BY MID-MARCH, the United States faced one of its biggest educational problems in a century. With many states shutting down public schools and banning gatherings of more than 10 people, millions of schoolchildren went home indefinitely.
Kathryn Lewis was on spring break from her teaching job at Brookstone Schools when she realized the crisis likely would send her students home too. Lewis is a second grade teacher at the K-8 Christian school that primarily serves low-income families in Charlotte. Tialpar’s daughter is in her class.
As Lewis and other teachers considered how to teach some 185 students staying home, Steve Hall, head of school, started thinking through logistics: Livestream instruction wouldn’t work, since many families had more than one student enrolled. How could multiple siblings get online at one time with a limited number of devices? And for single parents who work, the class schedule needed to be flexible enough to fit each family’s needs.
Over an intense four days, Hall and Principal Debi Preston worked with teachers to hammer out a plan: Teachers would record three or four short lessons for each day and upload them to a digital platform parents already used to access information from the school.
Students would watch the videos when they could get online, and parents would have flexibility helping younger students upload their work. Teachers would take attendance based on students’ turning in the day’s assignments.
Within days, kindergarten teacher Shannon Montgomery held up a whiteboard in a video and rehearsed the sounds of the alphabet. Before she started, she encouraged her students to repeat from home: “I have the mind of Christ.”
Physical education teacher Dale Similton uploaded a video from a gym, leading students through a series of lunges and hops and stretches they could do at home. “Are you feeling the burn?” he asked. He included a Bible verse for the children to remember: “Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.”
Meanwhile, Lewis wanted her second graders to continue what they had started when school began. Her classes had been going well, but she knew a handful of students were in danger of falling too far behind to pass. Being away from a structured class environment wouldn’t help.