Experienced District & charter on-line educators share suggestions for students & families

The following column appeared during April, 2020 in a number of APG of East Central Minnesota newspapers. There were several versions of the column, including this one.

The column begins:

Helping Students Learning in These Challenging Times

For a hero who’s helping Minnesota families and educators cope with these challenging times, I nominate Maressa Brooks Rousslange, a kindergarten teacher (and parent) in Long Prairie-Grey Eagle Public Schools. Maressa started a Facebook group, on March 15 to help Minnesota educators produce effective distance and online learning. In less than two weeks, more than 7,400 educators joined the group! Maressa welcomes questions from families as well.

On March 26, Rousslange told me, “This period of distance learning is going to be overwhelming, messy and by no means perfect.” But she believes if families do three things, “you will have succeeded: talk to your children, read to your children and continue to communicate with your children’s teachers.”

Maressa Brooks Rousslange

Having taught online courses, I agree that there will be glitches. Patience is vital.

However, this traumatic time opens up wonderful learning opportunities. How about helping youngsters plan a family or neighborhood garden or write a family history? The Center for School Change, where I work, has a website with resources for families. It includes virtual field trips, a coloring book families can use to discuss disasters, resources for a family or neighborhood garden, youth family history research, etc.

Minnesota has experienced online educators from whom we can learn. For example, Tracy Quanstrom, director of the Trio Wolf Creek Distance Learning Charter School headquartered in Chisago City, suggests that along with creating a routine and designating “physical space” where distance learning will take place, families should watch movies together in the evening that show “resilience of the characters.”

Jessica Lipa, the career and technical education director for Anoka-Hennepin Public Schools, also has had extensive distance learning experience. She recommends that students stick to a daily schedule with specific hours set aside for class instruction: “For example, if at 9 a.m. every day the student is going to be in Social Studies, the student is actually more likely to log on and complete the requirements.  But when a student has random times and is not regimented on a schedule, things easily get put off until ‘later.’”

Superintendent Deb Henton of North Branch Area Public Schools strongly agrees with the importance of family involvement. She wrote, “Online learning for students, especially younger students, will be most effective if parents/guardians can aid in that role and provide additional support for learning.”

Note: The column refers to Superintendent Cory McIntyre of  ISD 279, the Osseo Area Public Schools as “she.”  My apologies for this mistake.  Supt McIntyre is male.

….The full column is available here.