It is unlikely Richard Rogers and Oscar Hanmmerstein had social distancing in mind when they penned the stanza of the adopted state song referring to sitting alone, talking and bird watching.
Just as unlikely is the notion that students statewide will be shouting “Ay yippy yi ki yea” as they return to classes on Monday, albeit in an online, distance learning environment.
Bedrooms and living rooms from Boise City to Broken Bow will transform into classrooms as students follow the State Board of Education’s mandate issued on March 25, which requires “remote” learning. The goal is to limit the spread of Covid-19. As a result, in-person instruction has stopped at all public buildings at least until May.
Utilizing distance learning as the primary teaching method has brought challenges to most all of the education world, said Joe Meziere, a 23-year educator and director of Canadian Valley Technology Center’s Cowan Campus.
“The traits that Canadian Valley has, such as grit, perseverance, tenacity, and the ability to determine the needs of our students, are well embedded in our DNA, and we are relying on those to help guide us,” he said.
CV Tech has campuses located in Chickasha, El Reno and Yukon, but all will remain dark while students instead focus on backlit screens in their homes. The task is particularly daunting for a so-called trade school in which hands-on learning has historically been the norm.
“I am amazed at the ideas and initiatives that our instructors have been planning to implement with helping our students realize as much success as they can during these difficult times,” he said. “Instructors and staff are working together to share best practices to help each other out and providing that encouragement that we all now need.”
Mason Hardy, 20, of Yukon, enrolled in Auto Collision Technology at CV Tech’s El Reno Campus in January. Tuition is free to anyone under age 24, who has a diploma or equivalent, and who lives in any of more than a dozen partner school districts.
Hardy said he knows himself well enough to believe he will miss the hands-on aspect of his program.
“That is one of the many things I enjoy about CV Tech,” he said.
He is hopeful to return to campus next fall so he can complete the program and go to work. He enjoys painting and refinishing cars and wants to eventually become a head painter at a repair shop. Until then, he understands the situation.
“The coronavirus is nothing to take lightly,” Hardy said. “I pray that everyone is being smart and staying home for everyone’s safety.”
Mary Beth Carver started working at CV Tech in 1989. She transitioned as the Chickasha Campus’ Early Care and Education instructor in 2004. Many program graduates will further their education to become school teachers, while others will work in childcare centers.
She said the first thing she has done since schools closed is to help her students regroup.
“I knew they felt isolated and alone,” she said. “I know they watch the news and are feeling a little bit scared. I want them to know that I care about them and have not forgotten them.”
Carver plans twice-weekly online Zoom meetings. Zoom permits meeting attendees to see and hear one another.
“This allows us to spend time together talking about what we have been doing while in quarantine,” she said.
Carver will monitor student progress through Moodle, an interactive, online program in which students can access modules and take tests.
“I am available during the day to answer questions and make recommendations for more in-depth study of material that really interests them,” she said. “I am also making general assignments that everyone will do so we have talking points during our Zoom meetings. These assignments may be early childhood YouTube videos, Kahoot (learning games) and books that I have assigned to read.”
Carver has a message for all students.
“This too shall pass, and we must continue caring about each other and caring about others,” she said. “Check on friends and help each other to continue to learn. We can do this, and we can be successful.”
In other words, “You’re doin’ fine Oklahoma.”