Editor’s Note: I’ve been publishing a series of posts – both here and at Education Week – sharing teacher’s experiences dealing with the school closure crisis.
The first post appearing here was headlined Guest Post: My School Was Closed Because Of COVID-19 & Here Is A Report About Our Online Teaching.
Eva Buyuksimkesyan shares her experience in the second, Guest Post: Teaching An Istanbul English Class Online During The Time Of Corona.
Brenda Mendoza’s shared Guest Post: E-Learning for English Language Learners during Covid-19.
Today, it’s Gwendolyn Quadri’s turn….
Mrs. Gwendolyn Quadri is a middle school ESL teacher in Sanford, NC. For more information about her check out her blog at ellevateded.com or follow her on Twitter @QuadriQualified.
Two weeks have passed since the schools in North Carolina have temporarily closed and we had to adjust to the new norm for education. Even as a teacher who incorporates technology blended learning centers in my classroom, I had to determine how I could assist all of my students during this transition. When I thought about my daily lessons and how I use strategies of pre-teaching the vocabulary, scaffolding, paired reading, and differentiation to educate my ELs in the classroom; I asked myself, “How in the world am I going to be able to do this now?” I knew that communication was key, so one of my first priorities was to build a strong communication system with my students and parents. Fortunately, I had platforms in place that helped my transition become a little easier. My district purchased Google Suites for Education so I had resources such as Google Classroom, Google Meet and Gmail that were already set up.
The first week I focused on adapting my LMS (learning management system) and communicating with parents. For my LMS, I continued to use Google Classroom because my students were already familiar with it and I wanted them to maintain a level of normalcy. I decided the Talking Points app would be the best option to communicate with my parents because I could send mass text messages that would also translate to their preferred language. The moment I sent my mass text message to my parents, the responses flooded in! The number of questions that I received about laptops, internet, school closings, and other concerns made me realize how lost my students and parents were feeling. Although my district made their best effort to contact all parents via robocalls, emails and the district website, I had so many parents who still did not have that valuable information. By the end of the week, I had successfully responded to all messages and informed our parents about laptop distribution, internet services, and meal hubs. But my job was far from over – there were concerns with how can I make learning equitable for all of my students and what could I teach them?
This past week has been a whirlwind of learning and adapting for me, my students and their parents. We navigated into the world of remote learning, which compiled an abundance of Google meetings, screen recordings on Screencastify and embarrassing instructional videos for my students posted on YouTube. I decided to keep their learning as simple, but rigorous, as possible by using instructional platforms that they were familiar with, such as NewsELA, Flipgrid, Google Docs, and Brainpop. On Tuesday, I held my first virtual class with my newcomers and I couldn’t believe how much I missed the noise and my students’ beautiful voices. My students greeted me and their classmates with excitement since it was the first time that they saw or heard each other for over a week. Although many of my students did not have internet access, I had 12 out of 28 students attend the virtual class and I was pleased.
On Thursday, I hosted a virtual class for 10 out of 45 advanced level ELs, and although it wasn’t a high number, I was pleased. My students followed along as I shared the instructions and they responded with confidence when I asked follow up questions. At the end of the session, a student responded, “Mrs. Quadri this is easy.” Most of the time statements like that would make a teacher cringe, but that day, I realized that my student was trying to say, “I feel confident with the work” and it was the best response that I could ever receive. For my students who did not have internet access, I shared a video of me shopping in Dollar Tree and provided a list of items that they could do at home, such as crossword puzzles and audiobooks.
We have recently received notification that schools will remain closed until May 15th, and for each day until our return, I will work to continue to bridge the gap between school and community and assist my students with expanding their English language.