Snow days school days for some students

Published 7:10 pm Saturday, January 13, 2018

While most children were enjoying the recent snow days off from school, some of them were able to get extra instruction, thanks to the tenacious commitment of a few Suffolk teachers.

Jeffery Seneca, a fifth-grade math teacher at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, saw the weather forecast for Jan. 3 and realized that Winter Storm Grayson would put his students in a bad position for upcoming benchmark testing.

“As soon as I saw how bad it was getting Wednesday night, I knew we weren’t going to have school for a while,” he said during a phone interview. He explained that it wouldn’t be fair to reduce the time they had to review.

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He let his students and their parents know he would hold a review session online via Google Classroom. His initial review session Thursday morning had such a big turnout that he decided to use instead.

“It let me livestream a whiteboard to write on so they could see the work,” Seneca said about “They can control the whiteboard themselves if I let them, and speak into their microphones to ask questions.”

He had 26 individual students across the four tutoring sessions during the snow days Jan. 4-8. These lessons were also stored on for students to access at their leisure, he said.

“These are some really good kids to come in on their snow day and work on fractions,” he laughed.

Fifth-grade science teacher and Seneca’s classroom neighbor, Wayne Rau, joined in as well and held review lessons during the snow days.

“The ones that were there loved it,” he said about the students during a phone interview. “I asked them today in class what they thought of it, and they really enjoyed themselves.”

Though Seneca and Rau were teaching the students, some of the parents realized they didn’t understand the methods their children were using for the same problems they solved in class growing up.

Heidi Swift’s daughter Kaitlyn, 11, was one of Seneca’s online tutoring students. Kaitlyn explained to her mother a way to solve for math variables that confused her mother.

“She ran up and got her computer, and I was able to look at him and say, ‘OK, explain this to me, because I don’t understand it,’” Heidi Swift said.

Both Kaitlyn and her mother were able to have simple conversations with Seneca using video and a microphone built into the laptop.

“It’s a very good tool to be able to use when the kids aren’t able to be in the school for whatever reason,” Heidi Swift said.

Seneca said the lessons were so successful that he and others are looking at regular sessions once per week to get parents and kids involved.

“It was great to have those parents see how their kids are doing it now, and maybe that will help them in the future,” he said.