Communicating with Your Scholars and Families Amid Covid-19

This week was a roller coaster! Between daylight savings, a full moon, Friday the 13th, Corona-virus, and the excitement of Pi Day and the half day we had last Friday, I cannot believe we all survived!

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Roller Coaster of a Ride. Image courtesy of Pixabay.

On Friday, March 13, teachers in Pennsylvania received news from our Governor, Tom

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Closed for 10 Days. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Wolf that all K-12 schools would be closed for 10 business days effective Monday, March 16 due to the pandemic spread of Covid-19 in the commonwealth. This announcement was made after our scholars had been dismissed from school. Students had a half day of school while teachers stayed for professional development. During that time, we discussed Covid-19 and began preparing for schools to close as the virus continued to spread throughout the nation. We originally thought teachers would be in school on Monday and Tuesday. Students would come on Wednesday for a half day, and then we would be out for 10 days. Governor Wolf wanted all schools closed immediately. On Saturday, two cases were reported in Allegheny County. Two more reported on Sunday. Currently, there are 6 or 7 confirmed cases in the Pittsburgh region. (The data is changing rapidly.) State wise, as of Monday, March 16, there were 76 confirmed cases. On Thursday, there were only 22, and on Friday, there were 41.

With many people following the Governor’s order to socially distance themselves from family, friends, and other large crowds, how do we help the families of our scholars remotely when our schools or districts are not necessarily set up to do so?

Here are three ways I intend to do so:

Class Dojo

  • Class Dojo is an educational app and website that connects teachers, students, and families, through communication features such as feed for photos and videos from the school day, and messaging. I messaged the families of my scholars today to check in with them. I informed them that ALL schools in the district would serve food throughout the week from 11am-1pm. I also shared that an academic packet would be ready for them at the school when they arrived. In addition to this, I left them with more contact information. I sent them my e-mail address and Google Voice number.Google Voice
  • Google Voice¬†is a telephone service (app) that provides a U.S. telephone number chosen from selected area codes, call forwarding, voicemail, voice, and text messaging services for Google Account customers for free. Because I prefer to not give my personal cell phone number to the families of my schools, I have chosen to use a Google Voice Number. What is really cool about this communication service is that I can receive and make phone calls with my Google Voice Number on my cell phone. When I call families, my Google Voice number shows up on their Caller ID. Two parents called me today, and I was able to give them more information about how long we were going to be out of school, the food at the school, the academic packets that were being sent home, and just to help relieve some anxiety that some family members had.gmail
  • E-mail, well we all should know what that is, but just in case, e-mail stands for electronic mail and is a way to exchange messages between people using electronic devices via the internet. While I attempted to upload the 110 page document to Class Dojo for families to have access, I quickly learned that the file was too large to upload. I therefore e-mailed it to one of the families that e-mailed me earlier in the day, and then returned to Class Dojo to ask families to send me their e-mail addresses. However, I later learned that Dojo was having a few glitches throughout the day, and about 10 minutes ago, I was able to upload the academic packet to Class Dojo! Yay!!!

With all of this uncertainty, I think that we teachers should enjoy being at home with our families. However, I also believe that we are all in this together, and our scholars as well as their families need us to support them. These are three ways we can reach out to communicate with families amid the Covid-19 takeover.

How are you keeping in contact with your scholars and their families? What do you recommend? I have seen some really cool remote ways of facilitating communication and learning (Zoom, Google Classroom, Quizlet Live) these last few days, and I would love to hear some details on how it works and how well it works in your world!

Until next time, happy teaching from home,

Krystal L. Smith, The RenewED Teacher