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Blended Learning Means Being Flexible

Last week, in-person learning began for New York City public schools, which means that lots of students and teachers went back to their classrooms for the first time since March. ETM Music Teacher, Jorge Quezada, was among them.

Jorge, who teaches at P.S. 359 in the Bronx, is teaching some of his classes in person, and some of them virtually (this is called a “blended learning model”). 

 

Jorge brings music class into his students’ homes with fun and creative lessons.

Back to (the) School
Like many teachers, Jorge was nervous about coming back to his school for in-person teaching. “It was intimidating!” he says, about all the new safety protocols and expectations he had to keep track of in order to keep himself, school community, and his students safe.

And, when his in-person students came into his music room, he was thrilled to see them! 

In order to manage social distancing requirements, he only has 11 – 13 students in his classroom at once. (Last year, his classes had 20 – 25 students each.) 

At first, he says, “no one knew how to start class!” Seven months of isolation meant that everyone–including Jorge–had forgotten how to be in bigger groups. “The way they interact with each other has changed,” he says. Still, by the end of class, everyone was singing and dancing like it was 1999!

Predictably, everyone is still adjusting to being in school under these strange circumstances.  “With the little ones,” Jorge shares, “you really have to take the lead.” His younger students, especially the kindergarteners who don’t have a lot of experience being in a live classroom, need a lot of guidance, and Jorge is learning to give them extra time to follow his instructions.

 

Feeling Close When Staying Remote 

Jorge works hard to give his students a safe space to talk by creating office hours for them to share their thoughts.

As for his remote students, although their weekly lessons are all on-demand, he plans to meet with each class for live check-ins each week.  That will give them a chance to ask questions about the lesson, but also will replicate the “classroom” sense of community his in-person students get.

“It’s really important to provide them with space to talk,” says Jorge. Kids who are at home may need extra reassurance that they aren’t missing out on anything, which Jorge is ready to provide.  

 

The Big Lessons

After the first week of blended learning, Jorge already has three big takeaways.

  1. Be flexible.  Because everyone is still adjusting, Jorge knows his carefully planned lessons may not always be possible, and he needs to be ready to roll with the punches, in-person and online.
  2. Don’t pretend things are okay when they’re not. “You can see from their faces that this has been hard on them,” Jorge says.  So he’s making time for kids to share their feelings, even if it means he has to adjust his instruction plan.
  3. It’s all about communication. For Jorge, this means making sure his expectations are clear to his students and their families, but it also means listening to their expectations. He knows that we’re going to have to keep listening to each other so that we can keep learning from each other.

 

We’re so proud of all of our teachers for their commitment to their students despite the challenges of this very strange school year.

To hear more from Jorge, please join us for Keep Music Alive on October 15th, where Jorge will be a featured speaker!