Interrupted Student-Teaching Experiences: 5 Tips to Get to the Finish Line

By Laura Sabella, Cynthia Castro-Minnehan, and Ruthmae Sears

Dr. Sabella is the Director of Field and Clinical Education at the University of South Florida. She oversees clinical experiences across programs and teaches the capstone Seminar course for secondary final interns. Her research interests include the transition from student to secondary content teacher, the role of the university supervisor, and partnerships in secondary schools.

Ms. Castro-Minnehan is a third-year doctoral student in the Mathematics Education program at the University of South Florida. Her research interests include collaborative learning during clinical experiences through co-teaching and co-planning.

Dr. Sears is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida for mathematics education, and KDP advisor. Her research focuses on curriculum issues, reasoning and proof, clinical experiences in secondary mathematics, and the integration of technology in mathematics.

Student teaching is a critical time in teacher preparation. It provides crucial space for pre-service educators to bridge the research of coursework to actual practice in the classroom. It allows teacher candidates to operationalize the true experience of teaching through classroom management, facilitating student learning, and supporting student assessment.

As a result of COVID-19, there was major disruption in this sacrosanct space. Many candidates were anxious that hard-won relationships would be shattered, or that parts of their new teaching profession would no longer remain. Many feared they might not meet credentialing expectations.

However, we canproactively ensure they get to the finish line. We offer practical strategies to help you move student-teaching experiences forward. We must acknowledge that there will continue to be districts that implement teaching online, face-to-face, or hybrid, with potential disruptions or reversals to any teaching model. These recommendations uphold the goal of supporting candidates’ completion, regardless of the setting.

1. Plan ahead.

Assume we will have future disruptions to instruction. Plan ahead by ensuring candidates record themselves teaching while they have access to physical classrooms. These videos can be unpacked later for additional data and feedback or to provide reflection for improvement.

Plan for a shift to online instruction. Identify resources that will smooth that transition such as online platforms, online teaching sources, access codes and passwords, and training with software and programs schools are using. Consider what services are available free to candidates. In this way, you can plan for continuity in instruction.

2. Continue contact where possible.

Provide opportunities for student teachers to maintain meaningful interactions outside the physical classroom. Encourage continuity with their students through online teaching, virtual story times, grading, tutoring sessions, office hours, and so on. To keep the sense of community, candidates can participate in PLCs and faculty meetings online. Additionally, they can continue to engage with their teachers using co-planning and co-teaching online.

3. Review state and district policies.

Reviewing state and district policies is critical. Many candidates may fear they won’t meet state or district requirements for clinical work. Check to see if states allow unconventional field experiences, alternative assessments, and substitute placements, and whether they can reduce the number of hours required.

4. Acknowledge and affirm.

Teacher candidates need to have their worries acknowledged when faced with frustrating disruptions to clinical experiences. Recognizing the concerns they have and the difficulties they are facing is crucial to their success. Affirm that you will navigate the disruption and new space together. Support affirmation theory and consider the affective domains where you can best support candidates during difficult times.

5. Embrace possibilities.

Finally, look on the bright side and embrace new opportunities as we engage in this space. Despite the challenges, recognize that there’s always something to celebrate. Take advantage of new tools and experiences. Welcome possibilities of unpacking and expanding new skills teaching online. Appreciate many candidates may shine with new alternatives.

As we go forward, clinical experiences will continue to expand so our candidates become quality educators. We will support them regardless of the setting, with the goal that all opportunities can successfully promote student learning.

5 Ways to Connect With Families During the Pandemic

Dr. Laura Anderson is a former elementary school teacher and now a Professor of Education at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee. She teaches courses in pedagogy and children’s literature and is a counselor for Upsilon Kappa Chapter of Kappa Delta Pi.

Parents are a child’s first teacher. Few parents, however, envisioned being homeschool educators during a pandemic. Connecting with families is crucial for teachers during these times, not only to support parents but to keep in touch with students as well. Here are some ways you can keep this connection strong during challenging times.

Challenges for Families with Online Learning:

  • Questions about lesson content
  • Keeping their children focused on schoolwork at home
  • Two or more siblings sharing one computer
  • Internet and computer problems
  • Finding time to work with their children after working all day

How Can Teachers Help?

