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How the Montessori School of Regina embraced online learning a week ahead of most Sask. schools

While most Saskatchewan students and teachers are just beginning to tackle remote learning this week, the Montessori School of Regina is finally settling into it.

As soon as talks began circulating earlier this month about schools across the province indefinitely closing due to COVID-19, the private early-learning and elementary school knew it had to do something.

In the lead-up to the school closures on March 20, teachers began drafting an online curriculum that was ready to go for the following Monday.

“Our main focus was making sure that our students still felt connected. I think it’s a time of uncertainty for students across the province,” said Margaret Restall, head of the Montessori School of Regina.

“My staff, too, they really wanted to remain connected because it’s such an uneasy feeling; we’re not at work. It’s a tough time for families and it’s a tough time for my staff’s families, and I think it was something we all wanted to do — just to get it going right away.”

Teachers began holding live online lessons via Zoom. From there, they created virtual classrooms where students are able to interact with their peers and upload daily assignments in areas like math and music. (Montessori School of Regina)

For those in preschool and kindergarten, teachers launched a secure Facebook page where they posted recorded videos of calendar time, story reading, practical life lessons and other activities to share with students’ families. Take-home worksheet packages were also created for kindergarten students.

As for the rest of the elementary students, their teachers began holding live online lessons via Zoom. From there, they created virtual classrooms where students are able to interact with their peers and upload daily assignments in areas like math and music.

Learning at home

Though she physically misses going to class to see her friends, Grade 5 Montessori student Misha Joseph-Tomashewsky doesn’t mind swapping out her pencil and paper for a keyboard and screen.

“Some schools aren’t reopening, so since we’re doing everything online, we can continue learning and not fall behind,” the 10-year-old said, noting she’s still able to work on her long division at home, just with more freedom.

“At school, everything is timed — there’s a time limit for this, a time limit for that — but [at home] it’s easier,” Joseph-Tomashewsky said. “Sometimes [at school] you’d have due dates and if you’re really busy with dance classes or other different classes, it can be kind of stressful.”

Meanwhile, her mother, Shama Joseph, said this shift to online learning is giving her more insight into how her daughter interacts with others.

“After the teachers leave (the Zoom chat), the students are still talking to each other — and it’s not about random things, it’s about the school work. They’re really working together to try to get their worksheets done, and she just seems a lot more engaged,” Joseph said. “I think it’s fantastic.”

‘It can be done’

Though Restall admits there were some snags in the move to online learning last week, she noted it has largely been a success for Montessori, with the majority of its roughly 170 students taking part. She said they are “just so thrilled to have that routine. They’re waking up and looking forward to doing that. Parents are engaged and students are engaged.”

As the public and separate school systems across Saskatchewan make the same move to remote learning, she acknowledges that they have a bigger job to do with thousands more students; however, it’s not impossible.

“No matter what, whether you’re an independent school or you work for one of the divisions, that’s all any teacher wants: to do what’s best for the students and to offer them a sense of connection,” said Restall, “and I know that teachers all across the province are going to do the best they can to make that happen.”

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