By now we all know that our Seventh-day Adventist schools, along with all the other public and parochial schools nationwide, have had their doors closed. Closed, meaning there are no students, teachers, and parents going in and out of the building. While that may seem like every fourth-grade boy’s dream, it does not mean that the school is shut down. It only means that school stopped functioning inside of the walls of the building.
A remarkable and really exciting part to this story is that, within 24-72 hours after schools closed, a very high percentage of the Atlantic Union schools started online learning. Students who did not begin online classes immediately received educational packages from the schools.
The onset of this virus has propelled new innovations in the educational system. Teachers are now using online teaching and learning to continue meeting their educational goals and objectives across the Atlantic Union. The bonus is that, while many of these students participate in their class’s online worships, some of the students’ parents and siblings have become a part of the “family worship.” One parent commented, “A few weeks ago I was considering pulling my daughter out of the Adventist school.” This week she said, “I am so glad that I did not pull her out because now I see that there is so much more to Adventist education.” Another parent said, “I see that my child in your school is getting so much more than my other children who are not in your school.” A new day has dawned for educators and students, and COVID-19 seems to have opened up avenues for teachers to offer quality education to students in different ways.
You may ask how the teachers and the students are coping in times like these. Philippians 4:13, NIV, says, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” And 2 Timothy 1:7, NKJV, reminds us that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” Using the tools that God has given us and with His help, our essential workers, our educational front-liners, and the teachers, are rising to the challenge.
Teachers utilize various methods to reach and teach students. Nearly 100 percent of our students are being reached by teachers using online tools, such as, but not limited to, e-mail, Zoom, Google Meet, Google Classroom, ClassDojo, Skype, and YouTube. Teachers and administrators are making videos and posting them so that students remember how much they are loved, appreciated, and missed. Additionally, teachers are using online resources. such as, but not limited to, Edmundo, Google Translate, Marco Polo, Spelling City, and BrainPOP to engage the students.
Furthermore, the North American Division has made available several links to programs with online resources that teachers can use to deliver quality education. There are some students who may not have the equipment or the tools to connect virtually with the teachers. Some schools have purchased equipment for their students, while others prepare weekly packets that the students pick up from school each week. Still others, in some of our smaller schools, provide door-to-door service. They drop off packets and pick up completed work from their students’ doorsteps. We can say that we are placing our trust in God and He is making the crooked places straight. It is well with our educational system. We are still in the business of leading children to say yes to Jesus and preparing them for now and for eternity.
One middle-school parent had initial doubts as to how the online program would benefit her son. She expressed, “My child has been motivated to complete his online assignments. We don’t have to prompt him to complete his work. He is intrigued by the types of components teachers are sending for the lessons. He has a newfound joy for the use of technology in the classroom. There have been lots of opportunities for students to interact with their teachers through worship held at the beginning of each lesson and prayers for concerns during this time of COVID-19. Teachers have also been readily available at the end of class sessions and via e-mail. For our household, this has helped us to ease smoothly into the transition of remote learning.”
In these uncertain and anxious times, our Adventist schools quickly readjusted their program to provide online learning and to provide services that cater to the social and emotional needs of the students. The students and parents are excited to meet online and to be able to see each other, sing together, make prayer requests, pray for one another, and celebrate birthdays. The worship service each morning provides mental strength for all. It also comforts students and parents, and gives joy to the teachers as they help families face anxiety and the unknown every day. These schools endeavor to provide for the spiritual, mental, physical, academic, and artistic needs of our students. Listed are some things our schools are doing:
• The administration provides weekly updates to the parents, guardians, and students.
• The hard-working teachers, who worship with students daily, continue to provide strong academic education and support.
• All academic classes continue to be offered.
• Bible texts for students and parents are posted daily.
• A virtual chapel is held for the students weekly.
• Our schools help students stay connected, socially and spiritually. This connectivity includes Christian music playlists, daily Bible verses, Bible guides, and worship templates.
• Online academic tutoring is offered for some students in the afternoons and evenings.
• A video message from the faculty and staff for the students, their families, and the world is posted daily. These videos offer spiritual thoughts, scenes from the school, daily challenges for students, and responses from students, as well as some good humor. (For example, check one out at pinetreeacademy.info/COVIDEO-9.)
Ivanhoe Douglas, South Brooklyn Academy principal, was asked, How do you know that the students are attending classes and are learning? “I walk the virtual halls of my school, checking online what is going on in each class. Indeed we are experiencing challenging, confusing, and perilous times, but I am thankful that learning is taking place,” Douglas said.
Pine Tree Academy’s principal Brendan Kruger was asked, How do you cope with and stay focused in meeting the needs of your students, despite the challenges surrounding the coronavirus? He said, “When walking down a changing, confusing, and potentially perilous pathway, I am thankful to be doing it with a competent and supportive faculty and staff, strong student leadership, and a resilient student body. Also, to paraphrase Philippians 1:6, God has begun a good work in Adventist education, and He will be faithful to complete that work. He will continue to bless our school, even in these trying times.”