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Adaptive Virtual Teaching

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Paige Carrow

Educators throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools have spent much of this school year modifying their teaching styles in order to transition to virtual learning. As a drama teacher at Loy Norrix High School (Loy Norrix), Paige Carrow has exemplified how to effectively adapt to this new reality.

Carrow’s primary reason for becoming a teacher was to connect with students and give them a space where their voices could be heard. Now in her sixth year at Loy Norrix, she finds herself teaching a subject she loves and leading extracurriculars she cares about.

“I started as an English teacher and a position opened to transition to the theatre department,” she shared. “I have been lucky enough to be a director on all of our dramas and comedies and a co-director/producer on our musicals as well as oversee the improv and forensics teams.”

Teaching during a pandemic is no easy feat and Carrow has been faced with her fair share of obstacles. This has only driven her to be creative and find new ways to engage with her students’ interests.

“There are obviously a lot of challenges with the technical side of virtual learning, navigating communication and assignments; it can be daunting,” she explained. “I also think there are many emotional and mental challenges that present themselves. To combat this, I streamlined my assignments and left room for conversations to connect with the students.

“We work to adapt and ask students which activities they prefer and put that ball back in their court to empower them.”

As for the forensics team, Carrow has been doing all she can to prepare her students for competitive public speaking in a virtual setting.

“We have been able to hold virtual auditions and will host a virtual forensic tournament,” she said. “I have set up a Google Classroom to edit ideas and share documents with the team. We record ourselves presenting and my assistant coaches and I provide written feedback.”

In addition to learning how to acclimate to her students’ needs, Carrow has also discovered a lot about herself as a teacher and a person.

“It has been a time of personal growth, being okay with making mistakes, and adapting as needed,” she revealed. “I go into each day giving the best that I can and am much better at improvising now than I was a year ago.”

While a lot of this growth can be attributed to Carrow’s work ethic and willingness to be flexible in the face of adversity, she maintains that it could not be done without collaborations with other teachers and weekly gatherings regarding social-emotional learning.

“I applaud my fellow teachers for diving into the social-emotional learning that we do on Wednesdays to help us provide safe spaces for our students,” she said. “It has been nice to collaborate and adapt to be more relevant.”

Even with support, adjusting to these changes is not always an easy feat. Luckily, Carrow has advice for educators when it comes to virtual teaching.

“It is important to remember that these students are navigating this world while dealing with all of the other stressors that comes with being a teenager and developing coping skills,” she advised. “We need to respect what home can look like for some of these kids and provide them the best possibilities to fit their needs. Sometimes, I just thank them for showing up because that is truly half the battle.”

It is admirable to see educators make the best out of this current situation for their students. Thank you for sharing your experience with virtual learning, Mrs. Carrow. We admire your approach and wish both you and your students the best of luck during the second half of this school year!

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