By Abigail Pribbenow, Yinghua Academy
The announcement of Executive Order 20-02, issued by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, reached the Yinghua Academy community on the final day of the public charter school’s spring break.
Yinghua is a Chinese immersion public charter school serving more than 800 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Academic Director Dr. Luyi Lien quickly mobilized the Yinghua teaching staff to convert the curriculum to a distance learning platform using Zoom, Flipgrid, Seesaw and Google Classroom.
After the third week of distance learning, teachers reported that the use of technology has become easier for them as well as for students. Nothing replaces in-school learning, but the Yinghua community feels grateful to be able to connect daily via remote learning platforms. Teachers shared these positive outcomes in a week-two survey:
We’ve enjoyed sharing our homes, pets, hobbies, and fun activities with our students.
Yinghua parents have supported us by helping their children with time management, tech, and motivation to learn.
This has been an unexpected opportunity to communicate and connect with students in new ways.
Everyone was excited to get back to school to “see” one another.
Teachers love learning new skills on apps like Zoom, Google Classroom, Seesaw, and Flipgrid.
The "breakout rooms" allow teachers to interact with small groups of students.
Although the overall experience in distance teaching-learning is positive, it would be unrealistic to say there were no “challenges” along the way. Yinghua teachers and families are like everyone else --they are newly balancing working from home, sharing their work space with family and pets, parenting while working, and more. One of Yinghua’s art teachers had her baby on her lap while explaining a color wheel assignment. Another, a first-grade teacher, demonstrated the concept of fractions by cutting a watermelon on her kitchen counter when the family cat walked dangerously close to the fruit being cut!
Through it all, teachers encouraged one another to measure learning in terms of growth, rather than achievement, and to be gentle with one another. In addition to scheduled breaks during the full-day synchronous learning schedule, teachers found creative ways to keep everyone connected socially. Music teachers issued a challenge: upload to Flipgrid your own performance of a favorite Chinese karaoke song. Physical education teachers invited students to share videos of circus skills, such as twirling and acrobatics.
There were some funny things also. Just after the governor announced the school closure, staff proceeded to pack up the contents of the lockers to send home. The lockers contained the usual items to be expected - workbooks and the small white boards that students use to practice writing characters or calculate math problems - and a few surprises too, including a less-than-fresh cake!
Executive Director Sue Berg says, “I’m proud of the Yinghua community. Our teachers have really made heroic efforts to transform their in-person teaching into dynamic, interactive lessons that can be shared online. It’s a huge challenge, but we know that our students, no matter their age or family’s challenges, continue to learn, and continue to practice Chinese.”
The community looks forward to the day when students and teachers can return to school in northeast Minneapolis, if not this spring, then in fall 2020.