  1. Be an encourager. Let the parents and students know that they can succeed during the pandemic. Tell them that it’s been a learning curve for you as well. Respond quickly to emails or calls from students and parents who express fears and frustrations. Give written, encouraging comments with feedback on assignments.
  2. Be flexible. Not all families are equipped with the technology or materials needed to complete all of the assignments. Many of their schedules are different; some may be considered essential workers and may not be at home during the day, leaving their children in the care of grandparents or sitters. You can help by extending due dates for assignments, which will alleviate family stress. Also, adjust assignments for children who struggle academically.
  3. Be available. Using apps such as Remind allows parents and students to text questions to you without having actual access to your personal telephone number. (See remind.com/teachers). You might also set up specific times to talk with parents and students on the phone about assignments and concerns they have. Ask families to give you a contact number where you can reach them, and let them know the general time(s) you are available to receive calls. Don’t forget parents whose first language is not English. Written directions in their first language or a connection to a speaker to translate would be helpful.
  4. Be creative. Think outside the box on how you can be connected. For example, several teachers in my area wanted to see their students face to face and decided to have a school faculty parade through the attendance zones. They decorated their cars with signs expressing how much they missed their students, planned a parade route, gave families approximate times in which they would be on each street and sent out an “invitation” for families to come into their front yards to see their teachers. They smiled and waved as the parade passed their houses—while maintaining social-distancing guidelines
  5. Be consistent: Although flexibility is key, try to maintain some consistency by keeping things as familiar as possible. If you have circle time procedures such as the calendar, identifying the weather and day of the week, use these to open your Zoom sessions. When making assignments, try to use the same formats and procedures that you use in the classroom.

What ideas do you have that you can share with others? Please share your strategies and tag me at http://www.instagram.com/lhsa52

“You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup”: 6 Things New Teachers Can Do to Promote Their Own Wellness

Dr. Sarah J. Kaka is an Assistant Professor of Education at Ohio Wesleyan University, and is the Director of the Adolescent to Young Adult and Multi-Age Licensure Programs. She teaches intro to education, secondary and middle school methods, social studies methods, and supervises students in the field.

Dr. Jennifer A. Tygret is an online course developer and instructor for the Department of Education at Illinois College. Her research focuses on the preparation of new teachers, trauma-informed teaching, and best practices in elementary and higher education. She creates and teaches elementary reading courses.

You’ve heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup” —that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will be unable to take care of others. This is especially true in education, as teaching is a socially and emotionally demanding profession. In order to be at your best to effectively meet the needs of your students, you need to take care of your own social and emotional needs.

Dealing with all of the stress involved in the day-to-day expectations and demands of teaching takes its toll on teachers. For new teachers, especially, it is important that you not only understand the need to care for yourself, but also have tools and strategies to “fill your cup.”

  • Seek out a mentor. Find an experienced teacher at your school, such as a teammate or another teacher you connect with, and ask questions, share your concerns, get advice. Your mentor can help you navigate the demands and challenges of the classroom, and provide the support you need so you know you are not alone.
  • Create a new teacher support group. Who are the other new teachers in your school building, district, or surrounding area? Commit to meeting regularly over coffee (or over Zoom) to support each other, offer advice, and share ideas for what is working well in your classroom.
  • Ask to observe experienced teachers in action. The more you observe, the more you learn. Watching experienced teachers teach provides you with more ideas for instruction, teaching strategies, and classroom management.
  • Use your Professional days to attend Professional Development in your areas of interest or need. If you need more help with classroom management, seek out PD that will provide you with tangible strategies for improving your classroom management. Look beyond district workshops to other trainings in your area, online, or at local universities. Ongoing training and support can help you feel more equipped and prepared for the challenges you face during your first years of teaching.
  • Join social events at your school to develop relationships and connect with other teachers and staff members. Is there a teacher book club you can join? An after-school exercise program to become involved in? Other social events created by teachers you can attend? Not only do these build connections, they also boost morale.
  • Take your personal and/or sick days! Even though missing a day of school can feel like more work due to all of the planning involved, it is imperative that you have time away from school to promote your own well-being. Having a “mental-health day” away from school can help you be more focused and ready when you return to the classroom.

