Pandemic response is teaching Catholic Division some positive lessons

Lorel Trumier /Herald File Photo

There may be negatives to the new world of education in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic but the Prince Albert Catholic School Division also sees constructive lessons. During the update to the board at their regular meeting on Monday, May 4 they heard many positive things that have come from learning new ways to teach.

These included an in-service with University of Regina Professor Dr. Alec Couros and expanding the use of technology for the entire division.

“We have lots of positive things that are happening with Dr. Alec Couros and some online development, we are certainly taking advantage of this window of time to support professional development,” said director of education Lorel Trumier.

“We have got a learning curve here for our teachers and our students and we want both of them to be successful. We need teachers well versed in what pedagogy look like when we are teaching from home and how do you do it safely for students and how do you do it safely for them as teachers and not putting anyone in a predicament.”

The session with Couros took place on Monday and was for professional development. The meeting was held virtually with all teaching staff and was entitled “Nurturing Positive Citizenship Through Digital Literacy Education” and was part of Couros’ expertise in digital citizenship. During the meeting, Trumier said that it was very informative free professional development for educators in the division.

Being away from face-to-face teaching has changed the way the division thinks.

“I also think that we were possibly not using our technology to the best of our abilities because we always had the luxury of having our children in our classroom with us. And now we are going to learn some new tricks of the trade, some new methodology of how to teach things using technology,” Trumier said.

One math teacher is recording her lessons and pre-recording so students can watch multiple times. Then, she has time to answer students questions and respond to emails or give feedback.

“It’s actually using their time differently,” she said.

As well, superintendent Tricia McEwen and her curriculum team have been very busy providing in-services and individualizing support for teachers. Resources include small group virtual meetings which address teachers questions and concerns and providing good instruction supports online. Teachers have been participating in professional development and online learning. They are also supporting families without online capabilities with paper packages.

In French Immersion, they have been working with online resources and work with other school divisions to continue to develop French oral and language skills. The curriculum team is using Office 365 resources to deliver as much as they can to students as they can.

The supplemental support team is updating website and creating pre-k and kindergarten resources and early literacy plans. Student support teachers and educational assistants have been hosting webinars in various subjects. There are also weekly support materials and small group virtual team meetings.

During the meeting, the board also decided what to do in regards to communication with School Community Councils (SCC). The board all agreed that communication with SCC chairs would be wise to discuss concerns about how things are going in each school community and respond to questions or concerns. The board traditionally does a survey around this time and is combining that with trustees meeting with SCC chairs.

“I think what we are trying to do in our system is reach out to our families in different ways. We will have a survey that will go out to our families shortly we are just going to put our heads to the task and identifying the key questions that we would like to have our families answer in an open-ended way so they can give feedback,” Trumier said.

She explained that the traditional way is still best but it can be done differently and the pandemic is forcing the division to look at how they can do learning differently.

“We are all learning together. Our staff, students and families have been amazing. These are trying times for everybody so we are doing our best and we are trying to get it right for our kids today,” Trumier said.

“We are looking forward to renewing some sense of new normal.”