How Birmingham teachers and parents are tackling online learning

Birmingham, Trussville, Trussville City Schools, Paine Elementary, e-learning, homeschooling
Photo via Cynthia Weyerman

​It’s been almost a full week since e-learning began after parents and students found out they’d be spending the rest of the semester at home due to COVID-19. Parents, teachers and students, give yourselves a pat on the back—you made it through those first crucial days!

As a parent of a second-grader, these memes are really nailing down the experience for me so far: 

Working from home and meeting deadlines for Bham Now, trying to learn second grade’s new math and being stuck in the house with everyone is trying to say the least. But we are slowly but surely adjusting as time rolls on.

Teachers and Early School Closure

Birmingham, Trussville City Schools, Paine Elementary
Cynthia Weyerman helping student online. Photo via Cynthia Weyerman

Being on the parent’s side of an early school closure is difficult. But it is good to remember that it is not easy for teachers either.

“I have been in mourning over losing the time we had left in the classroom this year! My students are so precious to me, and I had so much planned for the rest of the year with them.”

Cynthia Weyerman, 2nd grade teacher, Paine Elementary School

How have teachers managed to prepare for e-learning? A big part of it was made possible via each school system.

“Our leaders, and especially our technology department, have guided us so well, streamlining the process as well as considering the needs of everyone involved,  from the teachers to the parents and students alike.”

Shayna Swann, 2nd grade teacher, Paine Elementary School

Going the Extra Mile

Birmingham, e-learning
Snacks and learning, the perfect combo. Photo via Kate Floyd

With e-learning suddenly becoming the new norm for students around Birmingham, what are teachers doing to educate and inspire their classes?

One thing Weyerman is doing to connect with students is giving them the option of taking part in individual Google Meets when they need help on a particular assignment. 

“This is wonderful because they can see me, hear me and see the lesson material on the screen at the same time.”

Swann has also been hard at work ensuring her second graders have everything they need to keep up their reading and writing skills.

“My favorite way of connecting with my students has been reading and videoing one chapter at a time of my very favorite second grade book. Then I am posting the video on my google classroom for students to listen to. It’s a way to allow us to continue our daily story time activity.”

Schools are also going the extra mile for graduates. Huffman Middle School, for example, posted on their Facebook page that they’d be creating something special for their graduating eighth graders.

Birmingham, Huffman Middle School
Photo via Huffman Middle School on Facebook

Schools Focused on Special Needs

Birmingham, Mitchell's Place
E-learning from home. Photo via Mitchell’s Place

Mitchell’s Place is an inclusive, accredited preschool and outpatient clinic that specializes in improving the lives of children and families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities. As with other schools around Birmingham during this time, Mitchell’s Place is taking a tech approach to help continue services for their students.

Outpatient students enrolled in Mitchell’s Place’s ABA (applied behavioral analysis) Clinic, for example, are able to take part in Telemed sessions. With assistance from parents and caregivers, teachers are able to virtually work one-on-one with students to help them achieve their goals.

“Teletherapy is a great way for therapists to stay connected to patients and their families during the pandemic and gives therapists a chance to educate caregivers on ways to support their child’s engagement in activities and how to build new routines in their natural home environment. We have been able to engage patients in activities to support their self-care skills, motor coordination, fine motor skills and functional play skills just as we would if we were seeing them in clinic.”

Marie Logan, Occupational Therapist, Mitchell’s Place

How do parents feel about the transition from in-person instruction to Telemed sessions?

“The teachers are demonstrating the same care, support and patience we typically see in a ‘normal’ week at Mitchell’s Place. When we logged into the zoom call [my son] was so excited to see his teachers and friends from school.” 

Amy McKinney parent of student at Mitchell’s Place

Advice from Teachers

Birmingham, students, at-home learning, school closure, home school
At-home learning requires more than technology. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

There’s no doubt that suddenly homeschooling your kids can be difficult—especially for those with younger kids or those with special needs.

Here is some advice to help you along this new journey.

“My best advice is to try and focus on the positive. Everyone learns better in a positive environment where we take it one day at a time.”

Shayna Swann, 2nd grade teacher, Paine Elementary

“What I tell my students every day is that a mistake is one of the best things that can happen because your brain grows a new synapse when you make a mistake and learn from it. If you already know how to do it all and don’t ever make a mistake, then you really didn’t learn anything. Every wrong answer is an opportunity for growth!” 

Cynthia Weyerman, 2nd grade teacher, Paine Elementary

“They may take our classrooms, but they can never take our learning!”

For the ultimate motivational speech for students, check out this pep talk from Coach McBridge of Homewood High School.

Do you know of any teachers or schools around Birmingham who deserve a shoutout? Let us know who they are on social @bhamnow!