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Teaching and Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Hailey Novotny, Prince Albert Adult Basic Education Faculty Member

Mar 5, 2021

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2020 was a year that nobody could have predicted. It was a trying year full of fear, loss, anxiety, exhaustion, uncertainty, change, and adaptations. Although this year consisted of many unknowns, including those that we faced as individuals, students, educators, communities, and society as a whole, one thing did become certain amid all the uncertainty…our students were resilient, motivated, and not ready to give up on their education.

March 2020 was a month that will forever be known as the month where life as we knew it changed. The month started as an ordinary time of teaching and learning, as we were right in the midst of the second semester and just getting into the swing of things. We were preparing for exciting events like graduation in May, including conversations of guest lists and what dainties and drinks we would have at their celebration. We were preparing our students for their educational endeavors that many of our graduates were ready to embark on. However, the excitement and hope for the coming months quickly disappeared as we entered life in a pandemic and discovered what would be our new normalcy of living. Suddenly dainties and university applications weren’t the most important topic of discussion, as COVID-19 took center stage, and soon everything became very daunting and bleak.

Teaching and learning during the beginning of the pandemic included coming up with a plan and choosing an online platform that would allow us to continue to teach and deliver content to our students. This meant that we as educators quickly had to adapt and create our content to fit into an online learning format and our students too had to adapt to learning online with the use of technology and no face-to-face contact. Essentially it was a situation of emergency remote teaching and learning that we were all doing our best to navigate through.  A concept that was difficult for many, yet they managed to do it successfully. As the days of online learning passed and the semester came to an end with no celebration of a graduation ceremony, it had become more apparent that this way of teaching and learning was becoming more of a reality for the future.

During the summer break, feelings of anxiety began to set in as I tried to envision Fall 2020 and back to school for our staff and students. A million questions and scenarios rushed through my mind including; class sizes, masking, cleaning, and sanitizing protocols and procedures, and learning formats, to name a few. My questions and anxieties were quickly put to ease when we received word from our program coordinator about the back-to-school plan. The plan included a hybrid model of teaching/learning, small classroom cohorts, and most importantly, took into consideration the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and the entire Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) building in Prince Albert.

With online learning being part of our hybrid model, we as educators had to learn how to use the online learning platform Brightspace. Thankfully, we provided ample time and training to understand, plan, and prepare for this new task that we were facing. Knowing that our cohorts would only be seeing us two times a week created new additional challenges that we had to overcome. Now we were tasked with adapting and changing our teaching practices and methodologies to best suit the needs of all learners while keeping in mind our hybrid model of learning and the limited face-to-face contact that we would be having with our students. We worked collaboratively and as individuals to develop new teaching strategies, materials, and methods that would best suit our learners and allow them to have the best opportunities for success throughout this unique learning experience.  With the extra time and preparation that we were given, we as a team felt confident that this model of learning would work well for our students.

With plenty of guidance, practice, and support, our students quickly became familiar with the online learning format and demonstrated that they were capable of taking on this new hybrid model of learning for their 2020-2021 school year.

During a regular school year, many of our students face hardships and challenges throughout their time with us.  Now with COVID-19 added into the mix, there are new additional obstacles and stresses to overcome. Students are experiencing mandatory isolation, being contact traced, sickness, school and daycare closures, loss, fear, and anxieties. Like many of us can agree, challenges that may have been present before now feel magnified, as the added stresses of those that are out of our control become part of our everyday lives. Yet, our students, while dealing with these circumstances, have rarely let it affect their education as they stay on top of their work, show up when they can, and continue to communicate with instructors. It is a year that is anything but ordinary, yet it shows little effect on our students and their commitment to their education and future goals.

We as educators are proud of our Prince Albert Adult Basic Education (ABE) students as they continue to strive to achieve their educational goals, all while navigating through unchartered territories. In a time where it may have been easier to give up and try again when things are “better,” they continue to push through and persevere. They portray hope and are a light during this journey of education and teaching in a pandemic.

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Gabriel Dumont Institue

GDI is a Saskatchewan-based educational, employment and cultural institute serving Métis across the province

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