The Harlan County School District’s use of the first Non Traditional Instruction Day (NTI) was a success, Superintendent Mike Howard said.
“Based on the comments that I’ve heard from our teachers, principals, parents and students, it was a very educational day,” said Howard.
Harlan County was one of several districts to have requests approved by the Kentucky Department of Education to allow the education to continue at home when schools are closed for snow or other inclement weather. The district is approved for up to 10 days this year.
“I had a third-grade teacher tell me that her students and the parents loved the project-based learning, which is what we geared our NTI days toward,” said Howard, noting teachers by grades came together to provide hands-on, age appropriate activities for students.
“Parents have stopped me in the community and said they are glad the days don’t have to be made up because they feel the children were learning at home. Other parents told me they loved the opportunity to work one-on-one with their children, when necessary. That to me is a great advantage of using NTI Days because it involves parents, grandparents and others in the education process. I know people are busy, but that is good family time.”
Howard commended the teachers who took seriously the assignment to come up with useful and challenging projects for students.
“I am really pleased with the feedback we have received from our teachers and what their students accomplished,” he said. The self-starting, project based learning will help students get a glimpse at college life.
Howard said social media was abuzz with teachers and students as they worked on their projects. Teachers and support staff are available during the day by phone, email, social media and other means as necessary to assist students when questions or issues arise on their activities.
Howard and Assistant Superintendent Brent Roark said they were elated with the positive feedback and documentation of interactions between teachers and students and teachers and parents.
“The majority of the parents really appreciated the calls and emails,” said Roark. “It may seem insignificant, but getting a positive call from a teacher really does mean a lot to some students and their parents. This really gave our teachers and staff new interaction with students and parents. I couldn’t be happier with NTI Day One.”
William Bowling, a junior at Harlan County High School, said his teachers were available to him “almost immediately” through text or email. “That was nice, knowing that if I had any questions, they were there,” he said.
Bethany Huff, also a junior, said NTI “wasn’t bad at all.”
“”I got finished with most of my assignments within a couple of hours. It helped me remember to keep on track with my classes and to study the material,” said Huff.
James A. Cawood Elementary School teacher Connie Engle agrees the NTI Day was a success, noting it was a hit with the students as well.
“As the students entered into the building this morning they were all excited about what activities they chose and very excited to share their completed assignments,” she said, noting comments heard when students arrived back at school on Tuesday. “I as the teacher enjoyed yesterday just as much as the students. It allowed me to connect with my students in a different way and I found it to be refreshing. I am looking forward to the next NTI day.”
Rosspoint Elementary School Principal Bryan Howard experienced the NTI Day as not only an administrator, but as a parent.
“I also experienced it as a parent, with three of my children completing their assignments. I found their assignments to be of educational value that encouraged creativity, student inquiry and allowed for student choice, which is a big focus in our current teaching standards,” he said.
Evarts Elementary School Principal Sherry Anglian had good things to say as well.
“Our first NTI Day went wonderfully. Teachers followed protocol, parents worked hard to communicate with staff about activities, and students returned to school with completed activity packets. I feel like it was a success and something we’re excited about implementing for our students. I’ve never had such a positive experience from all stakeholders within the school. I feel that it will greatly benefit our students since learning will continue even on days when the weather requires us to cancel school. “
Bristol Belcher, principal at Wallins Elementary School, said he received nothing but positive feedback, “I had 100 percent positive feedback which was really surprising due to the fact of this being our first time experiencing this process. Our parents have been very cooperative and supportive of this new endeavor. Faculty and staff were very supportive and productive with the process.”
Kenny Hughes, a teacher at Black Mountain Elementary School, said he was excited to see photos and videos of students working on their projects and with the family involvement that came with it.
“I’m so happy the district decided to put this program in place. Many of my parents expressed how much fun they were having with their child. The important thing is that the students are learning,” he said.
Howard said the district will continue to monitor feedback and will be working to address any “bugs” that might have occurred on Monday.
“We welcome feedback,” he said. “If you know of something or experienced something that we can make better or share with others, we want to know about it.”
Howard said to remember that just because the district cancels for bad weather it does not mean an automatic NTI Day. There are other factors to be considered on that decision.
However, when an NTI Day is called, the announcement on social media, radio, TV and phone calls will state it is an NTI day followed by the information concerning assignment number for the day, such as NTI Day One and NTI Day Two. Students should complete the assignment corresponding the specified NTI Day number. Assignments should only be completed when it is a designated NTI Day.
Rosspoint teacher Mary Kneen may have the summation for many on the NTI Day approach to learning.
“The best part, we don’t have to make it up at the end of the year,” she said.
HCHS junior Rhett Alred agreed.
“Because of the NTI day, my classmates and I were able to ‘save’ a day of instruction and not have to make it up in the summer. It was nice to sleep in, but also to know that I was able to continue my education at home,” he said.