January 18, 2022

Plugging away at home

The classroom has changed, but the lesson’s the same

Photo provided by Pam Coombs

Pam Coombs, a business and computer education instructor at McGraw High School, works at her home office Wednesday. Coombs has made just a few changes in teaching to accommodate a remote classroom during the coronavirus pandemic. But expect more changes in the school year, as spring break has been canceled.

McGraw High School business and education instructor Pam Coombs gets ready each morning before her 7:15 a.m. start reminding students about projects and meeting times.

It’s one of the few changes she has had to adapt to teaching her classes remotely but had to accept with the changing of teaching during the coronavirus.

Instead of using a SMART Board for showing work, she uses her computer’s camera to show what she’s working on on a legal pad or take screenshots of work and upload to Google Hangouts.

“Our days as teachers have really changed to be able to accommodate,” Coombs said.

While using digital platforms like Google Hangout and Google Classroom have changed how her courses are taught, the amount of work hasn’t.

Coombs said that she spends her days from 7:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. teaching classes and meeting virtually with students at their normally scheduled times. She has remained flexible, though, to moving classes when students can’t access computers at their normally scheduled times, such as parents working at home who need the computer. She spends her evenings and weekends answering questions.

“Flexibility is key to make it all happen,” she said.

Teachers across school districts in the greater Cortland are working to make sure their students are busy, sometimes in creative ways.

Inna Yanchuk, a third-grade teacher in the Homer Central School District, has been teaching her students Ukrainian, according to a Facebook post from the district. Students were interested in learning another language and she began teaching common words and phrases.

Remote teaching FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions regarding remote teaching:

QUESTION: Will spring vacation occur during the week of April 6-12?
ANSWER: No. Under executive orders from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, schools will continue to teach, provide meals and child care with an emphasis on serving essential employees.

Q. How will my school district continue to teach?
A.Each school district is different in its ways of teaching but many have used Google Classroom and Google Hangout and will continue to do so. Consult your district for further questions.

Q. Will the school year be extended or shortened?
District superintendents are waiting to hear those details from the state’s Department of Education.

Crossword puzzles related to the Homer Central School District have also been posted on the Facebook page as well.

Students across the state will remain busy, but remote, at least until April 15, under an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The order requires that “school districts must continue plans for alternative instructional options, distribution and availability of meals and child care, with an emphasis on serving children of essential workers, and continue to first use any vacation or snow days remaining,” according to the order.

McGraw Central School District Superintendent Melinda McCool, said that while there won’t be a break in her district next week, and all other districts, next week, students may be able to get a break at a later time.

”We can be thinking about that break when it’s safer to do so,” she said. McCool said she wasn’t sure whether the order to cancel next week’s vacation would shorten or potentially extend the school year, but teachers’ lesson plans won’t change because of it.

Her district will await further directives from the state’s Department of Education on how these changes will affect the school year, she said.

For teachers like Coombs, losing the spring vacation just means moving on to the next chapter of work for her students.

“For the kids, if I can keep a sense of normalcy, that’s good for them,” she said.