As a new teacher, you will be better prepared to help students if you take advantage of self-care opportunities and fill your own cup. You will also be less likely to burn out. Ultimately, your students will benefit the most, because a supported, thriving teacher is a more effective teacher!

4 Things Student Teaching in a Pandemic Taught Me

Jennifer Minton is a Virginia Teacher of Promise 2020 who completed a post baccalaureate program in education at Old Dominion University. She holds a B.A. in History from DePauw University and an M.A. in History from the National University of Ireland.

Like so many other things, student teaching had to adapt during the pandemic response. In Virginia, our governor was one of the first to close schools for the remainder of the school year. That was in March. I was only halfway through my student teaching program – a program I spent years building to and preparing for, the most important part of my teacher training experience. I had finally gotten in a rhythm, I knew my kids, and we had great things planned. Then it all changed.

Although the Virginia Department of Education made accommodations for student teachers last semester, my main concern is: Did I learn everything I could from this student teaching experience?

After reflection, here are four things I learned:

  1. Keep building your network. From the first day in your education program to your retirement, keep building your network. Maintain contact with your professors and other students from your program. Keep in contact with the school that you student taught in, as well as teachers with whom you worked closely. Networking will not only help you become more acquainted with the district, but it will allow you to reach out for help and advice in situations you did not experience during student teaching.
  • Attend professional learning and development opportunities. Find opportunities for professional learning and development. Contact your university program for help. KDP also offers webinars on a variety of subjects. Attending the webinars and asking questions allows you to connect and network with more experienced teachers and educational advocates.
  • Find a buddy. When I started student teaching, I was lucky to have another student teacher in my advisory group. We both had similar struggles at the beginning of our student teaching experience. By sharing our experiences with one another, we were able to come up with solutions to problems we were having in our classrooms. This is an important part of growing as an educator – you cannot do it alone!
  • Be flexible and stay positive. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to stay positive in rough times. Students as well as other teachers and administrators can pick up on your positive attitude through virtual interviews, and it will reflect how you will be in your classroom your first year when things really get tough.

Although this is not how I planned on completing my education program, with virtual interviews instead of in person and not being in the classroom with my students, it has taught me to be flexible and persevere for the better times to come. 

Professional Development Resources

KDP Webinarshttps://www.kdp.org/events/webinars.php

National Education Association Professional Development Opportunities – nea.org/home/30998.htm

The College Boardhttps://professionals.collegeboard.org/

5 Ways to Prevent Early Burnout Amid a Pandemic

Tyre’ Jenkins is a middle school teacher at Southern University Laboratory School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is also a doctoral candidate at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans. With six years of teaching, he has great experience working with students in urban, rural, and private settings in elementary and secondary levels.

Learning my new school, getting acquainted with the atmosphere and staff culture, making copies for beginning of the year activities, creating seating charts, and ensuring that the class was creatively decorated was my first-year teacher stressors. As you know, or will find out, it will feel as if there is a never-ending checklist to complete during the first few weeks of school. After six years in this field, I have finally mastered the beginning-of-the-year routines.

Amid a global pandemic, it is safe to say that this school year has looked drastically different than previous years.  COVID-19 is a novel virus that has changed the lives of many people across the world. Within a few months, learning modes shifted from brick-and-mortar to virtual learning platforms. Being able to adapt from in-class instruction to an online platform may be stressful and unfamiliar. Teachers may struggle with developing online engagement strategies, accommodating struggling students, fostering a personal rapport virtually, and dealing with the lack of interaction with a supportive team.

Be mindful that burnout and traumatic stress during this pandemic has implications for teachers’ capacities to teach and provide the necessary emotional capital for students. Teaching, like any caring profession, is highly susceptible to physical fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and cognition weariness (Maslach & Leiter, 2016). Although it is essential that you strategically plan and prepare yourself for the year, understand that your social, emotional, and mental health is vital for you to be effective and efficient.

