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Finding Smiles during a Virtual Year

Finding Smiles during a Virtual Year

by JoAnne Pearce on August 16, 2021

Do you ever think of something and can't help but smile? Do you know those moments when a joyful memory changes your outlook for the day? I am blessed to have so many memories like this, and today I would love to share some memorable moments from this past year that have made me smile.

This school year, I joined my fellow McShan Reading Homeroom volunteers in navigating a new world of virtual tutoring. You see, even after schools reopened in the fall, volunteers were asked not to return to campuses across the district to mitigate risk. Even though researchers say virtual tutoring can work, it comes with trade-offs. As I am sure you can imagine, it can be challenging to establish a relationship through a screen, and it isn't easy to make sure students show up consistently. I had been tutoring a student via Zoom for a few months.  We struggled at first to communicate but managed well enough to get through our lessons each week because each lesson plan has been designed so that every tutoring session is filled with multiple opportunities for the student to build on the skills they already have, which leads them to achieve proficiency in simple English reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills. My heart fills with joy to see kids succeed!

As you can imagine, I had a smile on my face long after the end of each of our sessions.

Then one day, as we were saying our goodbyes, my student said, "Wait," and began writing on his dry erase board. He held up his board for the camera. He had written "loev." (I fought the urge to correct his spelling at that moment.) I knew what he meant, and that was enough. I formed the shape of a heart with my fingers to show my understanding, and he responded in kind with a very enthusiastic "Yes!" I then held up the sign language symbol for "I love you." And with vigorous head nodding, he mimicked the sign and again exclaimed, "Yes! Yes!"

Yes! I'm smiling. Are you?

There were more smiles to be made this summer. In addition to individual tutoring, the Vickery Meadows Summer Reading Academy provides enrichment activities (music, art, dance, puppetry, STEM). We call this Fun@4! And oh, what fun it is.

Let me set the scene. Imagine, if you will, a Zoom meeting with 40 little windows containing the faces of 30 kiddos plus a half-dozen or so adults (most of whom are old enough to be their grand- or great-grandparents). With microphones ON! There was utter chaos, a cacophony of sounds, and a joyous noise all at once. During these sessions, I would scroll through the pages looking at each little window to see the expressions on the kids' faces. And then, one day, I began to notice the faces of the adults. They were smiling! Their faces filled with joy; what a moment to remember.

I'm smiling again! Are you?

Unbelievably, one of my favorite memories is how I would feel at the end of what some might call a staff meeting on Zoom. If you've ever sat in a staff meeting, you may be wondering how that could ever be a pleasant memory. I would sign off of those meetings walking on air because I was so inspired by the sheer enthusiasm of the people behind the scenes of MRH/VMSRA. They spend countless hours researching educational topics and curricula. They have found a multitude of digital resources for our students to use; this allows us to be virtual. They procured, assimilated, and distributed physical materials that the students can use at home. They are always on the lookout for the child's best interest and the best practices for our educational process. Besides tutoring their own students, they also make time to recruit, cultivate and assist new tutors. That kind of passion and dedication to a mission is awe-inspiring.

Remember the smiles on the adult faces from above: it is that kind of awe. It is a feeling of pure joy at seeing the face of God in each of these people as they serve the children of God with pure joy! 

May our days be filled with smiles as we serve God and God's people. Amen. 

McShan Reading Homeroom Makes the Front Page!

August 1st, McShan' s Reading Homeroom program was featured on the Sunday FRONT PAGE of the Dallas Morning News as a standout model of school based tutoring programs!!!!!

To read more about the importance of high quality intervention and how the McShan tutors have pivoted during COVID visit: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/education/2021/07/29/tutoring-is-key-to-texas-covid-19-recovery-plans-heres-how-one-dallas-school-maximized-it/

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