Teaching in the Time of Corona: Supporting Newcomer Students During School Closures

By Laura Alvarez, author, teacher, researcher, and professional development provider

As educators, we currently face an unprecedented challenge: continuing to provide rich learning opportunities when our physical school sites are closed. While most schools are going online, many students do not have internet access or computers at home. These inequities threaten to further exacerbate equity gaps for our students who have historically not been well-served by U.S. schools and who must rely on our educational institutions, including recently arrived immigrant students, or newcomers.

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Do Your Homework: Write Alongside your Students

As we enter a new age of education in the world of COVID 19, I am thinking about how to help my students not only continue with their English literature education, but also to process what they, and we as a nation and a world, are going through right now. Isn’t that why we teach literature and history? To make sense of ourselves and our world? To that end, I assigned a time capsule project. (Thanks here to Karli Hart who generously shared her project worksheet with me and many others through an English teachers Facebook page. I made some changes to her original document to suit my particular students, but it is largely hers.) My students will now write three times per week either about the virus, what’s happening in the world, what’s happening in their homes, how they feel, or what they do to escape thinking about the virus.

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In the Time of Corona: Teaching Writers in Uncertain Times

As I write this*, thousands of educators and administrators — as well as students and their caregivers — are all settling into a new reality. It is a reality that means they will likely not be back in physical classrooms in the foreseeable future. It is a reality in which they do not know for sure whether any kind of online learning will be able to replace mandated hours of classroom time.

That said, some practices for teaching writing can be of help to writers at any time, and especially now, in these uncertain times. I offer these suggestions, knowing that my K-12 colleagues are facing a different reality than my colleagues at community colleges and universities, and that issues of equity and access are still pressing across many educational contexts. Not all students have access to technology, and others face different challenges. 

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Teaching Online During a Crisis: Danger and Opportunity Ahead

When John F. Kennedy was on the campaign trail, he was fond of pointing out that the Chinese symbol for crisis is a combination of the words for danger and opportunity. In reflecting on the coronavirus crisis and its impact of American public education, let’s first honor the flood of complicated feelings that educators themselves are experiencing and perhaps feeling overwhelmed by: fear, sadness, anger, helplessness, distractibility, and most of all, uncertainty.

In juggling family needs and work expectations, everyone is feeling the anxiety that comes from a most unusual emergency. Nothing is the same as it was. Our relationships with family, friends, co-workers and students have all been disrupted by the self-isolation that is occurring around the country and around the world. The climbing infection and death rates can’t help but make everyone more than a little edgy, depressed, and fearful. As many states move public education online, there’s never been a greater learning curve for educators and school leaders who now must embrace a full-fledged focus on online learning.

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