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Q&A: Teacher Shares Remote Learning Experiences

Teacher Laura Lozano's home office, complete with a NMSI sticker on the document camera she uses to create videos for students. 

From a bad storm disconnecting internet service to caring for a 2-year-old, Laura Lozano faced challenges during the first week of online learning. Despite these struggles, the Advanced Algebra 1 teacher at Sam Houston High School in Arlington, Texas, says it’s also been a time to learn and grow.  
Lozano is an alumna of the University of North Texas’ Teach North Texas, a partner of the UTeach Institute’s STEM teacher preparation program. NMSI’s Teacher Pathways works with UTeach to expand the program at universities across the country.
What are the challenges of online learning?
Remote learning has been a roller coaster. We started teaching our kids through Canvas on Monday, and what a day Monday was. We had a bad storm come in Sunday evening, and no one in our area had internet access. On top of that, Canvas was crashing Monday morning.
I also have a two-year old son who stays with me all day every day, so getting things done in a timely manner is sometimes challenging. I have to get things done when he's asleep. 
That is a lot to juggle. What have you learned through this experience?
Patience. I’ve had to have patience with technology and patience with myself when I don’t know how to do something. I meditate when I’m trying to get through something.

I learned how to do a live video session and will try a live session of tutoring next week.

I am used to Google Classroom – it’s what I’ve used for years. The district told us teachers that we have to use Canvas for online learning. Figuring out a new platform in such little time and on my own has been a journey.
Are there positive outcomes you've seen this week? 

I don’t like working from home, but at the same time, it’s kind of nice. My son is with me, so I know he is safe and we’re safe. As far as online learning, I did my master’s online, and it’s good that the kids are getting that practice because if they go to college, they are going to have to take an online class. In college, you’re not taught how to do an online class. You just do it.

How are your students handling this change?

I think they’re handling it the best that they can and the best that they know how to. I sent messages to them earlier that the weekly quizzes are due, but if they can’t do it, let me know, and I can extend it for them. They are issued a Chromebook from the school district and can get free WiFi from Spectrum. But if their family had a previous unpaid balance with Spectrum, and they can’t pay it, then they can’t get the internet service. Our school is doing either an incomplete or pass. We are trying to be understanding and giving them grace.  
Communication with students has been hard. For some kids, it’s been hard to reach them. I message them through Remind. If they didn’t join Remind during the school year, now I don’t know how to reach them. I try to reach out to parents, but if they don’t call back or don’t answer, it makes it more difficult to reach them. We’ve been trying to get in touch with them for three weeks, and I still have 10 kids out of 130 kids that I still haven’t heard from.  

I’m doing videos that they can access on their own time because I know everyone’s schedule is different. One student I messaged on Wednesday said he hasn’t done any work because he’s helping his mom and little brothers. I try to be as flexible as possible.

Have you been able to utilize the Teach North Texas network during this challenging time?

The friends that I made [at Teach North Texas] – we’re all going through the same thing but at different districts. It’s nice to talk with them about it and vent. I have a friend that’s been using Canvas, and her content looks super cute, so she made a video to show me how to use these tools on Canvas, which was great.  

What advice would you give to other teachers navigating this new reality?

Be patient, especially with yourself. I have to stop what I’m doing and breathe, talk myself through it and take a little break. We’re doing the best we can with the knowledge that we have right now.

Are you a teacher, school administrator, student or parent experiencing remote learning for the first time? Share your story with us at marketing@nms.org, and we may feature you in an upcoming blog.