Zama Middle High School works together for online learning success

Wayne Carter, principal of Zama Middle High School
Wayne Carter, principal of Zama Middle High School

Zama Middle High School works together for online learning success

by Winifred Brown
US Army Garrison - Japan

CAMP ZAMA, Japan (April 17, 2020) – Emily Austin, seventh-grade president at Zama Middle High School, is focusing on “crushing” online learning while learning from home due to the COVID-19 virus.

She hopes her fellow students will do the same.

“School itself is hard, and online schooling is even harder, but really, just try your very best,” Emily said in an interview via email. “Persevere and continue on shining your light to show others and yourself that, ‘Yeah, you made it.’ You made it through ‘X’ amount of weeks of online schooling and you crushed it.”

So far, Emily said she has been able to overcome the challenges of online learning by creating a schedule and working cooperatively with her family and teachers. Administrators, teachers and counselors at the school would all agree that it is a great way to succeed, and for anyone who continues to struggle or just wants to improve, they have more advice.

Wayne Carter, principal of Zama Middle High School; Michael Pope, a math and science teacher at the school and 2021 Pacific East Teacher of the Year; and Catherine Russell, school counselor, have shared how students can succeed at online learning.

Carter said that first of all, he wants to acknowledge that virtual learning is new for everyone—students, teachers and parents—and he appreciates everyone’s efforts and feedback to make it better.

“We are all learning how to be successful on this online platform and we have learned a lot since the initial implementation of online learning,” Carter said.

Carter said he recommends that students set up a daily schedule and make it routine. They should also use their notebooks to take notes and keep track of information, he said.

Most of all, however, Carter said he has told teachers to remind students not to get upset or stressed about technology issues. “Just do the best you can,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pope said learning in a traditional classroom has not always been easy, but online learning is a new challenge that is slowly becoming the new norm for all students.

Pope said he has five tips for successful online learning:

1. Time management. Do a little at a time and be consistent. Procrastination is counterproductive. Set a realistic time schedule, and if family members are using the same computer, rotate to be equitable. I would suggest working in shifts or one hour on and one hour off so that everyone can complete assignments for the day.

2. Take breaks. Maximize the 20-minute rule. Work for 20 minutes, take a break and return to finish the task. Some tasks can be started online and finished offline. This works well if you have to share computer time with a sibling.

3. Do no rely on the computer for notes. Have a composition book handy and transcribe into that book. This keeps your self-research skills and the tactile skill of writing active. When you rewrite into a composition book, it allows you to reconsider the information and to critically think about what is important and what is just fluff. Be proactive and locate additional video learning as needed.

4. The value of post-learning discussions. Set up a video discussion with your peers or with a family member to debrief them on what you have learned for the day. This allows you to synthesize and analyze the topic and to give you the opportunity to debrief and reevaluate your thinking as if you were in a regular classroom.

5. Teachers are resources students should use. Post questions on the discussion boards, comment on peer posts and reach out to your teachers. Learning is still human and educators understand the challenges and obstacles that each learner may face.

In addition, Russell said she calls online learning a “virtual learning adventure,” and acknowledges there will be bumps in the road for some students, but wants everyone to know there are many support systems available.

For starters, it is essential for students to reach out and stay connected with their teachers, Russell said.

“Students should not hesitate to reach out to their teacher if they need clarification or are having difficulty with a class,” Russell said. “Teachers will not know if their student is having difficulties or problems unless they are informed. Remember to keep the lines of communication open as best as possible. Teachers can also video conference with students, if needed.”

If a student is having an issue that is not class related, teachers can direct the student to the correct person for help, Russell said.

Schools have technical support personnel who are very helpful if the student is having technical issues, Russell said, and students can also contact their school counselor for any school-related issues or questions.

“These questions can be about college and career planning, social and emotional support, and/or any general questions they may have,” Russell said.

If a student is having anxiety, depression or is feeling overwhelmed, they can contact their school counselor, school psychologist, Adolescent Substance Abuse Counseling Services counselor, Military Family Life Consultant or behavioral health personnel for assistance, Russell said.

Students and parents should also be aware that students can use for one-on-one personalized tutoring seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Russell said.

Russell said that while schoolwork is important, students need to remember to go easy on themselves.

“This situation is new to all of us and we are all in this together,” Russell said. “Our routines have been disrupted and we are navigating new waters. It is OK for students to feel some unease, but it is important for students to know they have support and cheerleaders cheering them on.”

Carter said online learning is unprecedented territory for many teachers, but they have prepared for and carried out the guidance with a solid sense of commitment.

“This online learning program requires a team effort, and I would like to thank the teachers, students and parents for their teamwork and cooperation of our online learning and instruction program,” Carter said. “Their combined efforts have made a tremendous difference in the success of this program.”

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