The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a lot of challenges to the Guam Department of Education but there have also been positive changes that teachers want to see more of as the department moves to address learning loss.
When GDOE received the first round of Education Stabilization Funds, ESF, in 2020, they sought input from teachers on successes, challenges and necessary improvements within the department in an effort to put the money to best use.
GDOE Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Joseph Sanchez said the feedback from teachers started rolling in.
“Teachers like that we have good collaboration. Of course Zoom and technology have made that so much easier now so that we don’t have to physically meet all the time. Getting a hundred people in a room is tough,” said Sanchez, who referred to the training and workshops for teachers.
During the pandemic, gatherings were limited by physical distancing safety measures, prompting the department to take professional development training to an online platform.
“Although COVID-19 had a lot of unfortunate events that came with it, there’s also a lot of positive that came out of it and one of that is we use Zoom more, technology more. We have a lot of our professional development trainings that are now synchronous and asynchronous. Just like our students,” Sanchez said.
He said this increased the efficiency and the ability to collaborate across schools and prepare for training beforehand.
“The presentation part is on video, teachers are asked to watch prior to the workshop so when they get to the training they can ask questions. They think that’s very efficient,” Sanchez said.
Teachers have also noted an increase in resources for their classrooms.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought an infusions of federal grant assistance which is being used by the department to provide resources and instructional supplies.
Guam public school teachers for decades have pulled money out of their own pockets to buy resources and supplies for their classrooms.
“Now we are glad to be able to provide that to our students and teachers in the classrooms,” Sanchez said.
With the federal funds received under the ESF I and II, GDOE also bolstered technology at schools, and students were offered laptops and internet services as they navigated the COVID-19 school year with distance learning.
GDOE launched an online learning model for students this past school year, introducing many families to programs like Google Classroom and Zoom for the first time.
It was a new learning environment, students and parents needed to understand how to log on for class, submit homework and assignments electronically, and parents communicated with teachers through emails and the like.
GDOE made efforts to maintain communication with parents as the home became students’ primary learning environment.
“We are not just talking about families that were already technologically savvy. But trying to help students and their families learn to utilize the technology more for communicating with the schools,” Sanchez said.
One of the challenges GDOE has faced is a lack of parent engagement at the schools. Sanchez said a big problem for families is a lack of transportation. The move to increased online communication has helped parents and teachers reach out to each other.
Sanchez said teachers want to see GDOE continue to bridge the gap between the school and the home.
Making sure that parents and families are involved on a regular basis, teachers like the fact that we have numerous meetings. “One of them said that we hope that this is not just during COVID-19, we hope that this is something that GDOE does moving forward," Sanchez said.
Parent and stakeholder engagement is crucial to the department as learning recovery is addressed. He said parents and stakeholders want to be involved in the leadership of the schools post-pandemic.
“They (parents) want to be informed about what’s happening in schools, they want to be informed about what plans are and of course they want an opportunity to voice their concerns and questions,” Sanchez said.
GDOE continues to seek input from stakeholders. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.