JFY’s Learning Specialists look back on a challenging school year
The year started off with the bright promise of being back in the classroom. In September, I went to one of my schools to administer the Accuplacer test to a couple of classes. I stayed mostly in the area of the classrooms except for a brief venture down the corridor to speak with a few teachers I knew. It felt good to be back in the classroom. Sadly, that was my only visit into a classroom this year.
After that, I went back to working from home and supporting teachers via email, text, phone calls and Zoom meetings. At least I got to see faces on my computer screen! I spent my time supporting teachers with curriculum, gathering and analyzing data for reports, training teachers on software implementation via Zoom, and giving presentations to prospective schools. Even without travel, it was a busy year. The days were packed! As I look back on it, I wonder how I would have had time to drive to visit schools.
I’m hoping next year will be the year I get back to visiting the place I love, the classroom, and reconnecting in person with the people I love working with, teachers.
It was the first full year of in-person instruction at Durfee High School in Fall River for the Bridgewater State University early college/dual enrollment program. I teach the BSU Public Speaking and Journalism courses and seeing students live and in 3-D (and having them see me!) made teaching and learning much easier. Even with everyone masked in the fall, the personal interaction in the classroom aided student comprehension and allowed me to get to know the students beyond a printed name and a tinny voice on a grainy screen.
In my other role as a high school speech and debate coach at Needham High School, some of our tournaments this year were in-person, but masks were required even when speaking or performing. Teaching while wearing a mask provided some insight into the difficulties of speaking for a long period of time with a mask. (Extra water was a must!) But we all agreed that in-person with masks was far better than virtual on a screen. The students this semester made greater progress than in the semesters that were taught virtually. I have no doubt that students who graduated and are moving on to colleges around the country will do amazing things and achieve great success after the ordeals they have overcome!
This school year, teachers and students endured another extended trial by adjustment. After a semester of remote schooling, administrators had to design a middle ground as we all learned to live and work with COVID. I have boundless admiration for the resourcefulness and dexterity of teachers and students in adapting and continuing to teach and learn under difficult and constantly changing conditions. I’ve seen amazing resilience in the two schools I work with. One school remained partially remote, but most schools had students and teachers back in the classroom.
At Kingsman Academy in Washington, DC, I helped teachers create curriculum that supports the Marzano Common Core framework. This is a complete curriculum from grades 0-12. My other school is Keverian Middle in Everett where I worked with the 8th grade classes to support math curriculum and MCAS preparation. In a compressed 6-week period leading up to the MCAS, students made great progress. Whether remote or in-person, schools continually had to make adjustments. With flexibility and resourcefulness, learning continued.
The 2021-22 school year started in a state of hopeful trepidation: for students, for staff, and for parents. As a parent, I ensured that my children had their masks appropriately adjusted and sent them off for their first day, each with an extra package of masks and a large bottle of hand sanitizer. Then I headed off to Durfee High School in Fall River where I work with the early college program providing enhanced academic and guidance support. It would be the first time I was seeing many of the seniors in person. That day, I came home exuberant but exhausted. It had been over a year for everyone since we had been “live.” Getting back into the groove was grueling.
For all the angst and worry, the year progressed as many other years have. There were highs and there were lows. Teachers rallied as always to meet the challenges and exerted extraordinary efforts to ensure that students had the supports they needed to come back. The students I had the pleasure to work with demonstrated just how much perseverance and stamina they have. At a young age, the world has presented unprecedented challenges and they have shown that, despite setbacks, they will forge forward and make their dent in the world. I close this year knowing that being together and working together, teachers and students, administrators and parents, any obstacles can be overcome.
If it takes a village, we are that village.
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