The students’ interactions with their teachers and colleagues have moved to virtual platforms, and the admission process has been transformed into a series of Zoom meetings. Find out how we implemented all of these changes and how they impact learning from an interview with Mihaela Ancuta, Mathematics Curriculum Leader at Avenor College.

Avenor College: For about a month, learning at Avenor College has moved online. Our students continue to learn from home through daily technology-mediated interactions with their teachers. What happens in an online session with your students?

Mihaela Ancuța: Before I started preparing the online lessons, I reflected on the things I knew students appreciated about the Maths classes that used to take place at school, things I discovered from the various questionnaires and discussions or by simply watching their daily reactions, and I thought about bringing those elements in my online lessons.

I welcome students on Zoom with a smile, with enthusiasm and a good disposition. I know that it is within my power to set the tone and energy for the entire class.

Then I pay attention to each one of them and tell them what I observe: one student has a new background and I notice it, another uploaded a perfect homework on Google Classroom the previous evening and I congratulate him/her etc. This is how I let them know I care about each individual, that I look at them and I notice them.   

After we have connected and we are ready to start the class, I clearly state the lesson objectives and plan, remembering together where we are in our learning journey. It is very useful to remind students what we have already learned and the next point we want to reach. This mobilizes and stimulates them.

Sometimes we consolidate knowledge, other times we learn new things, discover formulas and theorems or practice for the exam. Other times we take online tests, acquiring the necessary skills we need to get excellent results: theoretical knowledge, attention to writing, timing.

Students sometimes work alone, on a notebook or tablet, other times they work in teams in Zoom “breakout rooms”, and I visit them and offer my support should they need it. I like it most when, after a work session in “breakout rooms”, we all meet in the main “room” and share ideas, solutions, results. Then the students take control and it is wonderful to watch them express their opinions and experiences in small groups. We also use educational platforms and various websites.

Another thing I enjoy adding to my lessons, usually at the end, in the last few minutes, is to share with them an experience I had in school which relates to that specific lesson, or to tell them something I recently read in a book, about communication skills, how to react when they are in a deadlock, what are the most important values ​​for a leader, how to manage time and organise effectively, how to organise a work flow etc. For example, one small thing that I shared with all my students and that seemed appropriate to the context we are in was “Make your bed!”, from the eponymous book. It said that if you arrange your bed in the morning (perfectly arranged, lined up), you start your day with a fulfilled task and this gives you the satisfaction of also completing it properly. Sometimes, at the end of the lesson, I tell them that next time I will share with them, for example, how we can read people’s thoughts from their actions, and they convey to me during our next meeting that they could hardly wait for our class to hear what I wanted to say.

A.C .: From the experience of the 4 weeks of virtual learning, how has the learning process changed in the new context?

M.A.: Recently I asked students what they think is different now from what we were doing before, and they all told me that there is no difference, they feel that they can continue learning as they have done so far, especially since I used to integrate technology into teaching daily, using my iPad and projector for every class.

Although students have not noticed differences in the learning process, I can certainly say I have: students are becoming more independent and more responsible for their own learning. The context of the online lessons gave me the opportunity to show the students even more that I trust them. I give them the opportunity to solve some tests without being supervised, they analyse their strengths and weaknesses and they self-evaluate then record their progress in a table.

A.C .: Together with the entire educational journey, the admission process has also adapted to the online environment. Students who wish to enroll at Avenor College can schedule online meetings with our teachers now. How is such a meeting going on?

M.A .: I am very pleased with our school’s approach to admission. The written admission exam has now been replaced with the online interview. This gives me the opportunity to discover the student from several perspectives. In the first part of the interview I tell them about the Maths classes at Avenor College, what we offer, but also about the responsibilities that the students have, and then find out if all of them match their wishes and expectations related to teachers, colleagues, school. Then, during the interview, I ask students to think about their relationship with Mathematics and to self-evaluate; this is how I learn what units they like, how much time they spend studying every week, how involved they are during a class, how they collaborate with their classmates and so on. In the last part of the interview I present students some problems, testing their knowledge and observing their thinking process. I also teach a mini-lesson for a few minutes and watch the student’s attention, as well as the ability to apply the knowledge received in a new context. In the end, I give the student the opportunity to ask me questions and thus I get asked “how many students are in a class?”, “What is the hardest lesson in high school?” or “when are we going to learn integration?”.

A.C .: The postponement of the National Evaluation exam could be a cause for concern for the parents of the students who make the transition from secondary school to high school. How has the admission process been adapted to facilitate the enrollment of students in our High School following the Cambridge curriculum?

M.A: The current criterion for admission to Avenor College is the online interview and we will keep it the same irrespective of the National Evaluation postponement. The admission interview is designed to give us the opportunity to look at each student’s characteristics and determine if he or she has the accumulated knowledge and the attitude necessary to continue learning at Avenor International High School.

A.C .: Why is now a good time to enrol at Avenor College?

M.A .: If we refer to children in Grade 8, still developing, the current circumstances might diminish their confidence in a future with quality education. At Avenor College they will meet teachers who will become guides, mentors, coaches, they will meet colleagues who will become friends, teammates and thus they will discover their skills and talents and will be able to capitalize on them.