Distance Learning Series (Bullock)

Bullock believes creating a routine is important for his Hughson High health class students
Posted on 09/23/2020
HHS Teacher Mr. Bullock

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted how education is delivered. Still, Hughson Unified is uniquely positioned to succeed in a distance-learning environment. Five years ago, the district began to train teachers on the Google suite of online tools and offer daily access for students to Chromebook computers. Hughson also provided free Internet access then to families of sixth- through 12th-graders and added that service for elementary students this spring.


Today, in the latest in a series of profiles, we talk with a Hughson teacher about distance learning, some of the challenges involved and the lessons that can be learned.


Teacher: Keith Bullock

School: Hughson High School

Grade/subject: 9th Grade -- Health

Years in district: 10


What does a typical school day look like for you now? How do you organize your time?

I usually have at least 20 emails to answer every morning, mostly from students, but a couple from parents. I have office hours before school for one hour. I turn on Zoom and make myself available if students want to pop in and ask questions.  I spend 20 to 30 minutes setting up the logistics of the lesson via Zoom and Daily Agenda on Google Docs. I make sure that I am ready to start on time. First-period students always are the test subjects. I apologize to them and make changes to the lesson for the rest of the day. After school, I have office hours for an hour, again for students to pop in for questions or concerns. Establishing routines for students is HUGE. 


Are you presenting group lessons or spending time online one-on-one with students?

I spend two hours a day making myself available for one-on-one questions. During class time, I am lecturing or leading activities. 


What are the biggest adjustments you’ve had to make?

During class, I am doing more one-way lectures than I like. I like to interact and lead classroom discussions with students. I have not found a method to recreate my classroom atmosphere. 


What are your favorite teaching tools? Why?

Establishing routines is super important. I am doing an Exit Ticket to check for understanding. This also allows students who are having technical difficulties to get credit for the work at a later date. Zoom has been good, but glitchy; we are hoping Webcams will take care of the glitches. Nearpod and Flipgrid are a couple of apps that I use. I use Quizizz for assessment. 


Are there teaching techniques you’re using now that you’ll be able to apply in your classrooms when in person classes resume?

I can see Zoom never leaving us. Everything else is TBD. 


What are your biggest concerns about students and distance learning?

I have two.

  1. Students need to interact with each other. I talk to my students about people skills constantly, from voice tone to body language. It is hard to work on those people skills through a computer screen. 
  2. Students not being fully engaged is another concern. With our current set-up, students need to turn off their video or Zoom becomes super sketchy. So, when asking students questions, most of the time you cannot see their faces and are just looking at a black screen.


How often do you interact with parents? What are their most common questions?

I just sent out my first mass Aries email/text. Most parents seem to be struggling with connection issues. It is a little early in the game to make predictions about grades. 


Do you have a favorite distance learning story to share? 

More like an UGH!! First day, I was planning on using Google Meets as my video conferencing platform. It was barely working through first and second period. All the planning out the window, because I could not communicate with my students on the FIRST day.  Between classes, I ran over to my neighbor and asked her how Google Meets were going. They were not working for her either. So mid-third period I switched to Zoom without ever using the program before. Got through it with a HUGE helping hand and patience from third and fourth period.

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