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Recipe For Success: Which Kids Thrive Learning Online?

[Grace Beck /  WKSU]

Schools were largely unprepared for the remote-learning experiment they plunged into when the pandemic began last year. But educators have since learned more about their students -- their strengths, family situations – and other elements that foster success online.

The right equipment and technology are the foundation for remote learning, but there are significant human factors.

Kindergarten teacher Kyra Stephens with Canton’s Bulldog Virtual Academy acknowledges a teacher’s role.

“Just like you would in every class that you have, you’re going to tailor your teaching to each individual student to make sure that they get the most out of what you’re teaching. I’m doing the same thing from behind the screen,” Stephens said.

Generally, gifted students perform well regardless of the setting – or even the subject matter -- says Tricia Stanton, a third-grade teacher with the Bulldog Virtual Academy. What stands out is their reasoning skills.

“These are kids that have superior cognitive abilities, and they are labeled that, and that’s their gifted status,” Stanton said.

Kyra Stephens, kindergarten teacher with Canton's Bulldog Virtual Academy, believes that teachers have a role to play in student success online, which includes building connections with students and their families. [Kyra Stephens]

But for introverted kids, Stanton says, online platforms may create a safe environment in which they bloom.

Middle school educators Frances Penney and Jamie McKeown agree. The teaching partners have taught virtually over the past year for Stow-Munroe Falls City Schools.

Penney, a language arts and social studies teacher, says online learning has helped some kids focus better.

“Kids that are more introverted and love to do their own things, they love this,” Penney said. “Because they just want to be here to learn. They don’t want to deal with all the outside nonsense.”

McKeown, who teaches math and science, says the online platform encourages some of these children to better advocate for themselves.

“This has been perfect for some students who are relatively shy because they can send me a private chat so nobody else knows who’s asked that question, and I can help them,” McKeown said.

And online learning may help with one of the toughest aspects of school: Cliques. Penney and McKeown say that socially confident kids are connecting more easily with introverted kids because they are discovering they share interests even if they don’t share social groups.

Frances Penney (left) and Jamie McKeown (right) are both middle school teachers in the Stow-Munroe Falls School District. Penney finds it refreshing to see introverted kids grow and flourish online. McKeown feels online learning platforms are great for kids who can advocate for themselves and can communicate if they're struggling. [Frances Penney & Jamie McKeown]

Sophia Pecoraro, a sixth grader at Stow, describes herself as an outgoing kid. She learns better in-person but is thriving online.

“There are a lot of problems with online schooling, like asking questions and stuff,” Pecoraro said. “Someone who is not afraid to speak up if they have a question or if they did something wrong; I think kids like that do well in an online learning environment.”

Sophia Pecoraro, a sixth grader at Stow, prefers learning in person but is thriving online. She considers herself to be highly organized, which she says has been helpful for online learning. [Sophia Pecoraro]

Pecoraro also assists her online classmates because she considers herself to be highly organized, something educator Jesse Long says is necessary for success. Long, who teaches at Canton’s Bulldog Virtual Academy, believes that students who have a routine and are self-disciplined tend to do well.

“There are still deadlines and there is still a schedule that you have to follow,” Long said. “To be able to have self-discipline to be able to say, hey, it’s 9 o’clock and I have to log in and get going and just have that drive that’s inside of them.”

That self-discipline has worked for Jackson Miller, a sixth grader at Stow. Jackson’s parents, Jason and Lynne Miller, acknowledge that consistency and self-discipline have worked to their son’s advantage.

“Really being able to keep him on a schedule four days a week in school remotely, helped,” Jason Miller said. “We get up, we have a routine, you brush your teeth, you get dressed, you go to school and it’s over there in that room and that’s it.”

Consistency and self-discipline have helped Jackson Miller, a Stow-Munroe Falls sixth grader, succeed while learning online.

The Millers are both professional counselors – which has helped them to balance their son’s socio-emotional needs throughout the pandemic. They also consider it a blessing to be able to work from home, making it possible to offer support to their son.

Third-grade teacher Tricia Stanton says parental support has proved crucial for online learning, with many parents stepping up as co-educators.

“These kids can’t be left home alone to do online learning by themselves,” Stanton says. “It won’t work. It needs to be a cooperation between the teachers and the home life.”

Stanton and the other educators acknowledge that is one in a set of variables that will determine if 2020 launched a new way of learning or represents a lost year of learning.

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