Therefore, while preparing for this upcoming school year, keep these tips in mind:

  1. Be flexible. This pandemic is unchartered territory. No one has all the answers. It is completely OK for you not to know everything or have it all together. You cannot do it all; just do what you can.
  2. Learn from your mistakes. Amid a global pandemic and being in the infancy of your career, mistakes are inevitable. However, always be open to learn from them. Ask for help when you need it.
  3. Self-care is essential. You can’t be of service to anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. Be mindful that you need to find ways to demonstrate resilience for your students and team, but most of all, for yourself.
  4. Let your students know you care. Many of them are facing trauma, grief, and may be just as confused as you are. Building those personal relationships is still the most important thing that you do.
  5. Find a teacher buddy. Every teacher needs a friend to process things with, gain clarity from, and receive direction along the way. You will find comfort in knowing that you have a team member.

It is important that you take care of yourself. Your students will need the best of you. Teacher resilience is a necessary and key component of success for this upcoming school year. Your mental, social, and emotional state matters. Do not overwhelm yourself with the things that you cannot change, but be the best, most effective and efficient at the things that you can change.

References:

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (2016). Understanding the burnout experience: recent research and its implications for psychiatry. World Psychiatry: Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA), 15(2), 103–111. https://doi.org/10.1002/wps.20311

Culturally Responsive Family Engagement During Remote Instruction

Today’s blogger is Katherine Rodriguez-Agüero, a doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University. She works as an Early Childhood Instructional Coordinator for the Department of Early Childhood Education in NYC. Ms. Katherine Rodriguez-Agüero is an advocate for family engagement in schools.

The Covid-19 Pandemic brought a new experience for educators, leaders, and our school systems. Most importantly, it ignited a change in the communication strategies we utilize to support families. Now educators use electronic communication as more than an additional form of family outreach: it is a source of teaching.

How can this outreach extend itself further to multilingual families? Moreover, how can it support families through a culturally responsive mindset?

Depending on your student population and resources, children experience online learning on an extensive learning curve. This goes the same for their families. Educators have to survey families to discover what works best for them.

First, consider the outreach your school or teaching team sends to families. Are the communications written or offered in the families’ home language? Go deeper! Is the family literate in this home language? My grandparents were illiterate, yet spoke Spanish fluently. By considering the way you survey and communicate with families, you are extending engagement in a culturally responsive manner. Provide voice recordings within communications through QR Codes and utilize technology on Google Translate to support families.

Secondly, discuss with families their time frames and the support synchronous or asynchronous lessons provide. Synchronous lessons provide first-hand support in the interaction between students and the teaching team. Asynchronous lessons provide activities and time frames outside of a scheduled session. Both types of learning support and affect families differently. By surveying families, educators make note of their working schedules, family structure, and even support the schedule created at home by the family.

Keep in mind that families with essential workers and multiple children can have trouble meeting a certain time frame, especially if there’s only one electronic device at home. Ask families how comfortable they are with technology and then support them. Do they know how to access Google Classroom? If not, you can send families how-to videos in their home language by searching for them online.

Furthermore, utilize the families’ funds of knowledge. Is there a family member that can play an instrument, create videos, or even share a personal story related to class’s current unit or theme? As educators, we often try to find new resources and create new materials. Families are assets right in front of you! Encourage family communication by creating a parent group or establishing classroom roles. Set up a heritage partnership between families on a school-wide level. Heritage partnerships allow families of the same cultural community to share resources, ask questions, and receive answers in their home-language. It builds a partnership based on trust.

Lastly, connect families with community-wide resources that will offer guidance and support. Certain libraries and educational organizations are providing virtual tutoring, language services, how-to videos, and partnering with heritage groups to offer language translations. By taking the initiative to support families through a culturally responsive mindset, we convey the message that our families are a priority. We recognize their hard work and look to support them at their level of need.

Reference:

Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Family Engagement in the Time of COVID-19 and Remote Learning, and Always. New York University Steinhardt, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools. Link: https://kappadeltapiblog.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/6213a-culturallyresponsivefamilyengagement.pdf

A Seat at the Table Is Not Enough: Making Purposeful Space for Parents

María Cioè-Peña is an assistant professor in Educational Foundations at Montclair State University. As a bilingual/biliterate researcher, she examines the intersections of disability, language, school-parent partnerships and education policy. María focuses specifically on Latinx bilingual children with dis/abilities, their families and their ability to access multilingual inclusion within public schools.

