On March 13, 2020, when my kindergarteners loaded their backpacks with their folders and iPads, we had no idea that we’d only see each other remotely for the rest of the school year. We had spent the day learning to read, add, and talking about the solar system. However, in a heartbeat, I discovered that I needed to begin preparing online versions of my lessons for the next day. Seriously? After 41 years of interacting with children, you’re asking me to teach online? While schools across the country were sending everyone home, my school system was ready to use technology on hand to keep teaching, albeit remotely, the next day.
A few years ago, our school system (Lafayette Catholic School System) invested in technology for each student. It gave us the ability to use apps to enhance in-class learning and kept us connected to students when Midwest weather turned ugly. This technology made it possible for us to begin e-Learning immediately when COVID sent us home. We finished out the week as we would have with a snow day. Then, we spent three days at the beginning of the next week with our amazing tech team learning how to expand the use of current technology.
Had you told me a year ago that I would be recording Loom videos and Google Meeting with my kids, I would have laughed. However, I found it wasn’t so difficult, and I could, with the help of parents, still instigate play and watch the “light bulbs” go off every day - the whole reason I became a teacher. And while teachers expanded remote teaching capabilities, our tech team reached out to families who did not have WIFI accessibility at home or who may have had some language barriers, to help families wherever possible by providing additional tech gear, working with local providers to hook up WIFI and/or working with translators to bridge language barriers, ensuring our students had access to what they needed to keep learning. At the end of the school year, more than ninety percent of our students across the system had at least maintained the letter grade they had for 3rd semester. Those few who didn’t were provided additional assistance to catch up.
Over the summer, teams of tech, teachers, administrators and volunteers, in conjunction with the health department, our Board and the Diocese, came together to establish what they felt was the very best way to move back to in-person instruction, while also being innovative and providing our families the option for remote learning. As a member of the Academic Excellence subcommittee of our LCSS Back to School Task Force, I can tell you that the safety of the children and staff were top priority, followed by the curriculum and how best to implement it both in-person and online at the same time. It was difficult at times to foresee how plans were going to come to fruition, but everyone buckled down and followed through. When school started we had a workable solution that included synchronous remote learning for families who requested it (our’s is the only school system in the area that provided that level of student support).
It feels so good to be back in school. Hearing the kids laughing and interacting has been music to the ears, but this semester hasn’t all been a walk in the park. We’ve had to deal with the frustrations and fears that come when there is exposure to COVID-19. We’ve had to make adjustments to some classroom setups in our Jr.-Sr. High School. I’ll tell you it’s not uncommon for me, and my fellow teachers, to feel stretched and tired. However, when I see shining faces as my new kids learn, I remember why I am here - for them. No matter what the challenge, teaching them in the class or on the screen, it is worth it and I’ll keep on showing up every day just for them.
Lafayette Catholic School System (LCSS), located in Lafayette, Indiana, is a Preschool - 12 grade system of five schools with more than 1,000 students.
Mrs. Terri Goodman has been a teacher/principal for 41 years, 39 of them at LCSS. She currently teaches kindergarten at St. Mary’s Cathedral Elementary School.