First grade teacher Danielle Cover waves to her students from her home classroom last week. The whiteboard behind her reads “Welcome to the CIA India Company.” Every class year, Cover said, has a theme of the “Cover’s Intelligence Agency,” and each class is a part of a company  (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.). This year’s class is the India Company.

First grade teacher Danielle Cover waves to her students from her home classroom last week. The whiteboard behind her reads “Welcome to the CIA India Company.” Every class year, Cover said, has a theme of the “Cover’s Intelligence Agency,” and each class is a part of a company (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, etc.). This year’s class is the India Company.

Photo provided by Danielle Cover


Ferndale teachers talk first week of virtual school experience

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published September 4, 2020

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FERNDALE — Aug. 31 marked the first day of school for Ferndale Public Schools, and with it, a foreseeable future of students learning virtually via online instruction.

The district decided in early August to move classes online, with some in-person classroom opportunities for students. Like many districts in the state, Ferndale pivoted to online instruction back in March after the COVID-19 pandemic started to hit the state.

Though teachers had a couple of months at the end of the previous school year to get some virtual teaching experience, they now are heading into the 2020-21 school year with the knowledge that this ordeal won’t be short term.

The whole experience since March, said first grade teacher Danielle Cover, has been a rollercoaster ride.

Cover, a teacher at Ferndale Lower Elementary School, instructs children in the 5-7 age range. While she’s had some opportunities to hold some socially distanced meet and greets with her students, she finds herself attempting to teach her kids online using Google Meet.

What she found most surprising over the first couple of days of classes is how well her young students have been able to pick up what to do on the computer and how they’ve been able to navigate the Google Meet system better than some adults.

“I’m actually quite blown away by the retention of their skills, because six months ago nobody knew what Google Meet was, and certainly not a first grader, and that was a welcome surprise,” Cover said. “It’s definitely different not getting to see them and hug them on the first days of school, but the blow was kind of softened because we are hosting in-person meet and greets, socially distanced meet and greets so that we can get to know kids a little better before we go through the screen. It’s been different, to say the least.”

Over the first couple of days of classes, Cover has seen the positives and negatives of not having a normal classroom. Whether it’s the positive of kids not “poking their neighbor” in class, or the negative of her “not being able to redirect them in person,” Cover said there are two sides to this coin.

Cover does hope this situation will help build some independent skills in their young learners.

“One of the good things about (teaching virtually) is it’s really learner-focused, showing what kids can do on their own independently without as much direct pushing towards a certain way or a certain thought process,” she said. “It really lets them express themselves a little bit more in their own sort of independent thinking way.”

Over at Ferndale High School, special education teacher Pat McNally also has found it pleasantly surprising that instruction has been going well so far this year.

McNally said he came into this school year worried about how his students would do participating in class, but he noted that participation has been strong over the first couple of days.

The instruction for special education students will start off virtually, but on Sept. 14, students also will begin face-to-face schooling for an hour and a half two days a week. McNally said this is on top of the normal school hours they will have in a given week.

“Moving forward, the face-to-face interactions are what’s going to be needed for these students,” he said, adding that he believes the kids will make the most progress this way in the classroom.

“We’re going to be able to supplement the students with what they’re doing virtually,” he continued. “We’re going to be able to supplement them face to face, and I think that’s really important, because I think, as a special education teacher, my team has been so worried about how are we going to be able to make that impact on a student through a screen, especially when a lot of our communications can sometimes be nonverbal communication.”

McNally said the students have been able to pick up the virtual tools during their class time, noting that he’s observed students helping each other in the class chatroom if a teacher was busy with a student.

“The kids are really supporting each other in that way,” he said.

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