In my article “Planning Inclusion: The Need to Formalize Parental Participation in Individual Education Plans (and Meetings)” in this issue of Educational Forum, I explore the tensions culturally and linguistically diverse mothers encounter during Individual Education Plan (IEP) meetings and the possibilities that can come from reimagining them. This work emerged from my own experiences as a bilingual special educator and resulted in uncovering tensions between mothers’ intentions for IEP meetings and their actual experiences. Specifically, mothers spoke about how they intended to engage with the rest of the IEP team, how their expectations related to the realities they experienced, and factors they felt facilitated and/or impeded their participation and ability to enact their agendas.

As a teacher, I understood the importance of IEPs; a legal document that I was beholden to, reporting student progress and outlining new goals.  I spent hours crafting these: administering assessments, meeting service providers, and conducting observations. However, I did not give as much thought to the meetings. While I knew IEP meetings were valuable for parents, they also felt disruptive and inconvenient. Because of limited coverage, I was often expected to hold these meetings during my lunch hour or my preparation periods leaving little time to regroup between teaching blocks. The meetings were hard to schedule because of parents’ work commitments and because sometimes they wouldn’t show up. This was also an issue with service providers and district representatives. Imagine coordinating the schedules of five to seven adults on any given school day. It’s a very delicate and intricate process. So, when meetings did happen, they felt rushed. I would pop into the room, greet the parent, breeze through “on the fly” translations of the plan and wait for a series of service providers to mill in and out of the room. By the end, we (the service providers and myself) would have fulfilled the legal requirements of informing the parent of their child’s progress and of the upcoming goals. There was rarely ever time for thoughtful discussions, even less time for questions and concerns. Case in point, we never really discussed the parents linguistic, social or long-term goals for their kids. Nor did we discuss how they felt about their child moving to a new setting or remaining in the same one. It was an experience in unilateral information dumping.

Still, I was lucky. I was a self-contained teacher who spoke the same language as my families. I could check in with them often, they were highly engaged in the classroom, and we built community. I felt like I had an understanding of who they were and what they wanted for their children. Nonetheless, I would be remiss if I did not admit that the way that meetings were run at my school, and the way they continue to be managed at schools across the country, actively deny parents a seat at the table. We expect parents to speak up, without accounting for how intimidating those meetings can be or recognizing cultural differences in communication. It wasn’t until my dissertation that I got to hear just how alienating those meetings can feel; how mothers come to the meetings planning to ask questions, to share, to be heard and seen. It wasn’t until I interviewed mothers pre- and post-IEP meetings that I really started to pay attention to the ways in which educators, in checking off their own agendas and expectations, rob parents of the opportunity to be agentive beings who can advocate for their children. It wasn’t until I analyzed that data that I began to notice the ways in which we ignore the rich contributions parents can make. In making sure the parents knew what I was doing, I failed to acknowledge their expertise. In denying parents agency, we deny children agency. It is for this reason that my article explores why educators must create meaningful and purposeful inclusion of parents in IEPs and in the meetings. We will never attain true inclusion while continuing to exclude children’s first and most constant teachers: their parents.

Go Visual With a Graphic Novel, Comic Book, or Zine!

Today’s blogger is Adam I. Attwood (Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee), whose article “Comic Books and Graphic Novels for the Differentiated Humanities Classroom” appears in the October 2020 issue of the Kappa Delta Pi Record. Get free access to the article through the month of December.

Incorporating comic books and graphic novels into collaborative English language arts and social studies education offers an additional strategy for bringing complex stories to students and for developing higher-level thinking skills. Teaching core literacy skills in middle and high school often draws on time-tested strategies such as rote memorization, sentence diagramming, or row-by-row read-aloud. Though these strategies can work as part of a balanced, scaffolded curriculum, Jill Gerber and I explain in our article in the Kappa Delta Pi Record that incorporating an increasingly good catalog of graphic literature offers additional opportunities for differentiated instruction using more interactive media to engage and encourage students.

Reading graphic novels or comic books requires students to do multiple literacy activities at once. It makes their brains work more.

For example, looking at integrated illustrations while reading a story takes sight words to another level of “sight ideas.” In middle school, this is a logical progression from elementary sight-word instruction.

Similarly, by integrating social studies and English language arts instruction based in graphic literature, teachers promote connections in contextual understanding of concepts. The stories in comic books and graphic novels create more immersive opportunities to design activities that encourage simultaneously interacting with history, literature, and art so that students make connections between past and present as both a personal dialogue and as a community conversation.

