

The next two weeks will be important to teachers as they prepare for online learning. Teachers across the district are participating in professional development, which has been expanded for more days in preparation for remote learning.

“Welcome back. I’m Monte. Some of you don’t know me,” David Montecucco’s video played on Youtube.

Montecucco is a high school math teacher at Shadle Park High who recorded a welcome video for his students for the fall. He’s trying to find new ways to keep his students interested in online learning.

“One of the first things we talked about was we always want to have a hook. Kids come in, there’s a picture, I’ve got Bruce Lee over here,” he said pointing to the photo behind him. “What’s the hook that makes them go, ‘Hey, I want to learn about that?'”

That’s the ultimate challenge this fall when remote learning will be in real time, all day, unlike the spring.

Montecucco is concerned that students won’t want to wake up at 8 in the morning to log on and learn.

“Right now, our biggest worry is inspiring kids to want to go to the meeting and see what’s happening because it’s not touchy feely. We’re missing that,” he said.

Teachers will have some sort of recording for students to have in case they do miss class or can’t connect.

Sixth grade teacher Corina Fletcher, with Woodridge Elementary, says she’s been preparing for the fall semester all summer. She’s researched ways to keep her kids connected for remote learning.

“I plan on using video clips and lots of brain breaks and dance breaks and different opportunities for the kids to share information about themselves with each other and building those relationships first,” she said.

Spokane teachers will have the choice between working from their classroom or from home. The district encourages them to teach in the classroom so that they can have access to their resources.

Fletcher decided she wanted to teach in her room, while Montecucco will be working from home.

Montecucco says one advantage for kids learning remotely is that they can use real world items for his lessons instead of the limited items he had in his classroom.

“Now we can just tell them go to the recycle bin, tear that box apart, and measure it,” he said. “I have a feeling I’m a little bit luckier than some of the teachers, because geometry is describing the real world and putting numbers to it. So, we can be a lot more creative here.”

Fletcher says she’s planning on shortening her lessons to help kids focus on the material.

“We have to think about the attention spans of our children and thinking about how long we want them to be sitting in front of a computer screen. That’s been hard for a lot of us to grapple with because we’re going to need to condense the information to smaller chunks and allow for more times for our students to work independently and work within groups,” Fletcher said.

Teaching varies by the teacher and the subject. Regardless of the differences, they’re both ready to welcome the kids back, even if it’s virtual.

“We’re always forged in the fire, teachers are always resilient that way. This is a whole ‘nother level of that, and there’s definitely a more global sense of that,” Fletcher said. “We’re ready.”

Starting September 8, teachers will be talking with parents on how to help kids succeed this upcoming school year, as well as walk them through some of the technology, if needed.

Spokane Public Schools will be holding another webinar for parents on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. More information can be found here.