Written By: Makeet Finch
On Mar. 16, Mayor de Blasio announced the closing of schools in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Educators such as Tierra have faced many challenges during the transition, some of which are now being resolved.
Tierra, who asked not to give her last name to protect her students’ privacy, teaches fourth graders at a charter school in Brooklyn. Her school loaned students laptops and other electronic devices, so they can access assignments remotely.
“This also allows students like fourth graders and middle schoolers to become a bit more independent and skilled with technology and academics,” Tierra said. “Using technology also allows teachers to organize what students need in a way that’s accessible, quick and clear! There’s a direction for everything which has been helpful for students and families.”
Although she might not be in a traditional classroom setting, Tierra still intends to keep her students on track. She has strategically mapped out a schedule with a plan to reach each child according to their strengths and weaknesses.
“I currently have 16 students during this time and I’ve created a schedule that gives me time with each student to confer on academic needs, but also allows them to still be in a small group setting where they can have discussions with two to three other students,” she said.
In such uncertain times, Tierra says it’s vital for parents to recognize their responsibility in ensuring their children meet their academic goals by including math and other subjects in their normal routines, such as cooking.
“Even something as simple as setting the temperature can be used as math practice,” Tierra said. “If we have to preheat the oven to 350° but the oven is only at 165°, how many more degrees does the oven have to heat? Also, using measurements in the kitchen, [and] while watching TV, asking your child, ‘what did you learn? What did we see the characters do?’”
As a student and educator, Tierra is aware of the many challenges during this epidemic, but what has been evident is her passion for teaching and her determination to pull her students through. She empathizes with her students because she shares the same experience, with her own studies going remote.
Tierra is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in education and would like to follow up with a doctoral degree in educational leadership.
“As an educator and a student I have faced challenges of the unknown […] but I know exactly how my students are feeling with digital learning!” she said.
Educators have foreseen how students would find the transition to remote learning difficult and leave some feeling overwhelmed. According to Tierra, students who were initially receiving services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and counseling in an in-person setting will continue these services virtually. Educators also schedule check-ins with school counselors for students that may be having a hard time due to the pandemic.
As far as city-wide test educators go, they are still at a standstill and waiting for further instructions on how to proceed going forward. Tierra says summer school is uncertain as far as digital learning, but plans to roll the curriculum out in phases due to how fast things are changing.
While some states are now lifting stay-at-home orders, public gatherings in New York are still prohibited, leaving graduation ceremonies in limbo. Governor Cuomo has extended the pause on New York to May 15 until further notice, which has caused uncertainty being that this has not been the first extension set for social distance guidelines.
“Being that the Mayor and Governor still haven’t agreed on an open date, we’re not sure of how the moving-up ceremonies will be celebrated,” Tierra said, “but teachers and leadership are actively planning to make sure we can make this moment as special as possible for students and families.”
“With all of their hard work, they deserve it.”