In an easily replicated example of this strategy, Gerber, who hosts a blog about graphic literature at Perceptive Gaze, intentionally applies this literacy strategy by having her students write and self-publish “zines.” Like miniature magazines, zines are small booklets that emphasize comic book–like structure. This activity creates a product-based assessment in which students are required to simultaneously demonstrate their learning across subject areas.

Gerber’s approach involves a multistep process for students to design and present their zines.

  1. Research, organization, and resources. Students research their topics of interest in their assigned subject and use a simple, six-statement template to organize their thoughts for approaching this project. The teacher offers resources for overcoming the challenges of pairing art with concepts and words.
  2. Storyboard and script. Students plan and outline their story on index cards, including how they want to illustrate the concepts.
  3. Production. The teacher can demonstrate how to lay out the students’ plans on paper, advise students on which paper size would best present their stories, and assist them with the “manufacturing” of their zine. Students ultimately do all the work of writing, drawing, folding, and cutting, including making decisions on how to letter the text so that it works with the art in the context of the story.
  4. Editing station. Students practice the complexity of editing in a step-by-step process. At first, the teacher models this process; but, with practice, students edit more and more of their own work and engage in peer editing to practice constructive feedback.
  5. Presentation. In this final step, students present and explain their work. Discussion can be organized in small groups or whole-group seminars.

With practice, students internalize these skills and grow their creative output. Technical artistic skills are less important than form and format. The teacher functions as a guide for students to help them get more comfortable with the concepts and mechanical aspects of the illustrated storyboard development process. Gerber summarizes one such project on her blog and offers some additional advice with examples.

That one sample project focuses on a single activity in a social studies classroom that can be adapted for a personal narrative in a language arts curriculum or extended for other subjects. The rewards from integrating graphic literature into your instructional strategies can be even more pronounced when the approach is used to combine complex concepts in social studies with language arts literary analysis.

This type of project may take extra coordination, but its benefits for a wide range of students can be substantial by increasing their motivation and interest across topics and skills.

#homeschooling: Problems with Synchronous Learning in COVID-19

Today’s blogger is Wendy Levin, MA, CCC-SLP, a Speech-Language Pathologist in Cherry Creek School District in Aurora, Colorado. She currently co-teaches a special needs preschool classroom and has recent past experience in PK-8 public schools.

If you are an educator, you are keenly aware of the inequities of the educational system.

Not all families have the privilege to be able to take time from work to help their child learn. Not all families have access to speedy internet for those teleconference calls. Not all families have the mental space to worry about both their changed financial status and how to help their child learn school material.

Not all families.

How many school districts have forced both teachers and parents to organize and schedule themselves so they can have “class” at a certain time every day? How many of you teachers and specialists have had students lose attention and wander away from the teleconference calls or simply not call in to begin with?

Everyone loses. That’s the reason #imexhausted and #homeschooling have skyrocketed in their usage during the pandemic.

So why don’t we just choose a more equitable method? Because it’s not what we’re used to?

News flash! This whole pandemic is a situation that no one is used to. Let’s give ourselves and our families space while also providing the same instruction.

What is “synchronous learning”?

“Synchronous learning” simply means that all students and teachers are present at the same time on the same platform. They must schedule a time and a platform to meet and they all must be there at the same time.

This is impossible for too many families. Expecting a student or family to be online at a certain time every day is often too much to ask. I argue that we must rely heavily on parents for synchronous learning for PK-8 in order to gain student attention, keep them in front of a computer, help with login and technical aspects, and help with general attendance. This pulls parents and guardians away from the time that they need to work or handle family matters. They have no control in their schedule or their child’s learning in this model.

If there is “synchronous learning,” then is there such thing as “asynchronous learning”?

Absolutely. There are many ways to do asynchronous learning. You simply have to make sure a student has options. You have to make your activities and lessons available so the students and families can access them at any time. This allows parents to work with their children when it is efficacious for them. How much more equitable could that be?

