• January 28, 2023

Teachers In Maine Try To Connect With Students Struggling With Remote Learning : NPR

Empty school corridors have become the new norm in some parts of the country during the pandemic. Frederic Cirou / PhotoAlto / Getty Images Hide caption

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Frederic Cirou / PhotoAlto / Getty Images

Empty school corridors have become the new norm in some parts of the country during the pandemic.

Frederic Cirou / PhotoAlto / Getty Images

When Dirigo High School in western Maine switched to distance learning for a few weeks last fall, the second Mason Ducharme fell behind. And without athletics, he lost all motivation to keep his grades high.

“I just didn’t do anything, I sat in my room all day,” he said. “And I haven’t done any work. I haven’t attended classes.”

Many school districts across the country have reported large decreases in attendance as they switched to distance learning. Some students, like Ducharme, left the map completely.

In response, some schools have called, texted and even knocked on doors to try to get in touch with the students.

“It’s sure to be a fight,” says Pam Doyen, director of Dirigo High School. “When they choose to be virtual and then not zoom into classes. And sometimes it’s difficult to find them.”

Doyen says after just a few weeks of classes this fall, the school found dozens of students “disappeared,” meaning they didn’t show up to distant Zoom classes or respond to communication. She says the school formed a small group to get her back on track.

“We made calls, texts, emails, house calls and home delivery of materials,” said Doyen. “We have several parenting meetings planned, including evenings best for parents to talk about keeping your child away from their zooms.”

Go door to door

And although the home visits only last a few minutes, administrators say they have become an important tool for keeping students connected with the school.

According to Doyen, the school was working to connect families with basic needs like heating backup and started deliveries to bring them food last fall.

On a chilly morning, Dirigo teacher Rachel Buck drove through the school district early. Her car was loaded with boxes of school supplies and canned food.

A calm and

Buck was not supposed to teach for two more hours, but as the district’s distance learning coordinator, she went door to door handing out supplies to students she hadn’t seen in person in weeks or months.

During the first deliveries last fall, Buck noticed that she had already noticed that quick face-to-face interaction helped families trust her and made it easier to work together to get their kids to class.

“These supplies, regardless of how districts reach and interact with their families and communities, put action behind the words, ‘I’ll take care of your children’s education,'” said Buck. “It’s a way of looking at it specifically and saying, ‘Yeah, they care. They really do.'”

Going to School in the COVID Era: What Counts as

Knowing that teachers will take care of it

Administrators acknowledge that the texts and visits didn’t fix everything, but their list of students who “disappeared” has grown from a few dozen this fall to just a handful.

After being bombarded with texts and phone calls, Ducharme finally met with his teachers. He went back to work and is now mostly caught up.

“I’m very grateful to have them,” he said. “And they reach out and say, ‘We take care of you. We really want you to be successful in life. We want you to be here.'”

Ducharme said he didn’t want to miss class now. He knows his teachers will chase him again if he wears off.

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