Distance Learning: Bringing Home Life Lessons
The Post Oak High School’s Montessori method of educating beyond the classroom has recently become a 24-hour practice. To comply with the mandatory social distancing that COVID-19 has so graciously called for, the school's faculty has created its very first distance learning program. The high school curriculum has been altered due to the fact that engagement with the community is no longer possible. Many students have paused their internships as interaction with professionals would result in the spread of not just knowledge, but germs. Over the past two weeks, students have adjusted to a self-directed routine, a quarantined working environment, and a virtual style of learning.
The distance learning program has synchronous (online interaction with teachers) and asynchronous (individual work time) elements. Students meet with their advisories each morning through Google Hangouts where they discuss their online classes, reflect on the workload of the previous day, and share ideas to improve the program. Student feedback is crucial to creating any successful learning system and “student-teacher” interaction is a Post Oak value. Students also meet one-on-one with their advisor weekly to discuss their online learning experience at a more personal level. To promote connection and camaraderie, advisory meetings end with an interactive activity to lift spirits for a productive day!
Synchronous classes are limited to 30 minutes because with freezing screens, unreliable microphones, and dysfunctional audio, long classes prove to be inefficient. The concise meeting times allow the majority of work to be accomplished individually. Students typically have four to five classes a day, leaving ample time to complete assignments as well as enjoy recreational activities, time with family, a few episodes on Netflix, and lots and lots of snacks! Thankfully, the teachers recognize that sitting in front of a computer for eight hours straight is not healthy, productive, nor does it benefit anyone’s sanity.
Each day, the Director of High School Student Life, Jamie Lee, Ph. D, emails a self improvement activity that corresponds to a daily theme. On Mental Health Monday, students are encouraged to journal or participate in other stress reducing activities. On Taco Tuesday, they are invited to a Google Hangout to eat lunch together. On Workout Wednesday, they are given a workout to stay active. On Transformation Thursday, they are challenged to pick up a new book or discover a new hobby. Finally, on Fearless Friday, they are asked to conquer a fear! These motivational emails help limit screen time by inspiring students to make the best out of their, hopefully, “once in a lifetime” quarantine!
While this epidemic has kept the Post Oak community physically separated, the drive to do new things and be creative is bringing this school together. Students are impressed by how successful distance learning has been and are enjoying this new experience. The minimal structured classes have challenged students to practice time management skills and have given insight into the temptations and distractions of future college freedom. For high school students who are quickly approaching their college years with a blank canvas to fill with their course schedule and interests, this experience is an invaluable course in how to be self-driven with their education and self-disciplined with their time.
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