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LESSONS LEARNED | Virtual students offered hotline to teachers

It's not easy watching students struggle to learn from home during the pandemic. Brownsboro ISD decided to do something about that with a Virtual Learner Hotline.

BROWNSBORO, Texas — If you're at school and you're not understanding a new concept, you simply raise your hand and the teacher's there to help you, but it's not that easy for virtual students. Often times it requires an email, if they feel comfortable reaching out at all, which is a lesson Brownsboro ISD learned a few weeks into the school year.

"About three weeks into our school year, the data was showing us that our students; and we were monitoring seventh grade through 12th grade, so that was about 230 students, the majority of them were not doing well," said Brownsboro ISD Principal Laura Ballard. "They weren't keeping up with their progress, they weren't keeping up with their grades. 

Ballard says they found themselves re-setting assignments and calling the students.

"And (you) tell them when you get into this assignment the next time, call us and let us help you through that," said Ballard. 

Then, one of those light bulb moments. "You know, we've got high school kids trying to earn credits. And you know, if we keep this up, it isn't going to happen. So, we had to step in," Ballard said.

Ballard and her team of teachers at Compass Horizon Academy realized what they needed was a hotline to give their virtual learners the best chance to succeed. She ran it by the other principals in Brownsboro and Superintendent Keri Hampton. Everybody supported the idea.

"It was just a way to provide another layer of support for our kids. And, hopefully, you know, turn around the situation that we saw unfolding in our district. So that's, that's really how it started, explained Ballard. 

A team of teachers man the hotline. "So, it is all of my teachers and myself. So I have 4 teachers on my campus, all of the core areas, are covered by certified teachers."

At first, they set time parameters for students in 7th through 12 grades to call in, but then, they just opened it up all day. Ballard said it took a little time to get off the ground.

"But, here towards the end, they're really calling us quite a bit. So, you know, it's just, I wish that we would have had it in place from the very beginning. But it's just a lesson learned," said Ballard. 

"The majority of the questions we receive are on algebra, and algebra, algebra two, and on English, writing, essays, filling out graphic organizers. So, I would say that the 90% of the calls we get are math and English."

And if they can't walk students through their questions over the phone. "Then, we will move into a Google meet where we can, you know, face to face, do some teaching," Ballard said. 

Ballard expects more virtual learners will be returning to campus in the next 9 weeks, but the hotline will remain open to help students who can't. "It just makes your day when you can see that they finally get it and they can move on and they're not stuck anymore. So, that just means the world to us.

The hotline for virtual learners could be a lifeline until they get back on campus.