Adapting to the Pandemic:
Students back at CTS
For nearly a year, we had been waiting and planning for March 1st, 2021: the first day students returned to CTS since all Oregon schools were closed on March 13th a year ago. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and, as I have every first day of school since we moved to our permanent home in 2008, I stood at the front entrance watching, eager and a bit anxious, as the first of three buses arrived and the first group of students spilled out. Many, who attended CTS last year before we closed, were smiling and eager. Some who have been enrolled in our remote program but hadn’t been to the school before, were shy and tentative. And one 4-year-old attending Pre-K for the first time, burst into tears when she got off the bus and had to be consoled by her older sister.
In keeping with the governor’s guidelines, we’d spent weeks preparing for this day while maintaining our remote-learning program (twice-daily delivery and collection of school work along with the delivery of breakfast and lunch to our students wherever they lived). Now, at last, it had arrived, and we were ready.
With the exception of Tran, our new secretary who is waiting for her second dose, everyone on the staff, including bus drivers and support staff, has received two doses of a COVID vaccine. All desks in all classrooms have been positioned 6 feet apart. And at all times, staff, visitors, and students 5 years and older are required to wear masks in the building, on the buses, and on the playground. It’s not the way it used to be, or the way we hope it will be when the next school year begins, but at least our students are back in school and that’s what counts. During this first week, the students attended half-day, from 9:00am to 12:30pm, allowing us and them to get comfortable within the constraints imposed by the guidelines. We then began full-day sessions (8:30am to 3:00pm) starting the second Monday.
Tools to adapt
To quote their website, "ClassDojo connects teachers with students and parents to build amazing classroom communities." It seems a natural fit for us. We're utilizing this app to reach the students that have the capability to use it on a smart device or computer.
Teaching on ClassDojo
ClassDojo is a great resource, but the truth is most of our students don't have access to smartphones or wireless data plans that allow them to participate. And like many things with CTS, we have found that one size does not fit all. We're finding that we can work with the students over the phone, and if need be bring their parents into discussion. It's a way for our teachers to gauge how the kids are dealing with the lessons that isn't always possible through assignments or online learning.
Teaching over the Phone
Teaching on the Stoop
Beyond technology, our students are facing many other obstacles while distance-learning: for some English is their second-language; for some they don't have help at home; for some they are learning new subjects; and for some learning outside of in-person school has been very difficult. We're making an effort to help these students who are at risk of disengaging and falling through the cracks by meeting with them face-to-face outside of where they are staying. Thus, Teaching on the Stoop (and of course, wearing masks and maintaining social distance).