What Does Remote Learning Look Like Now at Your Middle School?

Hello.  I'm curious what other private middle schools are offering currently for their remote learning plans.  Our top-rated private school is not offering (or planning) much in the way of virtually taught classes.  I'd like to get a sense of other middle schools and what the school day looks like for your kids at this point.  Are teachers actually teaching classes during part or all of the school day?  How long and how much of the day is interactive?  Are teachers able to conduct classes to middle schoolers by video?  Is there a coherent online system for students to track their assignments?

Thanks. Liz

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Hi - I have a sixth grader in the WCCUSD. They are currently on spring break. Starting Monday 4/13, the district is rolling out the official distance learning curriculum/standards. The three weeks prior to this, the classroom teacher and the prep teacher were doing daily assignments via Google Classroom and a half-hour zoom session to check in - so no, no live instruction. I am wondering if this will change. (Note at our school 6th graders are still in elementary school not on a junior high campus.) I would check what standards your specific school district has put out for middle school or junior high, as a way to calibrate what your private school is doing; with the caveat that some public schools aren't launching the official learning until next week. I've been satisfied with what the 6th grade teacher has done so far, but we'll see what next week brings.

Hi Liz,

I thought I'd share our experience at the East Bay German International School. Our son is in 6th grade there. He basically does his usual class day online, with his teachers teaching their regular classes, they follow the same schedule that they did before the SIP.  The teachers have done an amazing job creatively making most of the curriculum work. Things like art, music and sports are more modified, though they still get assignments, have online discussions and check in. The academic subjects seem to be pretty much the same, with teachers giving class information, kids breaking into small groups to work on assignments, or working individually, submitting assignments online and doing presentations online. I think part of why this works is that it is a small school, the teachers know the kids really well and they sent out a strict list of rules for online conduct. We have been really impressed and relieved that our son isn't missing out on 6th grade content and is able to keep up with his German (since we don't speak much of it at home, I was worried he would fall behind). Please feel free to ask me any more specific questions. 

take care, Melissa

Redwood Day Middle School has been hitting it out of the park since just after SiP took effect (they were up and running by Thursday March 19th. Fri the 13th and Mon the 16th had long ago been planned as Parent/Teacher conference days, so the kids last official day on campus was Thursday the 12th).

Since March 19th, our 6th grader has had the following schedule: 9 - 9:30 he, his advisor and fellow advisees meet via Zoom. 9:30 - 10:25 is Class 1. 10:30 - 11:25 is Class 2. Lunch is an hour. 12:30 - 1:25 is Class 3, and Class 4 is 1:30 - 2:25. Office hours, which are encouraged as a way to ask questions, confirm what was learned, etc (via Zoom) are from 2:30 - 3 each day. Each day he has 3 core classes (Eng, Math, Sci, Spanish or History) plus 1 of the following: art, drama, music, PE or Design In Technology. Classes are a combo of in-person Zoom sessions, recorded Zooms and self-directed projects. They head of school, head of middle school and our child's advisor have been *fantastic* about keeping us informed, but not in a way that feels (to us) overwhelming. We are incredibly impressed by how the entire school has handled this transition, how smoothly they did so, how they have kept our kids forefront in the process is fantastic as well. I can't think of a single fault or even slight bobble in this process. They are phenomenal and it is reason #492 why we are so happy we chose Redwood Day. 

Hi Liz! My son is in middle school at the East Bay German International School (EBGIS) in Emeryville. When the schools all started closing, EBGIS quickly came up with a really impressive online system. It’s been amazing for our middle schooler and I hope other schools can do something similar!

The daily class schedule hasn’t changed since they went online. Pretty much every class session starts with a zoom meeting (actually they don’t use zoom, they use another platform called Microsoft Teams which is integrated with their school calendar and has all their assignments and teacher feedback on it). At the whole-class meeting the teacher gives instruction and an assignment and answers questions and sometimes also has group discussion. Then usually after maybe 20-30 minutes that video class will end and the kids will do video calls with small groups of their classmates or they’ll work on their individual assignments for the rest of the class time. Then when it’s time for the next class to start, that teacher will do a video call with the whole class, and so on.

That format has worked great for my kid and the couple others whose parents I’ve talked to. Having video classes like clockwork at the usual class times keeps the kids in the rhythm of the school day and keeps them from feeling isolated. And then having some offline time interspersed keeps the kids from being glued to the screen the whole day. The video class sessions seem to run smoothly and be productive. It probably doesn’t hurt that the class size at EBGIS is really small, about ten kids per class on average.

In terms of assignment tracking, Teams gives the kids a pop-up notification every time a teacher makes a new assignment. Some work is on the computer, like when they write a short story it’ll be in Word, or they recently made podcasts out of recorded interviews they’d done with people in the community. According to my kid, when he needs to turn in an assignment he goes to the assignment on Teams, clicks “add my work,” uploads his assignment and clicks “turn in.” If the assignment is on paper he’ll take a picture using the camera on his laptop and upload that. Teachers review kids’ work on Teams and give praise, corrections and other feedback through Teams and/or during the next live class.

