volunteer stories, education

Synchronous Learning During COVID-19

My JVC placement site, Cristo Rey Boston High School (CRB), is not only the building where students go to school and faculty and staff go to work, but it is truly a community that extends beyond the school walls. In a community, people step up when people need help, offer to put others’ needs before their own, and come together in challenging moments. 

Since we have transitioned to remote learning due to COVID-19, I have seen this CRB community in action. Everyone has been called upon in different ways, and has taken on more responsibilities than before. Since we are all still figuring out how to make remote learning work best, everyone’s ideas are being heard, unique skills are being utilized, and accompishments are being recognized more than ever. The need to feel part of a community is greater now that we are not able to physically gather together as a school, and CRB has really stepped up in order to retain the sense of community.

In our remote learning setting, CRB students meet with all of their classes four days a week for live classes over video conference calls. As educators, we are constantly in meetings to discuss and collaborate on the best educational practices. Personally, I have been teaching math classes, and it is wonderful that we are still able to interact with the students, but I have been finding it extremely difficult to keep students engaged and motivated.

This is a time for teachers to really evaluate their educational techniques. Because of the situation, we are forced to prioritize the most important parts of the curriculum, forced to learn how to use online educational resources to engage the students, and forced to apply social-emotional learning strategies, knowing that this is a traumatic and stressful time for all. Educators are already considering how this school year is going to affect the next school year and years to come. 

Boston JV Community 2019-20
Boston JV Community 2019-20
Jesuit Volunteer Lauren Carey (Boston 2019-20).
Jesuit Volunteer Lauren Carey (Boston 2019-20).

Now, probably more than ever, organizations are relying on Jesuit Volunteers. Of course there are some JVs that are still going into work. Those of us who work at schools are not, but are working tirelessly to continue to communicate with students, families, and co-workers, and we are having to be creative in our approaches. It has been challenging to be a JV during self-isolation and quarantine.

I am seeing that many of my peers have found themselves with extra time to watch TV shows, read lots of books, or pick up new hobbies. I am happy for them to have this opportunity to slow down, but also have been challenged with the fact that for JVs, this is not a time to relax! Rather, it is time to work harder because we work with populations that are in the greatest need. This has helped me to really recognize the importance of the work that JVs do.

It is difficult but essential to keep faith in times of crisis. Because of this, I am so glad to be part of JVC at this time. I’ve been finding it hard to understand how God is working in this time of COVID-19. I am particularly struggling with the fact that I am experiencing so many unexpected good things - like finding new and creative ways to keep in touch with friends and family. I am seeing hearts on people’s windows, and am observing people being patient, sympathetic, generous, and expressing gratitude. However, it is unsettling that these good things are happening as a result of the horrible sickness infecting our world. I want to celebrate these things, but I wonder, is it fair to celebrate while people are suffering?

It has been a blessing to have support from my JVC community and JVC as an organization during this time to help me work through these kinds of thoughts, trust in God, and to remind me of the importance of the work that I continue to do daily.

I want to share an email that I received from a student. Just this one email is all that I needed to consider my JVC year a success:

“I am emailing you to say thank you. Even though we are not at school, you are still helping us with our work in the ways that you can by staying after class or scheduling a time to video chat about the work. I want to encourage you, and let you know to keep going...think positive and it will help get you through the day. In the end you will be blessed by God. I am praying for all of you to stay safe and be blessed.”

And I pray for you to stay safe and blessed too.