Victoria Norton, Martinsville, IL

Teachers reach students digitally through fun activities

June 6, 2020 |

We are asking rural communities to share how COVID-19 is impacting them and how teachers and teacher-leaders are adapting in the face of nationwide school closures. Read below for a perspective from Victoria Norton of Martinsville, IL. You can share yours here:

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We are feeding every child who wishes to have meals. Currently, we have 2 delivery routes in town and 2 country routes as well as a curbside pick-up service for students wishing to pick up meals. Over 25 % of our student population has no access to internet/electronic forms of communication. We have staff that volunteer to distribute and deliver meals. Staff are contacting families through whatever means they can: phone, email, class communication tools, home visits (socially distant ones). Our counselor is trying to do phone counseling and does assist with meal delivery to touch base with students who need social/emotional support.

Our parents are completely overwhelmed with either having to work and leaving kids home to care for themselves or have experienced job losses and are experiencing social/emotional trauma themselves.

Our school administration asks that staff provide a menu of learning choices for our Pre-k through 6th grade so students can complete whatever tasks they can with the supplies/supports they have. For example, for those without internet/electronics, they can do paper-based activities. For those with means, optional educational websites are recommended. We encourage teachers, support staff, and specialty staff to offer family educational activities since there may be several children living at home in various grade levels.

We understand the complexities and stress placed on our families; therefore, we have asked staff to follow these 4 C's: Connect: relationships are key; Condense: less is more; Choice: provide meaningful opportunities for students to choose from and when they submit their completed work staff provide meaningful feedback; Communicate: inform parents and students of expectations and give clear instructions.

We have tried to use our social media for lots of positive communication from virtual spirit week, student challenges to return work (teachers had to get pie in face or bucket of water on head), partnered with EIU to push out a free coloring sheet for students to color and submit a photo that was highlighted on our social media as well as the University (we get many practicum students and student teachers from EIU so it was a bonus for us and for EIU). Our librarian has sacked up books for every child and we've distributed those as well to keep kids reading at home. Our music teacher made a video of herself playing musical instruments kids can make at home. Our staff members have made 2 videos for our students and put them on social media...the most recent one was to the tune of Rocky.

We have a small staff of less than 35 at Martinsville Elementary school, but they do amazing things each day. For students who have not picked up learning materials, they've delivered. For those who need help with activities, staff have stepped up and offered phone or virtual assistance. They are working harder than ever in a unique way. The hashtag I chose at the beginning of the year was "EVERY child counts--EVERY moment matters," I had no idea that we would find ourselves in this remote learning environment where that # is more poignant than ever.

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