Student teacher Maria Martinez helps a kindergartener at Mark Twain Elementary in Kansas City, Kansas, with her backpack. Carlos Moreno / KCUR 89.3
With support from the Walton Family Foundation, KCUR has asked
student teachers in the Kansas City area to write about their
experiences learning how to teach during a pandemic. We’ll be running
their stories as a series of teacher diaries in the coming weeks. Para leer este artículo en Español, haga clic aquí.
By MARIA MARTINEZ
For the Kansas News Service
The pandemic has affected early childhood in more ways than families,
teachers and schools can even know at the present moment. Students in
the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools were online from mid-March 2020
until the end of March 2021. Some students are still learning online due
to the individual decisions of families. That means there are
kindergarteners who only just started experiencing the classroom — and
others that will for the first time as first graders in August.
graders will come in knowing what it looks like to follow rules in
school, the letters in the alphabet, various digraphs and blends (sounds
like /sh/, /th/, and /ch/ for example), various sight words, writing
their numbers to 20 and reciting them to 100, as well as grade-level
science and social studies skills. Kindergarteners practice this and
more as they go through their first year of public school. The goal is
to make sure that each student is ready to start first grade by the end
of the year. As the mantra for the classroom I am in goes, students are
learning all these things “to become better readers and writers.”
there will be students who will not have all the skills needed to move
on, and there will be students who struggle to catch up. As we have come
back to school, some students are still learning to follow rules, how
to write their names or how to read, write and recognize numbers.
Because of the pandemic, schools and teachers are preparing for students
who need additional support in regaining lost ground from this school
year. This can come in the form of reading resources that provide
students with a gamified version of learning to motivate each to
practice their skills at home or in the form of pull-out services where
students are meeting with a specialist one-on-one and in small groups to
work on improving their academic or social-emotional skills.
Maria Martinez welcomes kindergarteners back to Mark Twain Elementary in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. Carlos Moreno/KCUR 89.3
This “gamification of learning” actually plays to this particular set
of students’ strengths because these apps are virtual games. Though I
have seen students struggle with other skills in the classroom, they are
better at navigating their technological devices than many adults.
These technological skills they learned are skills that can be played to
when supporting students in the months to come.
These are methods
already used to help students who need extra support in learning. With
the unusual academic year that has been 2020-2021, schools and teachers
are expecting to have more students in this place of need. Teachers can
adapt activities and expectations to students’ needs throughout the
For me, this is especially important for this incoming
group of students. As I move into my own classroom next year, I’m trying
to keep in mind that my students are coming in with bits and pieces of
the previous academic year. They may not be coming in with all the
skills they need to be successful according to what the standards will
require of them. Many students will be in vastly different places based
on how they were able to cope with this academic year. The question of
equity in an academic year like this one with hybrid and remote learning
models is that students did not have a choice in how well-suited their
environment was for learning.
It is my job as a teacher to not
only give students a fair learning experience but make the learning
experience equitable. This comes from my own teaching philosophy of
giving every student what they need to be successful and recognizing
that this will not be the same for every student because their starting
points will be in different places. My hope is that the students coming
in with “bits and pieces” will hopefully regain what they need to have
the “whole” next school year.
Maria Martinez is a senior at Emporia State University in Kansas. She is currently a student teacher in a kindergarten classroom in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. She is one of two Walton education fellows sharing her experiences in the classroom this semester.