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Education as Communication

A school is a Village, Education as Communication

by Cathie Maglio

The school is a village

I was asked how my job as a Learning Specialist with JFYNetWorks has changed this school year, and how I have supported teachers at East Boston High School with remote and hybrid learning.

I have been working with teachers and students at East Boston High for 6 years. During this time I have worked with teachers who were new to the school, and I have seen teachers leave either through retirement or transfer to another school. It is exciting to meet new teachers and sad when a teacher moves on.

Before March 2020, I would be at East Boston High a couple of days a week working with my ELA and math classes. I would attend classes and confer with the teacher and answer questions, or just check in to see if they needed anything. I always administered Accuplacer tests to junior and senior classes. I would chat with teachers I became friendly with from sitting in the Library between classes. I enjoyed getting to know them.

I spent so much time at East Boston High that I felt like I was part of their family. One Friday afternoon I even bought an East Boston High sweatshirt! That Friday, March 13, 2020, was the last day I was at the school. Schools closed the following week due to the pandemic. Suddenly, I had to find new ways to communicate with and support my teachers and classes without physical presence. I learned quickly how to communicate with them over Zoom. Email became my main ongoing contact with teachers. I still supported them by running reports, assigning tasks in our software, keeping track of which students were doing work in the software and which were not. As before, I forwarded that information in regular reports to teachers and administration. Except for the physical presence, it was pretty much the same. JFYNet was a constant for the teachers and for students when their teaching and learning suddenly moved from the live classroom to the remote screen. I’m sure the continuity of our online program, which they had been doing since the beginning of the year, helped them maintain some structure through the end of the school year.

When last September came around and the new school year was about to start, I was prepared. I had learned so much the previous spring that I was ready to go when classes started remotely. I contacted new teachers and met and trained them on the software over Zoom. I found Zoom to be pretty functional but definitely not the same as working with teachers in person. Instead of welcoming my teachers back in person as I always had done, I did it by email. I let them know that I was here and ready to support them. They sent me their class rosters and it was business as usual, setting up classes, enrolling students, sending teachers the list of student usernames and passwords.

As the school year progressed, I ran and analyzed student data in my monthly performance reports for both ELA and math. I added new students to classes and assigned tasks as needed. I ran extra reports when requested. I sent teachers instructions on how to run customized reports. All this is what I do, whether classes are remote or in person.

Using Zoom, I was able to attend some math classes to help students get up and running with the software. It was then that I realized how much I missed being in the school! I love the interaction with administrators, teachers, and students. I miss chatting with people, from the door monitor to the people in the office to my teachers to others I have come to know just from being around the building. A school is a village.

I have stayed in touch with my teachers predominantly through email. Most emails are related to class work, but some are words of encouragement during this challenging teaching time, and some are holiday or just personal greetings. My preference would be to talk with people in person but that has not been possible this year.

I am not sure the functional part of my job has changed much during this year of remote learning. My tasks are basically the same. However, not being in the schools working with the teachers and students has left a void that I can only call emotional. I didn’t realize how important the personal dimension of teaching and learning was. Education is a form of communication, after all, and communication is not only information. It’s also the human interaction that surrounds the content. It’s a social ritual.

When I am able to go back into East Boston High, I will do so with newfound excitement. There will also be some sadness in not having been able to say goodbye to teachers who retired or moved on. I am looking forward to the day when the new school year begins in September. I’ll be glad to get back to the village.

Cathie Maglio is a Learning Specialist with JFYNetWorks

Other posts authored by Cathie can be found here.

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