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Teacher Feature: Meet Wes Jarrell

By June 29, 2020OLMA Headlines
OLMA Literature teacher Mr. Jarrell

If you are a student who loves discussing literature and isn’t afraid to debate the issues, you are a perfect fit for Mr. Jarrell’s class. Wes “Mr. J” Jarrell is finishing up his third year at OLMA. While he certainly didn’t expect a semester of teaching entirely online, he has enjoyed it. He is more in tune with his students than ever before.

“Early on, we started having regular conferences about the work students were doing,” said Mr. J. “These were small scale, often individual Zoom sessions to discuss how to approach an upcoming project or what went well or poorly with the last project. It was during these periods where most of the learning took place. I found the online environment to be very conducive to personalization.”

While on the topic of personalization, Mr. J said he had fun seeing how everyone brings their personality to online learning. “Some of the girls like to sit in darkness, while others sat bathed in eye-piercing neon,” he said. “Pets made frequent guest appearances. Students also had some fun with their virtual backgrounds.”

Mr. J said that the initial transition to online learning was a smooth one. “Mrs. Coyle and Ms. Valore put together an excellent plan; clear, concise, detailed enough to provide guidance yet flexible enough to allow for innovation,” he said. “My biggest challenge was reading the room. It’s tricky when you have 20 people on your screen. Our discussions often involve taking the pulse of the class. When together in a classroom, it’s easier to tell the difference between who has an opinion and wants to share it and who prefers to stay silent. It’s tougher when everyone is on mute, and internet connections are sometimes unreliable, but we made it work.”

Indeed, they did. Along the way, Mrs. J integrated several online tools. “I had been using Screencastify off and on since the beginning of the year to reinforce skills that we discussed in class,” said Mr. J. “I continued with that, and we also used Padlet to share ideas during our debate. We even ended up posting our whole debate online to make sure everyone had a chance to hear each other without worrying about speaking too fast or glitching. It worked well.”

Thank you, Mr. J!