Teachers, Districts Struggle To Adapt To Distance Learning

Teachers may be out of their classrooms during the shelter in place, that doesn't mean they aren't going to school online. Districts across the state are scrambling to teach teachers how to run virtual classrooms.

“Well it’s been a learning curve for all of us,” says Alisa Alvarez, principal at Washington Elementary School in San Leandro. Thanks to major advancements in technology, teachers can lead a virtual classroom online even during a pandemic, but holding students’ attention over video conference is easier said than done. 

“You see all these memes of board members or businesspeople in Zoom conferences. Now think about that with six-year-olds and trying to get everybody in one space on a Zoom conference, it’s a comedy of errors at times.”

Alvarez says classroom management has been the biggest challenge. “Teaching them in that moment when they’re jumping around on their beds or throwing stuffed animals across the room - it can be a little tricky.”

One essential tool: the "mute all" button on Zoom, which works most of the time. “Until a kindergartener figures out how to unmute themselves. So then you’re in a constant battle going back and forth.”

The good news is San Leandro is one of the districts that went one-to-one with Chromebooks and students a few years ago, and for families not online several internet service providers are offering to connect them for free for three months.

Some virtual classes have also recently been invaded by "Zoombomers" intent on exposing children to obscenities. That’s prompted some school districts to begin using  passwords to keep the sessions private.