03 Oct Past Strengths Guide the Future
With the COVID-19 pandemic, educators have conquered and will continue to conquer a new slate of challenges throughout the 2020-2021 school year. Years ago, we assembled a list of the key elements that make the Geometry in Construction model strong for students and teachers. We call this list our Key Practices, or organizing principles that build the foundation for both Geometry in Construction and AMPED on Algebra programs. Although teaching during the pandemic seems impossible to do well right now, we believe that the Key Practices still ring true, regardless of what modality we use to teach.
Balancing hybrid, remote, virtual, in-person, synchronous, and asynchronous learning is enough to make even the best of teachers’ heads spin. Despite the challenges, we are still managing to build strong relationships with our students. We are figuring out creative ways to facilitate modified cooperative grouping and team building activities that create and strengthen a culture of community.
In comparison to academic years before COVID-19, everything seems to be slower because of the balancing act between virtual and hybrid learning. However, we are still finding ways to keep both programs academically rigorous and CTE-driven. We believe this is possible because of our team-teaching model. At our home campus, Geometry in Construction and AMPED on Algebra are typically scheduled in back-to-back periods. With the pressures of COVID-19, however, many campuses like ours moved to a system where CTE and math can no longer exist in back-to-back periods. Despite the changes in schedules, each team of teachers attends both the math and CTE classes. The power of team teaching allows us to respond quickly to emergent and spontaneous needs of students, which is especially supportive when everything moves more slowly in the context of COVID-19.
You might be interested to know what our projected pacing is for the remainder of the first semester of the school year. During a normal year of the AMPED on Algebra program, teachers would generally complete through unit 5 on the math side of the class and knock out at least three – four of the CTE projects. This year with COVID-19 we have mapped out our classes and will only complete three of the math units during this semester and two of the CTE projects.
Similarly, a typical Geometry in Construction year would allow us to complete the first three units of geometry during the first semester. We would also complete the balsa wood house, safety training, stairs, and framing of the home. In these new times, the CTE side will only be able to complete safety training and the balsa wood house project this semester.
Although we cannot cover as much math and CTE content during the pandemic, we are still holding true to our value for community. In fact, despite changes in classroom procedures, scheduling, and modalities, one can still feel the sense of community we are cultivating. At the end of the day, the relationships we build and the community we sustain will be the hallmarks of the school year, especially during a time when so many people are experiencing grief, loss, and isolation.
An important element of cultural practice is maintaining parental communication, and too often, this is what tends to be last on our list of priorities. We all experienced the difficulties of keeping students engaged last spring. To help increase student engagement, we believe in the power of increasing parental engagement through frequent and clear communications. We manage two LMS (one for math and one for CTE), use the Remind app to send text messages to students, email individual messages to family units when a student’s grade falls below a 70% in a class, and send a weekly newsletter. Although this may seem excessive, we believe that communication is more important than ever during the pandemic.
Despite the rough start, we are up and running with the service-learning component for both programs. This makes the CTE side of the class come to life! For AMPED on Algebra our teachers have created a website to take orders for AMPED produced products. They continually receive orders from the entire district, which helps to ignite the AMPED on Algebra program. Geometry in Construction will continue to work toward completing the house that students began building during the 2019-2020 school year.
Although teaching through the COVID-19 pandemic gives us ongoing challenges we never thought we would encounter, not all is lost. If you have attended Geometry in Construction or AMPED trainings at any point during the past, and you are interested in connecting with other educators about teaching during the pandemic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to join our virtual learning community. Together, we can find ways to support each other, share ideas, and animate the Key Practices of contextual learning.