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Learning At Home: A 3rd Grader’s View

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

Millions of children are shifting to virtual and in-home learning as schools remain closed due to the coronavirus. Information is available on the Florida Department of Education website.

As the process was gearing up locally, I visited two young relatives to see what it’s like on the student end of things. Previously, we got the high school view from my nephew. Today, I check in with my third-grade niece.

Referring to her as “little girl,” I call on 9-year-old Shamiyah to come show Auntie what she’s doing for school.

In response, the third-grade student at Brentwood Elementary School pulls a chair into place where her Chromebook sits on the kitchen table. Just minutes before, she heard her brother, Keondre, describe his new world of virtual learning, so she jumps right in.

Credit Photo courtesy of Stephanie Averhart

“So, I have i-Ready, and it’s a lot of stuff,” said Shamiyah of the variety of academic activities provided by i-Ready. “And, I have Google Classroom. So, like every time when one of my teachers posts something I can get it, and my teacher can text me on my computer.”

Shamiyah goes on to explain that they have meetings on Google Classroom, and it’s where she can access her assignments.

“I have math, extra math. I got vocabulary. And, my teacher, she posts a lot of stuff so we can do it,” she explained.

The title “Epic” appears on screen, so I ask what that is.

“It’s, like, an online reading program,” Shamiyah responds.

In terms of the work she got done on this day, “I did Math. And, we have this progress thingy [sic], where you get to get a lot of minutes and however many minutes you get, yeah.”

Shamiyah is describing a program that tracks how long she’s been working and shows how many consecutive lessons she’s passed.

At the time we spoke on Friday afternoon, the third-grader believed her teacher Mrs. Stewart had signed off on 10 completed lessons in a row.

“Whenever you complete it, it’s going to get right here and what grade you got. And, then in here, I got an 86.”

Shamiyah explains that she got the score in Math. I confirm the subject as Math and then cheer her accomplishment. She responds with a subtle chuckle, as if she’s a little embarrassed.

A few clicks more and Shamiyah is showing off the program used for their weekly music class.

Nine-year-old Shamiyah and her 15-year-old brother, Keondre, are spending a lot more time together now that they're both attending virtual school at home because of coronavirus.

“It’s Quaver, and that’s my personality,” she said in reference to the name of the program and the avatar she uses while logged on. “So, like you learn the same thing that you’re learning up in class, when you’re at school, but it’s online.”

“The kids love it,” said Shamiyah’s teacher Jill Stewart.

“A lot of time, for indoor recess, you know on bad weather days, I’m looking around and my kids are on Quaver, playing. They love it.”

Since the students have worked on this computer-based music program and others, in school, Mrs. Stewart isn’t worried about her kids’ online learning curve.

She’s more concerned about getting them engaged on a school schedule.

“After being out of school for, you know, 2 1\2 to 3 weeks, depending on the student, they’re not back into the swing of things,” Stewart said. “So, that I’m finding a little challenging, getting all of my class back in so that I can meet with them 2-3 times a day.”

Through Google Classroom, Mrs. Stewart began online meetings with the students last week. One student at the first meeting, then two. She expected to have all of her 20 students by this week.

During her Friday afternoon meeting during the first week of Distance Learning, there were a handful of students logged on and messaging, a lot.

“I cannot possibly read all of these,” the teacher exclaimed. But, she gave it a try, listing off some of her students and their comments, “Hey. Hey, ya’ll. Miss you. Miss you, too.”

During the session, Mrs. Stewart tried to keep Shamiyah and the other students focused as she discussed her class meeting and lesson plans, and shared some of the fun programs and websites - to include live zoo cams - she’s assembled.

“For your grades, I want to make sure you’re getting all your work done,” Stewart advised. The teacher seemed to grab back their attention, when she started discussing how they’ll earn their grades.

“The way that your grade is, if you’re getting 30 minutes every day in i-Ready Reading, you’re i-Ready Reading grade will be 100.”

In a follow up phone conversation, she confirmed, “They complete 100% of their tasks, that’s a 100 that’s going in the grade book for that week, for that specific task. So, my goal is that this will be the best report card they’ve seen in their life.”

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
Mrs. Stewart, Shamiyah's third-grade teacher, calls for a virtual hug from her students as she ends a recent online class meeting.

According to Mrs. Stewart, a realistic commitment from the third-graders is about 3 hours a day of online learning, and she praised the iReady program, which allows students to progress at their own pace.

During their Friday meeting, she pledged to do her part by being available to answer their questions and provide free tutoring services if needed. Then she signed off.

“Big hugs, give me some big hugs. Two fists, like this, squeeze them tight,” she implored. Looking at the kids’ faces online, she acknowledges them as they get it right, “Good, Shamiyah!”

“I kind of miss talking to my friends, and I definitely miss when all my teachers talk to me in the hallway and stuff,” said Shamiyah, describing her new school normal as a bit weird.

“I really do miss my teacher. It’s so hard.”

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.