With the closure of our schools in March due to COVID-19, so much has changed about the way we conduct learning in our pre-school, elementary, and middle school classrooms. But one thing that hasn’t changed is our commitment to our scholars and families. In this series, we’ll highlight our teachers and staff and the ways they’ve adapted to continue educating and supporting scholars through COVID-19.
How long have you been with Christopher House?
This is my second year at Christopher House.
Can you explain your role? What are your main responsibilities?
I take the lead when it comes to getting the team together, lesson planning, and looking at student work. When the shelter in place order began, I took the lead in setting up Google Classroom and remote learning. I set the agenda for the team and make sure we’re all on the same page.
How has COVID-19 impacted your work?
We’ve had to be really innovative and think on our feet about what would be best for our kids. Especially with the younger kids, we don’t use as much technology in the classroom, so it took a lot of getting used to. Our kids have never used Google Classroom, so we had to set that up and create tutorials. We also started doing Google Hangouts, which is new for us.
In first grade, reading groups are really important. They’re in really different places; some kids are reading chapter books and others are learning their letters. Now, we’re doing small reading groups on Google Hangouts. I take a book from our reading app and pull it up on my screen, share it with the students, and we take turns reading a line each. Sometimes we’ll go back and read it all together and have comprehension questions at the end. It’s very different from what I’m used to, but I’m glad we’re making it work and still seeing growth from the kids.
How are you continuing to connect with students and families?
In the elementary school, we already had the Remind App to communicate with parents. At the very beginning, we double checked that we had all the parents on Remind. I communicate daily with all my parents. Sometimes they’ll message me and ask questions, and I’ll walk them through it. Sometimes, some of the kids just want to say hi or talk to their friends, so we’ll set things like that up, too. Not all the kids can be there during school hours, so I record the lessons and post it on Google Classroom so they can go back and watch it. It’s been really nice having the technology.
The leadership team has been instrumental in making the technology accessible to everyone. From day one, Principal Novy made sure everyone took a computer home. She made sure families could get set up with free WiFi and that any family who couldn’t set it up was being mailed work packets. Everyone is being offered something, which is a big difference from Chicago Public Schools. They’ve had a lot of difficulty getting out technology and getting every kid connected. I’m really grateful to leadership for having this technology in place already.
What are you most looking forward to after quarantine?
I really want to get back in my classroom and see my kids. I feel like there’s going to be a lot of time spent getting adjusted. I think they’re going to be really happy to be back and really grateful to be in a classroom and have fun things to do and get that camaraderie back. It’s not academic, but that’s what I want to focus on at the beginning of the school year.
What advice do you give students/families for coping with COVID-19?
We’ve taken a really non-judgmental approach to all this. Everyone is in such a different place. Even though we have daily assignments, we really just want them to complete what’s comfortable and what they can do. As long as I’m hearing something from them at least once a week, then I’m happy. I know they’re doing the best that they can right now.
Anything else you want to share?
I recently got one poem that made me feel special for Teacher Appreciation week: