For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Luke 14:28-30
According to UNESCO, over 91% of the world’s student population has been affected by school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic (cited at FIT-ED, 2020). This unprecedented crisis is a challenge especially for intentionally Christian schools in engaging students to continue learning even while normal school operations are disrupted. Two days prior to the announcement regarding the Community Quarantine in Metro Manila immediately followed by the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the Luzon provinces and nationwide, the SOT®P published an article on how we are to respond as a school community.
Now that the majority of the schools have ended the school year and are now waiting for government directives for the next school year’s opening, what steps are we supposed to take? Before wanting to know the requirements should your schools open before the prescribed August 24, 2020 school year opening, it would be wise do a school-wide assessment that would guide your decision making.
While some school leaders may have been used to a “wait and see” or “anything goes” approach to school year preparation, the vast majority of crucial decisions should be backed by metrics, facts, or figures related to your school’s mission and goals that can ensure a stable backbone for your school management reports and operations.
Just as every child entrusted to the schools’ care is unique, each school using the system also has unique circumstances, strengths, weaknesses, and contexts. Some schools maybe are in localities that allow face to face interaction, others are in localities under an extended community quarantine. Thus, it is important to consider the following self-assessment questions. It is also highly recommended that each school take a survey of the families they are serving in many available platforms (i.e., online, or via telephone calls, or going over school data). The greater part of these school assessment questions are gleaned from resource material by the Foundation for Information Technology Education and Development, Inc (FIT-ED, 2020). These questions can be grouped into three (3).
1. Who? (Learner’s Profile, Current Status, and Needs):
- Which of our students were coping well with their school work before schools were closed? Which ones were struggling? Why?
- Which of our students can work independently? Who will need more guidance and support while studying remotely?
- Which of our students are comfortable using technology? Who will need more help?
- What kind of home environment do our students have? Are they safe? Are their basic needs being adequately provided?
- Do our students have access to technology for e-learning mode of delivery? What kind, how often, for how long, and at what cost?
- How will families access learning materials? How will we communicate with each other?
- Who will need the most help in terms of access?
- Can parents or others in their household help our students with their school work?
- Which students will need more guidance and support from the school staff?
- What are the capabilities of parents and/or caregivers of our students? How do we make sure that the tasks assigned them are within their capabilities?
- What input and guidelines should we provide parents and caregivers at the start? What resources and tools should we provide for them throughout the new normal?
- How do we support families? How do we encourage them and keep them motivated?
School Staff Profile:
- How has the role of our teachers changed because of school closures?
- Are they prepared to take on this evolving role—physically, intellectually, mentally and emotionally?
- Do they have apprehensions or fears about teaching remotely?
- What technology and resources are available to each of the school staff?
- Are they comfortable using them?
- How can they get more access to what they need?
- Do Learning Center Staff need extra training for remote learning delivery? What kind and how do they get it?
- What tools and resources do they have to create or prepare and how much time do we have to be ready?
2. What? (Needed coordination with SOT®P leadership for Remote Learning recommendations)
- How do I keep myself updated on any changes in guidance from SOTP leadership? Are there any formal or informal channels being used?
- Are there any meetings I need to attend or discussion groups I should participate in?
- What are other church schools doing? Are there any discussions going on? Should I join in? How?
- Are there any recommended resources? If there are no guidelines or recommendations, who do I seek out for assistance?
3. How? (Design and Implementation of Remote Learning Center Education - RLCE):
- What technologies, platforms, tools and resources are available to us and our students—PACEs, self-instructional modules for mini-classes, audio and radio, video and TV, computer-based, internet-based and phone-based?
- Which of these can all or most of our students and staff use? Which are the easiest to use for communication, direct instruction, discussion, sharing of work and assessment?
- What Learning Center procedures may be modified for remote learning? What are the non-negotiables?
- Are there open technological resources we can use? How do we know which ones are of good quality and safe to access?
- How long and how often should our virtual meetings be? How often and how long will our short and clustered meetings be?
- Is cost a consideration?
- What learning centers work synchronously (at the same time) or asynchronously (not at the same time) or a blend of both?
- Do we need to simplify old activities or create new ones for students to accomplish by themselves or with help from their parents or caregivers?
- How can we best foster a student’s sense of ownership of their learning process through self-direction, discovery, and inquiry? How much time will I give them for each activity?
- Will students work individually or in small groups?
- How can school staff give students guidance while they work? Will we do it one-on-one, in small groups? * What tasks will we assign parents or caregivers and how can we work effectively with them to keep their children engaged and making progress in their learning?
- How much work can LC staff give students and at what pace without creating more stress for them and their families?
Plan for and implement supportive tasks for each phase of your RLCE implementation: Before, during, and after. Wise planning involves collecting data based on your school’s measurable goals and analyzing patterns and facts from the feedback. Utilize this data to develop strategies and activities that will benefit your school community’s stakeholders.
Moreover, review your non-negotiables as a school ministry. Reflect on your school’s mission and vision and make certain of your “why”. Some of your “whats” and “hows” may need modification to positively respond to these exceptionally challenging times, but it should never come unmoored from the “why” of your beginnings and existence. Stay mission-focused: reaching the world for Christ…one child at a time.
Foundation for Information Technology Education and Development, Inc. (2020). Teacher’s Guide for Remote Learning During School Closures and Beyond. Retrieved from https://tpdatscalecoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Teachers-Guide-for-Remote-Learning-FINAL-April-2020.pdf