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Maryland Virtual Learning Platform: Continuous Efforts and Challenges

Fatiha Belfakir | 6/12/2020, 6:28 a.m.

With Maryland schools shuttered as coronavirus outbreaks turned into a global pandemic, state educators continue their efforts and creativity to support students and to improve classroom instruction online. Baltimore County Public School spokesperson, Brandon Oland confirmed that while in Baltimore County, the third and fourth marking periods have been combined and students will receive a pass/fail grade instead of a traditional letter grade, virtual teaching and virtual counseling services are available for students who need assistance.

“We are so proud of our teachers, they swiftly transitioned to virtual learning and are doing all they can to support students. Many of our teachers are also parents. They are truly heroes for what they have been able to do so far for students and what they continue to do,” said Oland.

In the last few weeks, millions of students, teachers and parents have had to adjust to learning from home, which means new challenges and responsibilities for both teachers and families. While teachers struggle with keeping children focuses on schoolwork, parents have to juggle daytime responsibilities with children’s schoolwork.

Tazeen Khalid, a teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Guilford Elementary School in Maryland, stated that at first she was completely fazed by the new learning platform and was apprehensive about its success.

“After teaching via distance learning for the past three weeks, I have gotten used to it and feel comfortable with it,” said Khalid.

Shaheer Sham, 18, a student at Lansdowne High School in Maryland said that he prefers online- learning, as he doesn’t have to go to school. He enjoyed his online classes but found it challenging sometimes especially when doing assignments with no teacher around.

“Virtual learning is pretty much self-learning, I have to learn a lot on my own. However, the resources provided are useful and adequate. We are more than welcomed to contact our teachers if there’s anything we need help with, Also, Google Meets is a really useful tool. It provides an online version of school office hours,” said Sham.

Like many teachers in Maryland, Khalid has no way but to use her creativity to help both her students and their families to maneuver through online learning. She provides a live small group instruction each day to student of different grade levels. Khalid was faced with a real obstacle, which are the language barriers.

“My students’ families were faced by a huge road block initially due to language barriers, but with the assistance of several county interpreters, I have successfully managed to integrate my families into distance learning,” said Khalid. “I act as a liaison for the rest of my staff and set up interpreting requests with our International Services Resource Center, I also made numerous phone calls to my Urdu speaking families to determine their technological needs and ensure that these needs were fulfilled.”

Khalid continues to contact families with chronic absenteeism and incomplete assignments. She advocates for many families who simply are not aware of the new attendance policies and express them of how the county documents student attendance.