Teaching, Learning and Growing Together

Creston School teacher Pauline Davidson is managing her own classroom and three kids at home by looking for the positives

By Andy Viano
Pauline Davidson, a third grade teacher at Creston School in Creston on April 10, 2020. Schools in Montana have reverted to remote learning in light on the COVID-19 outbreak, leaving classrooms and playgrounds empty. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Every weekday morning, Pauline Davidson and her three children gather for breakfast and chat about their day. A few hours later, they break for lunch and do the same.

It’s a new routine for the Davidsons, one they’ve grown to appreciate in the more than four weeks they’ve been home together, and part of a sudden surplus of quality time for families around the world during the coronavirus outbreak. There are challenges, to be certain, but for Pauline and her three kids — ages 12, 15 and 17 — the ability to break from a normally hectic schedule has in some ways been refreshing. Or at least it was back when Montana’s schools first closed their doors on March 16.

“At first we were like, ‘Wow, that’s kind of nice to get a breather because it was all so hectic,’” Davidson said. “But now we kind of miss doing all that.”

The three Davidson kids have adapted fairly comfortably to the change, popping open their laptops every morning to get the latest assignments and updates from their teachers, and staying connected to their friends through socially distant means. Their mom has had to make more challenging adjustments, not just when it comes to managing her home.

Pauline Davidson is the third-grade teacher at Creston School, and while the youngsters in her house are doing their schoolwork, Davidson is creating lessons for and checking in regularly with her 23 students who are stuck inside their own homes until at least April 24. Teachers and administrators at Creston, which has an enrollment of about 100 students from kindergarten through sixth grade, started making preparations for remote learning as early as the beginning of March, but Gov. Steve Bullock’s directive to keep students home on the evening of Sunday, March 15 left teachers like Davidson to adjust their plans with little advance notice.

“In my mind, I thought (remote learning)’s for the rest of the world, we’re pretty safe in Montana,” she said. “So when we did get sent home it did seem abrupt … It still was a shock and intimidating to think of teaching without my face being in the same classroom as the kids.”

Davidson, 45, said her third-graders are “savvy” with the technology that facilitates remote learning and have had little trouble with the new arrangement. At school, Davidson was already using Google Classroom and the other online tools she has continued to use from home, and she’s picked up a few tips and tricks from her three kids’ teachers by peering over their shoulders at home.

For her third graders, Davidson posts the upcoming week’s plan on Sunday evenings and includes all of the assignments, lessons and links the students will need. Then during the week, she hosts all-class meetings on Zoom and maintains individual contact with students and their families. Almost all of Davidson’s third-graders have reliable internet access at home, but she still creates paper lessons for families who want or need the work delivered that way. All in all, most of the “intimidating” challenges of remote teaching have been met, and Davidson said the work is getting easier every week.

In the meantime, she and her own three kids are making the best of their time at home together, and even building a better outlook for the day in the future when things go back the way they were.

“We have talked about how exciting it will be to have those club meetings or those next meet times or to see friends again,” Davidson said. “I think we’ll be able to maybe overlook some friends’ imperfections or overlook things that have annoyed us in the past because it will be so exciting just to get back to what was normal before.”

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