By Mike Hooker, Superintendent of Schools, School District No. 19 Revelstoke
On March 17, 2020, the path of the school year took a dramatic turn. Mid-way through spring break, the province announced that “in-person” instruction would be suspended indefinitely.
Immediately following that announcement our thoughts turned to our students. Staff began considering the practical implications of not having “in-person” school with a lens sharply focused on how we were going to connect with and support all of our students under these new conditions. Principals, teachers, and support staff began reaching out to their students while maintenance and custodial teams were developing cleaning practices that aligned with directions of the provincial health officer.
In the first week ‘back,’ teachers began calling home to connect with families and students and to start making plans for learning that reflected our mission: “approach learning today and tomorrow with passion and joy.” It was clear to us that students were missing school connections and most (if not all J) of school life. Now individual supports are being put into place along with whole-class learning to get students the help they need without putting too much added pressure on parents. Every day, teachers and students are sharing and working together in a host of new way. Teacher blogs, virtual classes, and video conferencing are becoming an integral part of how students learn and connect to on-line resources. No computer, no problem. Principals have organized for computers to be sent home for students who don’t have access to technology; so far about 55 Mac desktops have been delivered. Counselors are following up with requests from our Grade 12’s to alleviate concerns about their post-secondary plans, and packages have been prepared that include learning activities, and a wide variety of suggested ways to set a schedule, stay healthy and stay engaged.
At RSS, the band and music students were separated from their passion for music so teachers Tessa Davis and Lori Snider felt compelled to take action. In a statement, the teachers shared their experience making the transition:
“It became very apparent in week one that we needed to see our students and deliver their instruments. We used our Music Facebook page to reach out and planned daily deliveries for each neighbourhood. After collecting and organizing instruments from RSS, we began our journey. We completely underestimated the love and joy we received from students and parents. Students were waiting at windows, sending messages, and there were smiles at every step of the journey. It was exhausting, but we finished each day feeling motivated and inspired for the next. We will continue our deliveries in the weeks to come, and we are so happy to do it. When we are not out delivering, we are isolating and working together on musical opportunities for all of our students.”
Teachers and students have already begun connecting on a whole new level, and that work is just getting started. Our staff knows that the health and well-being of our students is the number one priority, and, as a result, considering individual student needs becomes even more important in these uncertain times. We look forward to the work together and the flow of creative, out-of-the-box thinking that will bring positivity to this exceptional and difficult time. And if the week or so of creative teaching and learning online are any indication, we’re in store for further innovative ways to engage our students to help make the most the next few months of learning.