VIRTUAL CONNECTING… at St. Frances de Chantal
Sr. Patricia Brito, Principal of St. Frances de Chantal School in the Bronx, has nothing but praise for the response of her teachers and staff to the challenge of “distance learning” which the current pandemic has imposed. March 13th was the first day that St. Frances was closed to students, and the faculty took advantage of the previously scheduled conference day for that Friday to have a five-hour in-service on the tools and practices that would help learning to continue.
Aided by guidance from the NY Archdiocesan Education Office, the administration and faculty have put together an effective program. Through the school website, ‘Google Classroom,’ ZOOM, and conference calls, work is posted (examples shown here), teaching is carried out, student assignments are “handed in” (1,799 was one day’s tally!), parent-teacher conferences take place, and the school day begins, as always, with announcements and morning prayer.
Electronic devices have been provided for the few children who did not have what was necessary. There are difficulties: for example, in families where several children are sharing a computer or iPad, it’s sometimes hard for each student to have the needed access. And the younger the children, the more challenging it is to find ways of engaging them. But overall, through teachers working together, helping one another, putting in “12-hour days,” distance learning is happening.
Parents, many of whom are now at home, have told Pat that they love the Morning Prayer time. The joy of children is evident when they get to “be with” their friends through ZOOM, the technology which also enables Pat to “visit” the classrooms.
This parish school shares the uncertainty that dominates the country, indeed, the world, concerning how long “social distancing” will be necessary, and the long-term effects of this pandemic. For now, however, the educators at St. Frances are meeting the immediate challenge with generosity and creativity.
We know that the technology that is enabling so many of our children to continue their education is not accessible to all. Our shared vulnerability to this novel virus has brought home a deeper sense of our reality as one human family. Let us hope that this consciousness will fuel a collective will to provide more fully for all its members.
- Sr. Pat Brito, RJM