JFWA Makes Quick Adjustment to Online Learning
When schools everywhere announced closures to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the 172 students in grades K-12 at J. Frank White Academy (JFWA) continued their lessons without interruption thanks to a quick conversion to a remote learning plan (RLP).
“As early as February we were making plans in case the virus required extended school cancelation,” said Principal Bobby Lockhart. “For years now we have had online days built into our calendar to accommodate school closing occasionally for weather or illness, but we knew this situation could require something much more elaborate.”
The announcement that school was closing came the week before spring break and followed suit with other schools in the region and across the country. The newly crafted RLP went into effect right away and included a schedule for instruction and assignments adapted to learning from home. It required teachers to be creative with technology and called upon students to develop skill sets like being more organized and self-motivated.
“We knew we were going to have to be flexible with the plan, and sure enough we had to make adjustments along the way as we received feedback from parents and students,” Lockhart said. “Overall we were really pleased with how smoothly everything went. The credit goes to the caliber of students we have and to the parents for being so supportive and involved.”
Teachers used online platforms like Zoom, Microsoft Teams and YouTube to communicate with students who are each issued an iPad from the school. The small student population equipped with robust technology helped facilitate the switch.
“Face-to-face instruction is the ideal way to teach K-12. Nobody would argue with that,” Lockhart said. “But in this situation, we tried to find the silver linings.”
The RLP exposed students to the level of online work they might experience in an online college class. It also provided an opportunity to strengthen writing skills and, with all extracurricular activities canceled, the focus for the last nine weeks could be completely on instruction.
“The Academy transitioned very well for this type of education,” said Dr. Amanda Bracken, whose daughter is in 7th grade. “The fact that it was already going on made it a comfortable experience. The faculty and administration did a wonderful job giving feedback. I like how the Academy adapted the lesson plans to make efficient learning for the students. Also, I appreciate how the Academy rearranged the schedule of the lessons to fit the needs of the families.”
Transitioning from a regular school setting to an online setting with Kindergarten presented many challenges, but the daily use of Zoom and FaceTime allowed the faculty to maintain momentum and conquer new content.
“Technology and very supportive parents were instrumental in the continued growth of those that have just started their educational journey,” said Kindergarten teacher Katie Stotts. “We were able to keep rolling without missing a beat.”
Although the classrooms are empty on campus, the teachers have been available for group and one-on-one instruction with their students during the school day.
“My children’s teachers worked tirelessly to ensure that their academics did not suffer,” said Lindsay Stubblefield. “I was pleased with the academic progress my children have made since mid-March. The individual Zoom sessions for my first graders with their teacher was a lifesaver. It allowed for one on one instruction to be continued which hsd really been beneficial for them. The teachers were easy to reach for help if we had any questions or confusion on assignments.”
Some classes required an even more creative approach. Music instructor Kiplyn Collins had students recording practice time on their instruments and submit with Microsoft OneNote.
“The RLP has been challenging for teaching orchestra, but despite the difficulties, it ended up assisting in our overall goals for the school year,” said Collins. “We had been working on developing both self-sufficiency and intentionality while practicing their instruments, and RLP definitely made them use all of those skills. It was a joy to get to hear them progress every week using the skills we learned throughout the school year.”
Spanish teacher Zach Greene carried over his classroom techniques to interactive remote assignments like asking students to translate the names of items throughout their homes and label them.
“I have been overwhelmed by our students’ determination and grit during this unexpected and daunting time,” said Greene. “Students have shared with me that they enjoy the ability to work at their own pace and on their own time. Microsoft Teams gives us foolproof ways to connect virtually and help students in real-time using audio/video calls, screen sharing, and rapid file transfer.”
In such a strange time the continued structure of daily school work has been beneficial in more ways than one.
“The faculty adjusted each class’s workload to maintain normalcy in students’ lives, and to keep them academically challenged,” said Dr. Cindy Hankins-Koppell. “Students, in turn, gained an understanding of their responsibilities in time-management and communication, as well as their ability to learn independently.”
Summer Wynn is a parent of four Academy students and also assists the Lower School faculty.
“My children fluidly adapted to the remote learning plan and were comfortable communicating with their teachers by phone, text, Zoom, FaceTime and email,” Wynn said. “Having talked to many friends in many other districts all over the country, I feel so proud of our school. Other counties offered little to no schoolwork, had major technology issues and were forced to put learning on hold, waited weeks to begin their schooling and had various other hiccups. Our school took off, adjusted and worked as a cohesive group to support and do the job we were supposed to do.”
JFWA is set to wrap up the school year on May 20 and is accepting application for the fall. For more information contact Director of Admissions Bernie Harrington at 423.869.7185.
The J. Frank White Academy is a private, college preparatory day school serving grades K-12, located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University. JFWA is fully accredited and STEM certified by Cognia, which is the first internationally recognized mark of quality for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) schools and programs, signaling the growing emphasis on STEM education by educators, politicians and business leaders around the world. For more information contact JFWA Director of Admissions Bernie Harrington at [email protected] or apply online at JFWA.LMUnet.edu.