“While 2020 is over, I’m still yearning for normalcy … for the sound of small voices and screechy sneakers in the hallway of my school, the Oliver Wendell Holmes Innovation School in Boston,” Lexy Marsh writes in a new op-ed that just ran in the Boston Herald.
At the heart of this work, Marsh explains, is building relationships — even in the middle of a pandemic.
“…I have had to learn how to connect with and support students and families from afar. I see hundreds of students every day online,” she writes.
“In our school, 86% of our students have high needs; 77% are economically disadvantaged; 30% are homeless; and all qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Those are last year’s numbers. This year, the pandemic is bringing new waves of poverty and illness that are not yet quantified.”
Marshalling community resources remains an essential part of Marsh’s job:
When City Connects Coordinators in Minnesota saw that students engaged in virtual learning were missing from school, the coordinators dug in to find out why.
“There were several reasons,” Laurie Acker, the City Connects Program Manager in Minnesota, says. “Some students didn’t have access to the Internet, or they had spotty access because a number of people in their homes were trying to use computers.” Other students lived in homes that were crowded or distracting.
“The other thing we saw was that for a number of families there wasn’t any parental assistance at home, so some students were trying to do school by themselves without help. Younger students didn’t always know how to use the computer. And middle school students weren’t always motivated to use it.”
Fortunately, Valerie Quintana saw a solution: use office buildings that have been emptied out by the pandemic to create study spaces for school children.
Quintana is the co-founder and Executive Director ofThe Real Minneapolis, a nonprofit organization that “responds to the immediate and fluid needs of historically under-represented individuals by thoughtfully listening.”Continue reading →
“Preschool shouldn’t be like this,” Erika Griffin says of the Early Learning Center in Salem, Mass., where children have their own desks and their own bins of toys that only they can play with – all to protect them from spreading COVID-19.
“When the kids need a break from sitting at their desks, the teachers put Hula Hoops on the ground six feet apart and each child sits in their hoop so they can play on the floor, just to give them a break from sitting at their desks. At the end of every day, those toys are sanitized. We work hard to come up with small, creative solutions, and the kids have been great with that.”
Griffin is both a City Connects Coordinator and a school adjustment counselor at the Early Learning Center, and she’s used to children sitting at large tables, socializing, and sharing toys.
But what Griffin’s work shows is that even during a global pandemic, City Connects continues to work in early education settings.
As we’ve blogged, the core of the City Connects practice remains the same, whether it’s implemented in preschools, elementary schools, high schools, or colleges. Coordinators conductwhole class reviews with teachers and in consultation with families to assess the strengths and needs of each and every child.Continue reading →
Courtney Pollack, a former middle school teacher, stands in two worlds.
As a Research Affiliate in the Gabrieli Lab at MIT, she does laboratory-based research.
At Boston College, she does applied research.
“Laboratory research contributes important knowledge about learning. But there’s a long runway from the lab to the classroom, so it takes time and several intermediate steps for this knowledge to have an impact on how students learn every day,” Pollack explains.
“Another approach is to conduct applied education research, which is what the Center for Optimized Student Support does.” Pollack is a Senior Researcher at the center, which is home to City Connects and based at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development.
“Researchers in the center study the City Connects intervention, which is grounded in prior child development research from different disciplines and from both laboratory and applied settings.”
Long before Pollack was an academic, however, she was a college student who had started thinking about how education works because she was tutoring middle school students in Arizona who were struggling in math.Continue reading →