Here are some ways to provide asynchronous, equitable education:

  • Create private or unlisted YouTube videos of yourself teaching the lesson. Provide students with the links.
  • Use your Class Dojo, SeeSaw, Google Classroom, or Blackboard to post videos or assignments
  • Provide a wide variety of office hours that work with your schedule, so students and parents can drop in at any time to ask questions if they need to.
  • Work with your specialists to provide any special education techniques needed for the lesson prior to releasing a lesson. Change your lessons accordingly.
  • Create discussion boards so students can continue to collaborate and discuss
  • Don’t punish a student for not completing work on time. Let them turn it in when they can.

Remember, every single family, including your own, is struggling during this pandemic, but we will all get out of this together.

You can still provide quality and equitable education.

Partnering with the Nambale Magnet School in Western Kenya

By Dr. Susan Trostle Brand, International Ambassador and United Nations NGO Representative for KDP

In 2018, two chapters of Kappa Delta Pi, the Fitchburg State University and the University of Rhode Island, collaborated to form a very fruitful international partnership. This two-chapter partnership was initiated with a magnet school in Western Kenya. This school, the Nambale Magnet School (NMS), provides housing and instruction for grades PK-8. Approximately half of the students at this school are orphans affected by the AIDS pandemic. All 465 students reside in dormitories at this 10-year-old school, which serves as a model school for the community and region.

Fitchburg State University (FSU) and University of Rhode Island (URI) chapters of Kappa Delta Pi recognized the potential for an international collaborative during a 2017 I-Lead Conference. Martine Nolletti, NMS representative and major NMS sponsor representing the Stonington, Connecticut-based Cornerstone Project, helped us to realize this potential. When Martine Nolletti spoke at our I-Lead Conference at the University of Rhode Island, she described the school, its founder, its teachers, and its students. Martine invited us, as chapter leaders and members, to become involved in supporting the school. She suggested possible means of involvement including monthly or annual donations from our chapters, student and faculty travel to visit the school, initiating teachers and administration into Kappa Delta Pi membership, inviting school leaders to attend and present at KDP Convocations, and communicating virtually with school administrators regularly to exchange teaching and technology ideas.

Since Martine’s visit to our I-Lead Conference in December 2017, our two New England chapters have played active roles in supporting the NMS. For example, the chapters met and agreed to support the school with annual donations of $200-300 each. Two chapter officers from the University of Rhode Island traveled to the NMS in May 2018. While there, these student leaders lodged at the Caribou House on the NMS campus and actively interacted with the teachers and students. These travelers delivered many school supplies to the students that they collected via Go Fund Me and Facebook fund raisers. Our URI chapter subsidized some of the travel expenses and donated supplies for these travelers. These two chapter leaders taught daily lessons to the students, demonstrated outdoor games, and initiated all of the school’s 22 teachers into KDP. Upon their return, these chapter leaders provided slide shows at local KDP Conferences, encouraging students from other universities to travel to the NMS.

In May 2019, one administrator and two chapter officers from the Fitchburg University KDP chapter and one chapter officer from the URI KDP chapter traveled to the NMS for one month. They delivered several iPads and other school supplies to the students, initiated additional KDP teacher members, taught demonstration lessons to the PK-8 students, and initiated new outdoor games, including Frisbee, for the students. Finally, our most recent visit to the NMS transpired over two weeks in January 2020, at which time three faculty members (including this author) and two student chapter leaders from the University of Rhode Island taught demonstration lessons on ecology to the teachers and students, conducted professional development workshops for the teachers and administrators, and donated several iPads and many school supplies to the NMS. 

Results

With great enthusiasm and hospitality, the teachers and administrators of the NMS welcome our ongoing visits, engagement, and educational and financial support of the NMS. The school appreciates the new teaching approaches our KDP chapter visitors have introduced. For example, Martine Nolletti reports that the grade 4-6 teachers are implementing many of the literacy teaching approaches demonstrated by the KDP chapter visitors. Although quantitative data was not collected regarding student achievement results of our visits to the school, the school founder and director, Evalyn Wakhusama, has commended our two-chapter KDP outreach efforts. Evalyn extends special gratitude for the donations of iPads, which enhance the state-of-the-art technological skills of the student population at the NMS.

