“Student Good News” Is Good News: Devon Azzam, 5-7-2020

Thursday, May 7, 2020
screen caps from "Student Good News"

Two screen caps from "Student Good News," with teacher and GGSE alumna Megan Reed and two Harding School students

Education and Applied Psychology in a Time of COVID-19

Week 7 of quarantine. Week 4 of official distance learning for my kids. The overnight switch to everything via Zoom was a whirlwind, and now after a few weeks I have a chance to reflect on how 2-dimensional learning and working is affecting our family.

As the days drag on, one Zoom meeting to the next, I can be consumed with sadness for all that is lost. I look for small signs of joy during the distance learning school day.

Each Monday, we get a video message from the school principal Veronica Binkley, cheering us on, and motivating us to keep it going for yet another week. Sometimes I need this message more than the kids, and I admire the courage and passion it takes for her to deliver such a message to the school community. 

Taking a break from the iPad and getting our hands on some old school learning materials throughout the day can bring us back from the brink of “zoombieland.” Thank you to the second grade teachers who put together word sorts, matching games, and nature crafts for their students to take home along with their iPads. Lying alongside my son on the carpet sorting through synonyms and antonyms feels human.

Less Zoom is more. I appreciate the Zoom schedule set by the school after hearing from other parents how many hours of Zoom sessions their kids are required to attend. The daily check-in is nice. A short lesson can be effective. More than 40 minutes on a Zoom call and my kids are drained. Their productivity level goes down for the rest of the day, along with their motivation.

When the going gets rough, we can get ourselves smiling again by watching the latest episode of SGN - Student Good News: a YouTube channel started by 6th grade teacher, Megan Reed. Written and recorded by students, it features tips and tricks on how to get through quarantine. (And is inspired by John Krasinksi’s Some Good News.) 

We are on the countdown in our household. Three and a half weeks to go to finish off this school year. Summer is uncharted territory. What is to become of the new school year is still unknown. I do know that we have all learned a lot about what is working and not working in a remote learning environment. Educators at every level will have a lot more tips, tricks and tools for successful teaching and learning to kick off the upcoming school year, whatever form it may take.

Devon Azzam, Gevirtz School Assistant Director of Outreach, is sheltering in place at home in Santa Barbara with partner Tarek, daughter Sophia (10) and son Dominic (7). Last day in the office 3/13, last day in the water 3/20, last day unmasked in public 4/3, last meltdown a few hours ago. Still running, gardening and listening to the trees.