Teachers tackle virtual learning in Florida

Inside kindergarten class at Sabal Palms Elementary. Photo by Sherneka Streater

Working from home is a dream for many professionals. However, for some during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, it can be challenging.

Educators all over the state of Florida had to make a swift transition to working from home after Governor Ron DeSantis declared that all public schools would be conducted at home following spring break.

This declaration meant that all colleges, universities and public schools would continue through a computer screen. For many teachers this meant they had to scramble to put together a new lesson plan to accommodate the new learning style.

Digital teaching has truly shaken the educational field,” Doney Eden, a Leon County high school teacher, said.

Eden recently began teaching for Leon County Schools. As a new teacher, converting his classroom to online was quite an adjustment.

I quickly and effectively adjusted for the sake of my students and their education,” he said.

 Amanda Depin-Ragan, a teacher in Hillsborough County, says that with this change she has to become more creative to fit the curriculums new model.

I make YouTube tutorials to help teach them,” she said. Depin-Ragan is a TV productions instructor at a vocational/technical high school in Tampa. Her students work closely with software like Adobe. However, because many of them do not have access to that material outside of class, it makes it hard to teach.

In most counties, students were given free laptops and/or tablets through the district for distance learning purposes. For families that did not have internet, companies like Spectrum offered free Wi-Fi.

Godby HS. Photo courtesy tallahasseearts.org

Although the transition can be tough for all educators, Ragan believes that elementary school teachers are being hit the hardest with change.

Its easy for high school students to adjust to being online but for the elementary school kids, it’s tough. They lose teacher interaction,” said Ragan.

Fifth grade science teacher Demetria Geathers has had a difficult time transitioning.

Parents and students arent able to navigate. Students were not ready for this type of learning,” she said.

Geathers teaches at a Title 1 school in Tampa where students are not used to working online and using smart devices. Yet, she is remaining optimistic during this time.

She says her school has not exposed their students to a lot of technology during, making this a great way for the district to incorporate digital learning into the curriculum.

For a few counties, including Duval, virtual school began Monday. Several teachers shared their concerns about how this change could affect their students.

My biggest concern is how theyre learning,” said Tyra Smart, a fourth grade teacher at a charter school in Duval County. She says that although teaching online is manageable, shes nervous that her students arent receiving enough hands-on instruction to comprehend the material.

I usually would have three hours to teach but now Im only given 45 minutes,” she said.

Smart knows that she has several students who need a lot of one-on-one attention. Unfortunately, shes not able to provide it with online instruction.

With the transition to virtual school, Gov,Desantis said that all students would be automatically passed to the next grade and parents would have the opportunity to retain their students if necessary.

Online learning for K-12 is set to end April 15.However, the Florida Department of Education says that school districts should be prepared to extend their educational calendars through June 30.

According to Florida Health COVID19, the coronavirus has reportedly affected almost 8,000 people in Florida.