In turn, Evalyn offers KDP a plethora of knowledge and wisdom regarding the needs of children in Kenya and the specific needs of the school. For example, Evalyn was an invited guest speaker at the 2019 Kappa Delta Pi Convocation, serving on a panel of Fitchburg State University and University of Rhode Island student leaders, professors, and administrators. Likewise, the KDP International Committee plans to invite Evalyn to return to serve on an International Panel at the upcoming 2021 Convocation.

Members, chapter leaders, and faculty members/administrators have discovered that support of this school and its population is mutually rewarding and, indeed, life-changing. We U.S. visitors toured several schools and indigenous homes in the region and witnessed, firsthand, the impoverished conditions and severe paucity of food, clothing, shelter, and education. In comparison, the Nambale Magnet School offers a safe haven for over 400 regional children, whereby their food, clothing, lodging, and education needs are consistently met with great care and nurturing. Creating and supporting more schools such as the NMS is one answer to meeting the needs of this western Kenya population. Collectively, our visits and support can enable regional schools to flourish and new schools to open.

We visitors learned that our support, donations, and visits exert a tremendous difference; the response of this population to our donations and support is overflowing with gratitude. We visitors learned the value of cultural pluralism in action and the intrinsic rewards of collaborating with others to improve the living conditions and education of an African population. Our ongoing international partnership has proven educational, enlightening, and inspiring for us KDP members, as well as for the NMS population. KDP travelers have found that sharing our international experiences through conferences presentations, writing, fund-raising, and round table events upon our return serve to “light the fire” of traveling, learning, supporting, giving, and sustaining impoverished schools and populations for many of our colleagues and friends.

Next Steps/Future

The Nambale Magnet School, as well as all of the schools in Kenya, were severely affected by the pandemic. All students needed to quarantine with friends or relatives from March until October 2020. All students are now repeating the grade in which they were enrolled at the onset of the pandemic. As a result of this interruption of learning, the students and the school are particularly in need of additional resources and support. Martine and Evalyn urge interested KDP chapter leaders and faculty leaders to visit the school, donate educational supplies, become monthly donors, and work with the teachers and students as they acquire the latest technological skills. Plans are continuing to initiate into KDP every new teacher at the NMS and to continue our two-chapter support of this school through monetary donations, visits to the school, and virtual and in-person programming. Eventually, the school will feature an artisan program to provide education and training in specified career paths including agriculture and light industry. The school is a prototype for other related projects including foster homes, self-sustaining ventures, and the nurturing, education, and empowerment of disenfranchised populations.

Outreach Opportunities/Contact Information

Visitors are urged to consider the NMS future goals and projects, as well as the work that has been accomplished by previous visitors, when selecting themes for their visits. School visits are coordinated by Martine Nolletti in conjunction with Drs. Laurie DeRosa and Nancy Murray (Fitchburg State University) and Dr. Susan Trostle Brand (University of Rhode Island). Chapter leaders and faculty member visits are reviewed and approved by the committee members, listed above. Please provide your KDP affiliation and role in your chapter, number of travelers, year and dates you would like to visit the school, and the theme you would like to introduce to the school and students. Themes or topic areas include sustainability, career-related skills, science, literacy, physical education, mathematics, technology, and international relations.

For additional information, Interested chapter leaders and professors may contact Dr. Susan Trostle Brand (susant@uri.edu), Dr. Nancy Murray (nmurray5@fitchburgstate.edu) or Dr. Laurie DeRosa (lderosa@fitchburgstate.edu).

To apply to travel to the NMS, visitors may contact Martine Nolletti at the Cornerstone Project, Inc. 100 Cove Street, Stonington, CT. 06378; phone: 203-525-6220; or email: info@cornerstoneproject.org.

Summary

According to the mission statement of the Cornerstone Project, “We believe that in order for people to enjoy safe, productive lives they must possess a sovereign ability to care for themselves and to have the educational tools that will assure them a respected place in today’s global society.” Cultural pluralism and higher standards of living for oppressed populations are fostered when KDP chapter leaders collaborate to provide funding for educational supplies and technology for the school, educational programming for the teachers and students, and visits to the school to interact with the students and teachers, exchanging teaching approaches and ideas. In the past three years, we have made substantial advances in these funding and programming ventures. Our outreach work has just begun, however, and the NMS and the student and teacher population in Western Kenya, in general, remain a very thirsty and deserving population for knowledge, skills, and support.