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New Normal: Teacher Shares Lessons Learned From Virtual Instruction

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. – Brighitte Whipple has been teaching for 16 years but she never imagined she’d be doing it all online from home.


What You Need To Know

  • Brighitte Whipple teaches at Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Elementary School
  • She calls the parents “heroes” for making online learning work
  • Whipple said good communication between parents, teachers is key
  • More Back to School headlines

“I was kind of apprehensive about this process going online because I’m an in-person teacher. I love being with the kids and I didn’t know if we were going to be able to translate the school experience to the screen. But I’m really, really happy with my experience so far.​

Whipple is teaching through MyPCS Online for Pinellas County Schools.

She has a class of 27 first-graders at Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Elementary School.

“Is the technology perfect, no, but it’s not disrupting learning and I think that’s what’s important. We can get better at it through user proficiency and some tech improving, but we really have what we need to have that connection with the kids and that’s what I really wanted,” she said.

She calls parents the “heroes” in this process.

“I think as a teacher I need to stay flexible about what’s happening in the home. There are some parents who are not just managing not just one student, but they’re managing multiple students at the same time on different computers with different grade levels. They’ve chosen this online work because they feel it’s a safety measure for their families and they’re working hard,” she said.

Whipple said she has been able to keep her students engaged, even through the screen.

“They’re also able to give me feedback. When I say “Pull out your whiteboard,” they do it and I’m able to see that feedback and know what’s happening,” she said.

She said there have been glitches but she views it as a “learning process.”

“We know that learning happens when people struggle, that’s when the brain is the most active and you know what, I’m on the “struggle bus” with them,” she said. “We are reacting in the moment trying to make the best decisions for our students. We’ve come a long way but it’s a work in progress for everyone,” she said.

Whipple said her best advice is to communicate. She urges parents and students not to be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.

​”I have time set aside in the morning to talk to parents just like I would during a normal school day,” she said. “We’re all learning as we go and it’s important to remember that.”

Other tips she has for families as students attend school remotely:

-Set a schedule. Make sure school time and home time are separate.

-Limit distractions. If you have multiple children learning from home, separate them into different spaces.

-Keep tabs on your child’s performance and alert the teacher if they seem to be falling behind.

In a time full of imperfect conditions, Whipple said the goal isn’t perfection but rather progress.

“This is new territory and I think we all need to have some patience and grace,” she said. “We’re all in this together.”

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