BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - School systems in Alabama are getting additional training for their teachers to help them prepare with confidence for remote learning, as well as in person through the Southern Regional Education Board or SREB.
SREB has been assisting school systems in 16 states in the south in developing and then offering a play book for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, concentrating in the areas of governance and operations, health and safety, and good quality instruction.
Dale Winkler is Director of the Office of School Improvement. He says that includes “calendars and schedules, technology, and funding the whole aspect of disinfecting and cleaning your school. Meeting the physical and mental well being of your students.”
It’s the latter part which is coming into play right now as teachers learn how to be sensitive to the needs of students while giving them the rigor and good quality instruction parents expect online.
For example, how long should teachers engage children online? SREB offers them research for best practices and the importance of so called “brain breaks.”
Cena Davis says teachers learn to plan for brain breaks. Davis talks about the insight from the training instructor. “Cut your camera off, get up, walk down the hall, go outside, set your timer for 15 minutes. We’ll see you back here. I learned to be productive, you need to take that time when it’s brain break time I took that brain break.”
Cena Davis is in the office of school improvement at SREB and says during the first workshop for 130 teachers, 24 teachers logged on from Alabama.
“They participated as students as we went through each section and the breakdown is how they actually plan their lessons for students. We had great feedback that really helped them look at it from a different lens, especially on a virtual platform.”
Davis says a number of the teachers logged on for the workshop thinking they were pretty technology savvy, but once they got engaged in the learning from the vantage point of the student, the tables were turned and they had lots of questions and it became eye opening to what they needed to do to help make remote learning successful for the students and teachers.
In April, SREB set up a taskforce including 4 members from each of the 16 states. Two assistant superintendents from Alabama are on the task force.
SREB says they are “playing a critical role in advising the taskforce as they have been putting together the playbook and also the playbook borrows from each states reopening plan and that’s why it’s so thorough. It’s the best thinking from leaders from all of our states and there are a lot of teachers, administrators, and superintendents on the task force.
“It’s been so valuable because we’ve had state superintendents of big states interacting with classroom teachers and there’s been lots of great exchanges and that’s how you learn from each other,” said Alan Richards of SREB.
Richards says SREB “works with southern states to improve education and professional development so we help with the states on policy work, convening leaders and doing research.”
The workshops are underway now for groups of 130 teachers from around the nation or for workshops concentrating on just one school system. We’ve learned SREB set up a workshop just for Bibb County schools, as well as Jefferson County.
Interim Birmingham City schools’ Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan told us BCS teachers are also using training from SREB.
Davis says teachers tell them they appreciate a safe environment to make mistakes and learn from them. She says it’s better for teachers to make those mistakes now and know how to rebound from getting kicked offline or how to bring a child back into the remote classroom who was somehow offline. It’s about giving teachers confidence that they handle whatever happens.
Davis says they are booked up for the next 3 weeks and they have a waiting list to help train teachers.