As a special education teacher at South Orangetown Middle School, Mary Ann Wood is busy Zooming with students in groups and individually and making screencasts.
With her sixth-grade Just Words class, Wood helps students fill in gaps in their decoding and spelling proficiency. Her sixth- and seventh-grade Wilson Reading classes provide more intensive, multisensory reading instruction for students with a language-based learning disability. In addition, she co-teaches two science classes. “Right now, we meet twice a week for Zoom reading lessons,” she explains. “I do screencasts everyday for the science classes and meet with them live as a group once a week and individually to work on projects. I love Zooming with my students because I truly miss them and they seem happy to be able to see and talk to each other. ”
Initially, the transition to distance learning was challenging for both Wood and her students. “Not knowing that we’d be out for so long was difficult. My students and I left most of our materials in school thinking we’d only be out a few weeks,” she says, noting that the Technology and Pupil Personnel Services departments have helped to address student needs. “Chromebooks were distributed to students who didn’t already have devices at home and packets have been mailed to students without printers at home. One science student left his textbook in his locker and we were able to mail it to him.”
Wood has found that the remote learning environment has put more demands on all students in terms of initiative and organization. “Executive functioning is very important in distance learning. You need to be able to keep track of your assignments and Zoom lessons while working around your parents’ and siblings’ schedules. Some of our students aren’t living at home due to family members being sick or working full-time, so they face other difficulties,” she comments. “I have 3 children of my own homeschooling, one in tenth, one in seventh and one in third. All have Zoom lessons and need computers and printers, so I know it must be difficult for families that don’t have space to create a quiet place to work for everyone. Our school and prevention counselors have met with students to help them set up weekly schedules to support their executive function needs. As a result of that help, students are coming to Zoom classes on time and prepared to learn. They are not as overwhelmed with the multiple emails and assignments they have to tackle because they have an effective plan in place.”
Most of all, Wood looks forward to returning to the classroom. “I’m hoping everyone is safe and healthy at home, and can’t wait to see you all in the fall!”