HISD teachers kick off classroom lessons virtually for 2020-2021 school year

Roberts Elementary School fourth-grade teacher LaTasha Owens’ first social studies lesson of the new school year included an educational video about the three branches of government, shared on Microsoft Teams.

Owens called on students to share their thoughts about what they were watching. The children appeared onscreen as they unmuted themselves. Each was accessing the class from a private residence, some of them wearing headphones and some of them sitting in large office chairs.

This example of leveraging technology to ensure her students learn without jeopardizing the health and safety of all involved was replicated across the district on Tuesday.

Owens’ class also drafted an agreement for online instruction best practices and participated in a math lesson on place value. Students also received asynchronous instruction.

“We had some technological challenges, but that’s to be expected,” Owens said. “The lines of communication were open between me, parents, and students. We were able to get those glitches figured out pretty quickly.”

Looscan Elementary School third-grade teacher Lara Thompson also connected with her students virtually on Tuesday, telling her class about her family and pets and encouraging students to share fun facts about themselves.

HISD Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan visited Thompson’s class and offered words of support.

“I want to say thank you and wish you well,” Lathan said. “Thank you for your flexibility. It’s going to be a great year.”

Owens, who saw each of her 22 students at least once on Tuesday, said addressing students’ social-emotional needs will require extra effort during online instruction.

“Teachers will have to come up with creative solutions to help students develop relationships with one another,” Owens said. “We want to make sure we reach the whole child. I want them to have a best friend by the end of the year.”

Owens said although this is an unconventional year, educators can still make an impact.

“This is going to go well because this generation is technologically savvy,” Owens said. “Teachers will extend patience and grace. We will do whatever we can do to make it easier for everyone. We’re here for our parents and students.”