Mere weeks before school started for my son, my husband and I pulled an audible. We enrolled him in Xavier Educational Academy just as he was entering his Freshman year of High School.
Having a son with learning differences and being in the middle of a global pandemic, this decision was not easy, nor has it been an easy adjustment for my family. But, it was the right one and that is attributed to working collaboratively with his teachers
As expected, COVID-19 made our start at Xavier challenging. Due to its small size, they currently utilize a hybrid model. All classes are online with a mixture of in-person and remote students. The teacher also may be in-person or remote. Right off the bat, it was hard for him to make connections with his peers and teachers in-person because everyone was wearing masks and he wasn’t able to recognize their full face or key facial expressions.
With teachers that were teaching remotely, he fell behind because it was more challenging for a teacher to detect when he did not understand something. My son did not want to ask questions because frankly, he did not want to look stupid or “less than” the other students in his new school. Because of his learning differences, my son told me he was too scared to email his teacher because he didn’t want them to think he was mad, use the wrong tone or mess something up, even though his teachers welcomed communication and questions.
After seeing these struggles, I did what I thought would be best and emailed his teachers. I gave them additional information about my son’s learning history, background, accommodations and the struggles he was having in the classroom and with remote learning. The teachers were extremely responsive, read everything thoroughly and tried out new ideas and techniques with him. Within mere days, there was progress.
A few examples of the changes the teachers implemented include: setting up one-on-one sessions with him twice weekly to allow him to ask questions, work through assignments and help him with his writing.
He told me this the other day, “I love writing with [my teacher]. She is teaching me a lot and I’m not afraid to make mistakes.” This is the same child that a week prior would not even send her an email because he was afraid of making a mistake.
There are no words to show my appreciation to how teachers everywhere have listened to parents and their students and made plans to make them feel more comfortable in the virtual learning space. Whether it's taking extra time to work with students “after hours,” learning how to use new technologies or developing new teaching tactics to make learning more accessible in this new educational space, teachers are the true superheroes.