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Tales from the Front Lines of Teaching Remotely: Lara Elementary

Editor’s note: Chicago Unheard is inviting teachers and parents to share their stories of learning while coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Patricia Hernández teaches English Language Arts at Lara Academy in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Lara is a high-achieving neighborhood school serving a predominantly low-income, Latinx population. More than half of the students are still learning English and 16 percent qualify for special education services.  

I communicate with parents using the Remind app and stay in touch with students using Google Classroom. While it’s nice to see parents are creating schedules and structures to help support their kids study or learn at home, consistency is the key. Only time will tell if the schedules are sustainable. Also, for some of the families I work with, there is little quiet space for them to work at home. I know one of my students lamented, “Oh, great. This means we are going to have to watch my cousins now and I’m not going to be able to get any work done.”

Our school provides students with licenses to online supplemental programs: Reading Plus for comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary, and Freckle for math.  These are wonderful because they are adaptive and teachers can monitor the students’ progress from their dashboard, but I still have a handful of students who have not accessed their account from home since the beginning of the year.  

Besides assigning lessons on these programs, I assigned informational reading assignments from a Scholastic magazine called Scope and a good ol’ novel to read.  The science teacher assigned readings from Science World magazine and the math teacher put together a packet of worksheets to review skills.  BrainPOP is offering free subscriptions for the time being.  We got an account for our students to use for free.  We are also asking our students to watch CNN10 daily, just as we do in class every day.

My Family and I Will Be Fine. But Will My Students and Their Families?

But not all the families I work with have computers at home. Many, if not most, of my students have cell phones with Internet capability to conduct Google searches, listen to music, engage with others on social media, but they do not have the screen and keyboard that will allow them to easily complete online assignments.

While I know many of my students have the ability to complete the work that I assigned to them, the culture of our learning is collaborative. I know they will miss out on our regular discussions, group work and banter. 

I worry about my students and their families—more than I worry about my own family. WE are fine. We are fortunate to be able to say that. But I worry about my students having food, if their parents have to work, and their financial stability if their parents are not working. The community I work with has added worries about getting sick because many families here do not have insurance.

Photo by Tianyi Ma on Unsplash

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Patty Hernandez

Patty Hernandez has taught middle school English Language Arts in Chicago Public Schools for the past 22 years, in the Pilsen, Avondale, Little Village, Gage Park and now Back of the Yards neighborhoods. She is also mom to a high school freshman and a sixth-grader.

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