The FWSU Story: Learning Together, Learning Apart (Part 4)

In mid-March all FWSU teachers, along with all Vermont teachers, said good-bye to their students, not knowing it would be for the remainder of the school year. In record time, they adjusted the goals of learning to fit a new, remote landscape, which was unfamiliar territory for all. Their work has been nothing short of amazing. Their hopes and dreams for their students to be engaged learners remain at the core of every choice they make. Over the next several weeks, we’ll profile some of our teachers from our 3 schools who have volunteered to share some of their experiences. 
These are their FWSU Stories. 
This is the fourth installment in the series.

Sara Villeneuve, BFA Fairfax High School English Teacher

Clouds and silver linings…

My regrets are really for my seniors. As a class of 2020 advisor, my heart breaks for their missed experiences. Prom, class trip, spring sports, drama festival, class day, alumni banquet….there are so many events that mark the end of the year and focus on celebrating our seniors. This class has had a challenging four years of school…they are the first class to graduate with proficiencies and we have “tested” out all sorts of new initiatives with them. They are so resilient and willing to roll with the punches. This blow just feels like too much. They will be the first class to finish school under a Stay at Home order. I know we will do everything that we can to celebrate these students as a school and as a community. It has forced us all to focus on the things that are really most important. I love their creative thinking and ingenuity. No doubt, they will design the most unique graduation ever. I will never forget them!

So much to miss….

I sincerely miss being with students and colleagues everyday. I am an extrovert so I always love being around people! I thrive on the social interactions of education. I miss seeing people in the hallway, laughing with students, and chatting with colleagues. I think learning is a very social process and I try to design my courses with a lot of student engagement, discussion, and peer interaction. Remote learning has made this very challenging. I love it when we can have our “Online Video Classes”. Just seeing my students laugh, interact, ask questions, and talk about their learning brightens my week. I miss my classes, NHS meetings, Coffee House planning…all the other fun stuff that’s also part of my job at BFA. 

Hopes and dreams…

My biggest hopes are that all of our students and their families stay safe and healthy and that our world will be able to return to normal soon. I hope we can all look back on this and find we learned just how strong we are as individuals and as a community. I see the hard work, dedication, and thoughtfulness of our students, parents, and town(s). Everyone is doing their best to get through this difficult time. I hope students will recognize their personal growth and tenacity. 

Jensen Welch, BFA Fairfax High School Math Teacher

Things have changed…

The greatest loss is the daily interactions I get to have with my students and colleagues, the interactions students get to have with their peers, and the social learning and non-verbal communication that takes place in all those interactions. I’m continually telling my high school students that they must communicate with me using their words how they are feeling because we are no longer in a room together where I can read their facial expressions or body language to see if they are having a good or bad day or see if they understand the math we are doing or not. The greatest silver-lining for me personally has been finding the time to exercise more! Each morning when I might have been heading to the shower, getting ready for work, and then out the door to school, I’ve instead been heading outside for a run or walk, or I’ve been doing some online yoga.  More exercise has made my heart and my head happier and healthier. 

And changes are stressful…

It was very stressful at the beginning of the school dismissal when the information and the expectations were changing so rapidly. Everyone was doing their best to adapt and modify on the fly, but the whiplash of the situation coupled with the sense of loss was overwhelming at times. Luckily, I think we’ve all settled into more of a routine. The other stress that has not gone away despite a routine being established is the challenge of being a working parent. It is hard trying to find balance and harmony in doing my job, guiding my own children through their remote schooling, and finding time to also do fun family activities. I was pretty good at compartmentalizing my “home” world and my “work” world before, and now everything is all jumbled, so I’m switching from responding to a student email one minute, to asking my youngest daughter how many ways she can break apart 9 the next minute…it is distracting for all of us. But I think everyone has been super patient and understands how challenging this is for all.

Hopes and fears…

My hopes for my students are that they gain some confidence in themselves and see how much they actually know and how much they can accomplish on their own. I’ve been so impressed with most students as they continue to work through content, ask questions, revise practice work, and they just keep going! They should all be super proud of themselves! I am of course then worried about those few students who I have not heard a lot from. For some I can’t address from afar the barriers they are facing that are preventing them from doing their school work; for others I seem unable to motivate and support them without being face-to-face. For a few I’ve been able to reconnect with, I think they appreciate the extra effort teachers make when we reach out individually, and the accommodations we’ve made to help make sure they can be successful from home. I am less worried about the academic progress of these students and more worried that they are feeling disconnected from their peers and a supportive school environment. But I believe in resilience and hope everyone is finding their way through this health crisis.

Linda Keating is the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Franklin West Supervisory Union. She is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow her on Twitter @Educate4ward

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