Students and teachers are finding clever ways to connect online as the San Francisco Unified School District starts the term with distance learning. (Courtesy photo)

There are bright spots in distance learning

Exciting activities are happening in virtual classrooms

Throughout the summer, as our school district planned for what learning would look like in the fall, we asked for input from families in various ways about how we could improve the experiences of students in learning from home.

What we heard overwhelmingly from families and students is that they wanted more live interactions with their teachers, and more opportunities to connect with their peers, even if through a computer for now.

We agreed. I want to share with you some of the ways that San Francisco Unified School District staff have already been showing their creativity and providing new opportunities for more meaningful distance learning.

Every morning, Flynn Elementary students and families get on to Zoom for a joyful start to the day at its “School-Wide Welcome!” I hear that 233 students, along with some family members and teachers, joined daily the first week.

Middle schools are continuing their tradition of welcoming sixth grade students through their Step-Up Celebration/6th Grade Orientation. Over 1,900 sixth grade students participated across 11 middle schools. While they didn’t get locker assignments, students did get to meet and interact with their peers and teachers before the formal launch of middle school classes.

One teacher introduced a “show and tell” assignment where students took a photo or video of an object that has helped them during shelter in place. One student brought his mom on camera.

In the Early Education Department, staff are helping families build home libraries. They are using the Equity and Inclusion Bitmoji Library, which helps decolonize classroom libraries through an anti-racist lens starting in preschool.

There are so many more exciting activities happening in our virtual classrooms these days, these are just a few examples. I see our teachers giving their best to our students, even when it has meant learning so many new apps and programs to keep students of all ages and skills engaged each day.

If you’re an SFUSD student or parent on social media, share some of your favorite lessons so far and use the hashtag #WeAreSFUSD. If you prefer to email a highlight to us, send it to newsline@sfusd.edu.

Vincent Matthews is the superintendent of schools for the San Franicsco Unified School District. He is a guest columnist.

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