To Arizona School Leaders and Families,
There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has affected nearly every aspect of our daily lives. As a nation, we have experienced a severe limitation on essential supplies, the implementation of various safety precautions, and undergone several months of self-isolation. However, as a community we have shared in the struggles of our neighbors as we witnessed local businesses shut down, friends and family lose their jobs, and schools close during the final months of the spring semester.
Unwilling to simply cast students adrift through the spring and summer months, we have seen teachers scramble to provide adequate resources and workbooks to prevent what has now been dubbed the “COVID slide.” Some teachers, like Mrs. O’Neal of Frontier Elementary, went so far as to personally deliver materials to the homes of her third-grade class. We have seen others use online resources provided by Nearpod or Google Classroom to provide remote learning opportunities for their students.
Still, as valiant as these efforts were, the sudden and severe circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic left many teachers with no time or resources to create a meaningful online education. Unfortunately, this meant that many students became disengaged and complacent without the structure of a classroom or the accountability of graded assignments.
As a teacher that utilizes a flipped classroom model at Valor Preparatory Academy in Goodyear, Arizona, I am proud to say that my students were able to remain on track and complete their graded curriculum amidst the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. For those unfamiliar with the concept, a flipped classroom model is probably what you imagine. The experience between school and home is flipped. Students receive the “lecture” component at home through a digital curriculum then perform “homework” via stations, projects, and hands on application at school under the guidance of the teacher.
Rather than exposing students to new concepts in the classroom and sending them home with the expectation to apply and expand their understanding of the concept, students in a flipped classroom come to school with a basic understanding of new material and can now focus on mastering the concept with the individual support of a teacher. By shifting the lecture component to a digital platform, a teacher’s time with students can be spent identifying individual needs and providing 1:1 or small group instruction. This also means that a student’s school schedule is flexible between in-person and online learning. Because each student’s on-campus attendance reflects their individual need, both the teacher and student benefit from more meaningful and personalized learning experience.
So, when the official order came from Governor Doug Ducey that schools must close campuses on March 16th, 2020, the intrinsic benefits of a hybrid schedule and flipped classroom meant that Valor teachers and students had the resources to continue learning uninterrupted. Even though, some hand-on projects had to be adapted to an online setting, I can confidently say that I never lost touch with my students. Instead of send-home packets, my students were able to engage with the curriculum through a digital platform to complete graded activities, assignments, and assessments. More importantly, I was able to follow their progress and personally follow up with them to provide remote instruction or simply offer a casual reminder to login to their courses.
Educators and families are now looking ahead to the 2020-2021 school year. Even though general guidelines for reopening schools are being distributed by state and federal officials, there remain many question and uncertainty over how schools will respond to potential flare-ups of COVID-19 in the fall. However, one thing we can all be certain of is that school will be very different than what we are all used to, but that does not have to be an inherently bad thing. My goal is not to sing the praises of Valor Prep for their own sake, but to offer inspiration to school leaders in meeting the challenges to come in fall and reignite hope among families that their students can receive a quality education in spite of everything. Although schools have been forced to re-examine how to safely educate kids, as educators we should seize this opportunity to explore new ways to enrich a child’s education and innovate to meet the needs of families for years to come.
Andrea Murphy, Teacher at Valor Preparatory Academy of Arizona
Andrea Murphy, Guest Contributor | Mrs. Andrea Murphy is the middle and high school science instructor for Valor Preparatory Academy. Andrea previously worked as a Biomedical Researcher for Midwestern University, College of Veterinary Medicine, where she taught graduate students various laboratory techniques and the science behind the “magic”. Andrea’s educational philosophy is that every child learns differently, thus student inquiry will deepen understanding and engagement while the scientific method along with compassion, understanding, and perseverance can be applied to all aspects of life.