SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Teachers are quickly adapting to online lesson plans to engage their students.
Third grade teacher Carlisa Flanders said Friday was the first day she'd been back to school since Grant K-8 shut its doors March 13 due to coronavirus concerns.
Flanders said the day the school closed was hectic and stressful, "we had a couple hours to hussle. I put together two weeks of work, took as much as I could went home and hunkered down."
She was emotional thinking of the future, wondering when she was going to see her students again and when school would reopen.
Tuesday was the day she was able to go online, using a program called Zoom, and video conference with her students. She said 18 of the 21 students have been attending school this week.
Friday morning, their homework assignment was to bring one thing to share. Many of her students showed off their pets.
"The majority of my focus is going to be making sure I stay connected with my students, making sure they feel the love," she said, gesturing at a board behind her with the words, 'Good Morning! You are awesome! You are loved!' written in different colored markers.
Flanders said right now class is optional and labeled as enrichment. She said Thursday she read a book to the kids.
Parents, like mom Leona Smith, said the social interaction from class is exactly what her son has been missing, "that connection he has, and the bonds that he has with his friends and his teacher it's like no other."
"I think we forget how much school and their friends and their teachers are part of their everyday life," Smith said.
Mrs. Flanders has been working tirelessly to bridge boundaries with online education, "I am now texting, communicating with friends I now have in Georgia, in Texas, in Oregon who are also third grade teachers and I'm collaborating virtually with strangers but their hearts are in the exact same place as mine and we're all just like try this, try this, try this."
She said her tech savvy students are also stepping up teaching her tricks, like starting a chat and sharing pictures through the program. 'Our first lesson was how to mute and unmute the microphone,' Mrs. Flanders said.
Friday was emotional. Mrs. Flanders said she was glad to go back to school and see fellow teachers' cars in the parking lot, but could only wave hello from a distance. "I got to go back to school for 20 minutes, I got my charts, I got our class mascot, this is happy," she said holding a rainbow hedgehog stuffed animal. She said she also grabbed a large stack of books.
She was also happy to get back a semblance of a routine, saying class will start online officially on April 27.
"Oh gosh, it's mind boggling to think how these grades will actually count towards them finishing the third grade year," Mrs. Flanders said concerned.
She's focusing instead on each lesson and the positive impact she can make on her students.
"At the end of every school day I usually hug, high-five or fist bump my kids, so our first Zoom, we decided this is our new way of hugging," She said making an 'air-hug' gesture, "So to all of you here's a hug. We'll get through this."
The San Diego Unified School District said schools will be soft launching online education April 6. That way they can connect students in need with computers and WiFi, so everyone is ready for the hard launch April 27.
That means teachers will assign tasks that will be graded.
The district said if a student cannot connect online, they will not be penalized and their grade will be frozen.