DURHAM: The Durham District School Board (DDSB) started Distance Learning on April 6th, as a result of schools being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators and students have had to adjust quickly to teaching and learning at home.
While it has not been easy, many have found innovative and unique ways to make learning and engagement at home successful. We spoke to a few educators and students who shared their stories and experiences with us, here at the Standard.
Prince Albert Public School’s Grade 1 Teacher Kimber Tessier and student Emily Sippel shared.

Kimber Tessier, Grade 1 Teacher
Q: Explain how the transition to Distance Learning has been for you?
A: The transition was fast and furious! I was busy trying to figure out how this was going to work for me and more importantly for my families in the coming weeks. By the end of the second week, we had our first live group session with the kids. What a show that was! It was fun to see everyone, a little chaotic to be sure, but lots of smiles.

Q: What unique things have you been doing to engage with your students online?
A: I am always trying to tweak my plans and lessons to make them better and more engaging. Each day I try and have a hands-on, non-tech option. The jobs for language & math are often done through Google Slides, or Seesaw activities. The Seesaw platform allows students to demonstrate their learning by using photos, videos, annotation over photos, and voice recordings. We have started a class blog and it allows a little interaction amongst students. My weekly plan is interactive (links, sound clips, photos) to encourage as much independence as possible.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about this innovative type of teaching?
A: I love seeing what the students have been able to do online. My students are so young, six and seven years old. At the start, everyone was pretty quiet; a little awestruck when we were on the screen. Now, with a little time and tech experience under their wee belts, they are more at ease. There is some chatter with each other, some fun exchanges, and some questioning. It’s great!

Q: Will you maintain any of these new techniques in the classroom when in-person instruction returns?
A: I absolutely will be taking my new learning with me when we get back into the classroom. It is worth it now for my students and families, and it will be worth it in the long run as well.

Emily, Grade 1 student
Q: What is the biggest difference between learning in a classroom and learning from home, for you?
A: At home, there are not so many people to play with. At school, we learn with our teacher. At home, we learn with our parents. At school, you have your friends to play with at recess. I don’t get to sit beside my friends at home.

Q: How have you changed your routine to be more successful in Distance Learning?
A: I do my school work in the morning and afternoon. I made an office and it helps me stay focused. I do all of my work in my office, including Google Meet calls, TVO Kids and my homework.

Q: Do you have any tips for other students about how to stay focused while learning from home?
A: Don’t have too many toys at your desk, because too many toys can be distracting.

Q: How are you staying in touch with your classmates and friends while learning from home?
A: I call them online, use a normal phone and go on social distancing bicycle rides. You can teeter totter right now with a friend because the seats are six feet away from each other.