South Orangetown Central School District

“For me, it was important to recognize and accept that this is new learning for all of us and to let go of the belief that I was a tech savvy person,” laughs William O. Schaefer Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Liane Kolesar. “I was familiar with both Google Classroom and Zoom as a student user, but not as a teacher. And early on, I encountered some technical issues but, as I teach my students, you have to persevere and keep trying to find a solution.”

As she developed confidence, Kolesar began doing read-alouds so that both she and her students could adjust to this new way of learning and get acquainted with the “rules” of Zoom. “What is so cool and rewarding is that five- and six-year-olds are not to be underestimated!” she emphasizes. “If you give them the tools and time to practice, they can do so much. I love seeing them in their ‘offices’ ready to learn and at a point where they can independently unmute themselves and wait to be called on, just like in our classroom at school.”

That said, adjusting to having students who are engaged while their audio is muted has been a challenge for Kolesar. “The silence is a bit strange, especially for kindergarten!”

Despite the distance, she has strived to maintain communication and a sense of normalcy for her students. “It was important to me to jump in and normalize these strange times for my students and myself,” Kolesar says. “Each week, I send out a Google Doc with my live lesson schedule and Zoom links for the following week. I record morning meeting slides and post them to our Google Classroom for kids to watch and respond to each day. I teach one live lesson each for phonics, reading, writing and math each week. I also host a small group session, Mondays through Thursdays, to give parents flexibility to sign up for whatever day works best for them. Occasionally, I’ll do 1:1 Zoom conferences to check in with my students and their families, as well. Each week, I add more to my schedule as we all become more accustomed to this new norm.”

Kolesar has been able to draw on her long-time practice of mindfulness in and out of the classroom to ease the adjustment to remote learning for both herself and her students. “Having the awareness that things won’t be perfect, that more issues may arise, and being okay with it is an important lesson. It’s okay. We are in this together and we’ll get through it.”

Liane Kolesar