When Alex Felton, middle school math teacher at Hamtramck Academy, left school on March 12, she told her students that if school was cancelled, she’d be on Instagram telling them what to do next. And that’s exactly what she did.
In her nearly 10 years with the school, there has never been a closure like this one. So, to stay connected to her students, she has held a Q&A on Instagram every Tuesday since the school closure. She believes the Q&A has been essential to helping her students adjust. Her students have a chance to submit questions about the topic beforehand, which she addresses during the Q&A.
Some of the topics she’s covered include Google Classroom, completing assignments, field trip cancellations, the eighth grade memory book and graduation, packages being sent home, tracking progress in gradebook, and what you should and shouldn’t do during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the May 5 session, she answered questions like, “How do you know I’m doing the work?” and “Can I use IXL instead of iReady?” After explaining her expectations regarding those questions, she asked her students if they would like helpful videos, specifics on how to follow the notes, if the Q&A time is still working for them, and whether or not they would like to do a live video meeting through Google Meet. At the end, one of her students asked about her pet birds, so she took a moment to feature her feathery friends.
“Instagram has been a way for me to connect with my students because it has always been a user friendly and safe place,” said Miss Felton. “The kids feel safe when they can have their names and images hidden or protected. They are never on camera, so I can keep it professional and students can ask questions without fear.”
Her account features teacher memes, math posts, some personal updates, and Instagram stories that include questions for her students. Student privacy is a priority, so she makes sure to post mindfully.
Utilizing Instagram has allowed her to help her students log on to Google Classroom more quickly. Because her students were already familiar with her account prior to the closure, she was able to use Instagram to encourage her students to get on Google Classroom and help their siblings log on, too.
Instagram is one of the many tools Miss Felton uses to communicate with her students during this season of remote learning. Her advice to fellow teachers is to not be afraid of new platforms and ways to connect with students on their level. She uses the platform to connect with her students on their level while making sure they are healthy, safe, and happy.
“Miss Felton takes the time to think about what works best for each individual student that she encounters, which has not been sacrificed during these current circumstances that we are living in,” said Metria Washington, middle school dean at Hamtramck. “She has implemented remote learning with a hint of personalized instruction and a pinch of emotional support for both students and their parents. Her relationships with students are genuine and their dedication to her is exemplified in their willingness and motivation to continue their learning, despite not physically being in her presence.”
Though she engages her students through social media and other mediums, she understands that it’s hard to stay motivated during this time. To jump-start motivation, she started posting weekly schedules to Google Classroom to help her students stay accountable with their work. She even started doing drop-offs to kids’ houses and mailing gifts for students who ask questions first, help with the memory book, or who need a little cheering up.
Staying motivated with a difficult subject like math can also be challenging for students. When remote learning began, Miss Felton recorded videos and assigned math practice, quizzes, and tests. She now utilizes the book more, which she believes many of her students like, though she still uses Google Classroom, IXL, and iReady.
“Teaching math online is a challenge because the students are not able to see you,” said Miss Felton. Though, she believes that making a video where the kids can stop, slow down, and copy the work allows them to make progress by practicing that strategy.
“Miss Felton is one of the most dedicated teachers that I know,” said Alvin Ward, principal at Hamtramck. “She works diligently to provide her students challenging, rigorous, yet comfortable instructions where her students lead their learning through her guidance, critique, and reassurance.”
Keep up the incredible work, Miss Felton!