Our Homework Help program went virtual in March 2020, when schools closed due to covid. Our HH teachers have learned the different systems used to assign and respond to homework assignments, how to work with both students and parents, and how to keep students focused. They have also had some fun.
Here is what some teachers had to say about the transition to virtual:
- Logistically, it can be challenging – students are having to learn how to write and navigate on screen annotation and writing on tablets on top of just learning their numbers and letters in the first place.
- Some of the children do very well with this format, and it allows them to receive more individual attention and boosts their self-esteem. For other children, who have anxiety about doing their homework, it gives them an opportunity to avoid their assignments by creating diversions which makes it harder to bring them back. Those children do much better in person.
- It is challenging at times because children get tired from looking at the screen or switching between apps. It is also difficult to see the child’s work at times.
- We also have to rely a lot on parents to keep on track of what their children are working on which takes communication and coordination.
- Some challenges were limited materials. I miss the physical contact with the children (hugs, hand holding, tap on the shoulder).
Connecting virtually has some advantages:
- More access to children that live far and more individualized attention for each student.
- A wider range of books to choose from – In person, children chose books from our library which is extensive but limited. With Epic, they could pick any topic, and books on that topic were at their fingertips.
- The close relationship we developed with the children working one-on-one. The children become very comfortable and trusting.
After the work, some fun:
- We definitely found ways to have fun. We made up games, played freeze dance, drew on the screen and showed each other toys and items from our homes.
- One of my students taught me something fun: the Color Game. Each player names a color and then you both must go grab an item from your home of that color as quickly as you can! I thought it was a creative way to engage with each other when there was free time to play.
- I have met and learned the names of all my children’s pets.
- We shared laughter, secrets, and games. In some cases, I felt as part of their family.
Some positive aspects:
- Working in someone’s home (even virtually) always opens the door to making meaningful connections not only with the child you are working with but with the family. At times it felt like I was really there with them, being shown around and let into their spaces to play and learn.
- Working virtually is something that I never thought I could do but the reality is that human beings have the ability to adapt to changes and when you put in love, interest, and dedication, everything is possible.
- It’s been a great experience overall.
- Dealing with different grades, attitudes, personalities and learning material is good. It is a beautiful learning experience.
- It is exciting to see the growth children have made from the time they were in Bloomingdale.
The HH teachers’ experience ranged from their first year with Homework Help to several who have been with the program since its start in 2008, but their responses were remarkably similar. They all found ways to get the job done, and most importantly, connect with the children. As one said, and all would agree, ‘The connection with the students is the key.’
Take a look at our slideshow of the teachers and children at work. The second slideshow shows our last session learning on site and glimpses of our Homework Help students during their time at Bloomingdale. For a related blog on our teen Homework Help volunteers go here