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Tech tools are now ‘part of everyday life’ for teachers

Lessons of the Pandemic

Editor’s note: Despite the many obstacles of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers have seen positives shine through in the form of lessons — and gifts — they’ve experienced as a result of being forced to try new things. This school year, School News Network is sharing those experiences from teachers throughout Kent ISD. We’d love to hear yours, too. Please email your thoughts to SNN@kentisd.org for possible inclusion in a future issue.  

Tracy Kraft, math teacher, Godwin Heights High School

As an educator, what have you found to be lessons or gifts of the pandemic? 

The biggest gift the pandemic has given me is a deep appreciation for in-person interaction and connection with students and staff. Prior to the pandemic, I went to work; I enjoyed seeing students, but I never imagined a day when I wouldn’t see them every day in the classroom. Like most things in life, you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone. 

Have there been unexpected positives that have come from difficult circumstances, such as new ways of reaching students, connecting with parents and collaborating with fellow teachers? 

Teaching during COVID forced everyone (students, administrators, teachers, parents) to get creative, communicate, and collaborate more than ever before. Prior to the pandemic, I cannot recall ever utilizing Google Meet/Zoom; now, those tools are part of everyday life. During the early months of the pandemic, I felt like I was learning a new tech feature every day. With this increase in technology, educators were able to reach students and parents in ways that had never been done before. Parent-teacher conferences were able to be done virtually, opening up access for parents who potentially had transportation barriers or constraints like work hours or not having childcare to attend the former in-person conferences. Students became savvy in scheduling Google Meets with teachers for extra help. These things didn’t exist before the pandemic, but now I cannot imagine going back to the old way of teaching without these tech tools in our teacher toolbox. 

Renae Hackley

Renae Hackley, sixth grade science teacher, Godwin Heights Middle School

As an educator, what have you found to be lessons or gifts of the pandemic?

During the pandemic, there were a lot of lessons I came across that were both tough but also gifts at the same time. One was the gift of creativity. I was able to look at our science curriculum and get creative and focus on the standards students needed to know. This took time and patience, but I was able to create both in-person and online lessons that met the needs of many varied leveled students, which resulted in this year having many options to work with depending on what is best for each of our classes and students. Differentiation within lessons is vital and the pandemic helped me to create even more of these means within our curriculum. 

Have there been unexpected positives that have come from difficult circumstances, such as new ways of reaching students, connecting with parents and collaborating with fellow teachers? 

There were two unexpected positives from our difficult circumstances within the pandemic that come to mind quickly for me. First, this fall I didn’t expect the responses of students seeing me for the first time in person that were online all last year. They came down to my room (or I saw them in the hallway) and hugs were given and I could see them smiling through their masks. We had a connection already, but it was an unexpected joy in their faces that truly made that first week back this fall incredible. The second positive is the way of communicating with parents and having conferences. We used Google Meet so often the last few years, so we were able to meet with families this fall in-person and online. I had a large turnout of meetings with families due to being flexible with two specific ways to communicate. This has resulted in more consistent communication along with tech apps that help us stay connected throughout the school year with families.

Jessica Haslacker

Jessica Haslacker, kindergarten teacher, West Godwin Middle School

As an educator, what have you found to be lessons or gifts of the pandemic?

Through the pandemic I was gifted with getting to know my students’ parents and families on a much deeper level. We as teachers became available to our students’ families at all times. With them seeing us on screen and them being able to pop into sessions with a quick question, we were able to get to know them very well. This helped us to develop amazing bonds with the parents. This bond really made our students want to work hard because now with their teachers on screen and their parents in the background they knew everyone on their team was working together. I feel an extension of this gift was that parents felt very comfortable with us and that allowed them to open up to us with any needs they may have during those hard times. We really worked to connect school, families and community during this time and that was a great gift. 

Have there been unexpected positives that have come from difficult circumstances, such as new ways of reaching students, connecting with parents and collaborating with fellow teachers? 

I am blessed to be on a teaching team that is always in communication with one another. I never thought we could get better but through these unusual teaching times we really collaborated even more and came up with great systems that worked for us as a team.The teamwork and balance of workload on all of us was so equal and appreciated because we all worked together. We are still using some of the great resources we created during this time to make our teaching run smoothly and to really be ready for anything.

We all used our strengths to come together during this time. A few teachers were not as familiar with technology, and all of a sudden found themselves teaching online. We were able to all work together to be sure we were all successful with the new way. We really had to collaborate on a whole different level during these times and that was the best positive.

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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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