In the last two months, the world, as we know it, has changed. Among the numerous closures, shutdowns, and cancelations, students all over the world, from kindergarten to those at the professional level, are learning online. The Franciscan School (TFS) is no exception. Our community and integrated learning model is allowing us to seamlessly support students and families as we all settle into a new normal and transition to a virtual classroom during COVID-19.
Setting the Foundation for Learning from Home
For many years, TFS students have had access to Chromebooks, tablets, and other technological resources like the media center. Still, when we received the news about COVID-19 and what this pandemic meant for students, we knew that placing the classroom model in the home would require some strategy and planning.
In an effort to prevent any gaps in education, TFS has assumed a virtual classroom structure. We incorporate practical-hands on learning within the home. In addition to, using software such as Seesaw, ABCya, iXL, Raz-Kids, Epic, Vooks, and, of course, ZOOM, among others, to help parents and teachers work as a team. With both dedicated to providing students with a place where they feel safe physically and emotionally, students have continued to excel in their studies.
Redefining Online Learning
“Kids are tough,” said first-grade teacher, Jamie Kirchhoff. She’s one of the many TFS teachers continuing to support support beyond the classroom, while she can’t physically be there for them. Mrs. Kirchhoff says that students have been excellent at getting their work done, but that they miss their friends.
Flexibility and consistent communication have been essential in getting students on board throughout the process. Mrs. Kirchhoff explains how her lessons are structured to maintain a routine, but as a mom of a four-year-old herself, she knows the challenge of balancing work and parent life during the quarantine. So in addition to the regular meeting times, Mrs. Kirchhoff also provides private Zoom sessions for students who need a little extra help. And when students ask, “when can I go back to school?” She believes you should tell them the truth. “I’m just honest and open, I tell them I don’t know,” she said.
None of this has been easy, but with fourteen years under her belt with TFS, Mrs. Kirchhoff is thankful for the love and support of the community at this time. “I have transitioned through life with my TFS community, from getting married to having my first child— now I’m thankful to have them during this time.”
Empowering Parents as Co-Teachers
Our teachers create a framework and provide our students with a second layer of support from afar. But our parents are on the homefront. Even during a time when many families may have things to overcome, parents are still helping students stay on top of their learning. From in-home one-on-one sessions to impromptu hands-on activities, parents are making an effort to do things each day that complement their student’s lessons.
Jenny and Taylor Marks credits this to the manageability of the lessons and assignments, and the community of faith. As proud parents of five students at TFS, grades K-7, they know how important it is to have balance. “They really set it up for students to be independent,” said Jenny. The success of this collaborative effort has students eager to learn, with their oldest daughter asking for more lessons in Spanish. “TFS has given us an invaluable experience in faith and education, and that’s worth the peace of mind–that’s priceless, particularly now.” added Taylor.
Having students at different levels, they appreciate that even during this time, the teachers continue to cater to every student’s personality and ability. For instance, their fourth-grader was working on a project that required him to find items around the home, as the sixth and seventh graders breezed through their core lessons. Despite everything, Taylor and Jenny say they’re just happy that they can be there for all of it, and spend this time with their children.
A Community Built on Faith Not Fear
COVID-19 has reminded us of all that we have to be thankful for. This transition hasn’t been easy, yet being surrounded in a large extended Christian family, our community is remaining vigilant, not fearful. We can’t wait to be back on campus, but safety is our top priority. Until we can be together again in the same space, we are grateful we have the technology and systems in place that allow us to remain bonded as a family.
To learn more about how The Franciscan School is staying connected with our community of parents, teachers, and students, click here to read the recent TFS COVID-19 Updates.