One of the best things about SCORE’s Tennessee Educator Fellowship (TEF) is the community it creates. Excellent student-focused educators, who may never have met due to geography or area of expertise, are brought together to think about how we can improve student success in Tennessee.
As the SCORE team has considered how we can best address the ongoing education crisis created by COVID-19, we turned to this group of amazing educators. One of the biggest concerns we have heard is how to comprehensively meet students’ needs during this trying time. In addition to academic concerns, students are feeling anxiety and uncertainty with the disruption to their schedules. Many students rely on their teachers and schools for safety, food, and other support. Educator fellows and TEF alumni recently gathered virtually to discuss the ongoing crisis and how to help students feel safe, connected, and less stressed by the events that surround them. Here are a few suggestions from educators across the state.
A high school counselor based in Nashville shared how she has shifted to a “telecounseling” approach to support students. To begin with, counselors are reaching out to the highest priority students on their caseloads and offering counseling sessions over the phone. The goal of these calls is to provide a regular check-in from a caring adult to ensure that students feel safe and supported. Through these calls, counselors are able to identify any immediate needs, such as food or housing insecurity, that the school community can work to address.
In addition to this telecounseling approach, school leadership has given each teacher a roster of students to check in with regularly. By dividing up the list of students, educators ensure that no students inadvertently fall through the cracks and that all students know their teachers and school leaders are available as resources throughout this time.
Online Daily Check-In
A high school English teacher in Chattanooga shared another approach. As her school shifts to an online learning model, teachers are having students complete a daily check-in each morning through a Google form. The form asks them things like: Are you up and ready to learn? How are you feeling? How is your family doing? This brief form allows students to share if they are having to babysit a sibling or engage in other activities that may take their attention away from learning. Teachers prioritize making a call to any students who seem to be struggling.
This form also lets students share needs they may have, so that the school community can dispatch resources. The school has a large passenger van that is going to students’ bus stops to deliver food and other supplies as needed. In addition to requesting this support through the Google form, parents can contact the school to be added to the delivery list. The Tennessee Department of Education is also urging folks to use the School Meal Finder website to identify places for students to get daily meals.
Additionally, some educators have set up group chats through appropriate channels for their classes to stay connected to each other during this time. Recognizing that a lot of kids will have increased independent time, some teachers are providing recommendations on movies and TV shows to watch, podcasts to listen to, or books to read that have relevance to their academic subject.
We are thankful to live in a state with amazing educators whose commitment to students’ well-being never ceases — even in times of crisis. We look forward to continuing to learn more from our TEF community and share how educators are supporting students through these unprecedented circumstances.
Leigh Cooksey is SCORE’s director of educator engagement.