With the online program, the kids have been moving through the curriculum at the same pace as before the shelter in place and my kid is really happy in school. I’ve been super happy that the teachers are taking full responsibility for my kid’s education. Even the PE teacher has figured out how to keep the kids doing lots of healthy movement in gym class! An added benefit is that my kid is truly in school during the entire school day so I can get my own work done!

I don’t know how much can be replicated in other schools because the teachers at EBGIS are pretty extraordinary plus as mentioned the class sizes are really small. But it goes to show that school can happen online! I hope some of these methods are helpful! Best of luck to you!

I have two children in two different private schools. My 11 year old attends a small private school in Berkeley. That school has had a difficult time adapting to remote learning. My child is in Zoom classes between 50 minutes to about the most of 2 1/2 hours a day. The students are given work to do independently and they are usually done around noon. I have been disappointed in this amount of time they are in actual class. Also the school has taken off at least 3 days off from school to work on their remote curriculum. I don't understand the need for this because most days they are done teaching before noon. Although I understand this has been a challenging situation for them, I am frustrated that the teachers are not offering their classes following the schedule they were using before. If I had a choice, I would prefer to enroll my child in other on-line classes rather than the minimal curriculum offered by this school. I feel this is a waste of time. 

On the other hand, I have an 8th grader who attends a private school in SF. That experience has been completely opposite. Before they started remote learning the school had two days of practice (with the kids doing remote learning at the school), so they could work through any problems. They had a seamless transition and my 8th grader is on-line in school ALL DAY, EVERYDAY except for 1/2 hour lunch and two short breaks each day. I have no complaints about this school. They appear to be following the same rigorous program they had before remote learning. 

Our children are at The Saklan School. The Middle School offers daily Zoom class meetings for core classes from 9-3:30pm. Additionally, there are weekly advisory sessions which keep the teacher-student connections close, and elective courses via Zoom meetings. While virtual interactions cannot fully replace the physical, in-school interactions, we are pleased with what Saklan has come up with in a short amount of time. The students have self-directed work but are also working in groups, working with teachers, and learning in a productive and positive environment.    

My son is at The Berkeley School in 8th grade. The teachers and admins have created a virtual school that is almost identical to an actual school day. The kids get to see their teachers and classmates, have class discussions, get help with homework—all live. They even have their after-school clubs up and running in virtual form! I'm amazed at how quickly they put the whole program together and at how well it is functioning. The online system for tracking assignments is very organized, but that's not new—it's the same one the kids have used all year to keep track of their work.  

I'm surprised to hear other private schools are not doing the same thing. I would be really bummed if my kid was left alone to just do homework all day. Your post made me feel more grateful than ever for our school. 

I'm really happy with what our child's middle school (East Bay German International School) is doing with remote learning.  They use Microsoft Teams.  The school has continued the identical schedule as before with the classes at the same time and duration as pre-shelter in place order.  Teachers are actually teaching, and kids do, as before, class-wide group, smaller group, pair, and independent work.  The only issue I've noticed is that not everyone has a strong internet connection at home.  We haven't had to supplement with any materials or supervision - the school has taken care of everything, and we are extremely grateful for this stability and support at this difficult time.

I have a 7th grader at The Academy (formerly Elmwood Academy) In Berkeley. As a single professional now working from home, continuity of his education is of paramount importance to me. Before the Quarantine, The Academy exceeded my academic expectations as its passion for accelerated education and commitment to high expectations was exactly right for my son.After the lockdown, the school worked tirelessly to come up with an online learning program worthy of its high standards, hiring a UC professor to quarterback the transition. They were online within days Offering life, online classes from 8:30 to 330 daily including PE, art, and music. The students follow a calendar outline, clock in for live classes and do assignments as usual. The teachers are concerned and organized, really stretching to reach out to students. My son feels part of his academic community which is making a huge difference for him during these potentially lonely times. 

Hi - I have a 7th grader at The Academy in Berkeley and have been thoroughly impressed with the school's move to digital learning, which happened on March 18.  The schedule includes 7 periods from 8:30AM to 3:10PM, with breaks for recess and lunch.  The teachers have developed additional instruction off Zoom to offer more balance.  All subjects (including PE) continue and each class continues to cover a lot of material each week, including with what seems to be normal homework(?)  loads.  In order to integrate the hands on aspect of learning, the art teacher even sent packets of art material for the kids to work on art projects and the music teacher worked to make sure that each student had access to a ukulele to keep up the music program work.  They have done an outstanding job here.  The school had already been using Google Classroom so it's easy for kids (and parents) to track assignments.  My son's feedback is that digital learning is just as good as in the classroom and sometimes even better as there's fewer distractions.  He is engaged and focused all day.  My sense is the small class sizes really help as a Zoom session with 10 kids is a lot more intimate than one with 20+.  It's been endearing to hear him hanging out with his classmates on Zoom during breaks and before / after school.  And the school's head and faculty have all been outstanding.  We are very, very fortunate.