An Inside Look at How Educators Are Adapting to the Coronavirus Crisis

As an NYC District Director of Early Childhood Education, Touro Alumna Edele Williams Shares Her Perspective on Shifting to Digital Learning

April 20, 2020
Edele Williams, a Graduate School of Education alumna

My experience during this pandemic has been surreal. As the Director of Early Childhood Education for District 31 at The Richmond Pre-K Center, part of NYC’s Department of Education, I never imagined I’d be leading and making vital decisions related to COVID-19. 

My staff and I had to immediately shift our way of thinking in order to perform our responsibilities in a new way. As educators, practicing social distancing during a pandemic while implementing digital learning with our 3-K and pre-K students is overwhelming. Grappling with this reality, we quickly implemented the word “flexibility” into our vocabulary and adapted to our new normal, accepting that things around us are changing by the minute. Being flexible gives us the opportunity to leverage the power of our emotional intelligence in order to stay grounded and focus our minds on building the future.

I applaud my district leaders and staff for leveraging their innovative skills to go above and beyond the call of duty and utilizing technology, including Microsoft Teams and Google Classrooms, to get our very important job done efficiently and effectively. We keep our students engaged by enabling them to interact directly with their teachers and fellow classmates via these virtual platforms in discussions on various topics. During our virtual meetings, our teachers create visual simulations of their classroom environment in order to deliver critical instruction, host live read aloud sessions, post videos of various activities, and lead singing and movement sessions for students to follow along with. Our teachers also model how to complete a variety of tasks related to science, literacy, writing, art, and math projects during these meetings.

Together as one, albeit separated by distance, we’re strategically maximizing the impact of education for our children during this unprecedented time. 

Family Support is Essential

The families of our students have rallied together and have been both receptive and patient as we navigate these uncharted fields. None of our preparation or the innovative educational methods we’re implementing would be possible without this ongoing support. Typically, parents sit alongside their child, whether at the kitchen or dining room table or somewhere else, to ensure they are attentive during online lessons. Our parents also make it a point to find household materials that their children can use to complete daily assignments and projects, which are then submitted to their teacher for review. In fact, throughout this experience, family engagement has gained a new meaning and has proven critical in powering daily learning sessions. Our interactions with both parents and students alike through various social media platforms are helping us build a deeper bond and appreciation for our new way of teaching and learning.

As I reflect upon my own experience as a graduate student who received an M.S. degree specializing in School Leadership at Touro’s Graduate School of Education, I vividly recall our professor’s emphasis on the importance of using various techniques to support student learning and always thinking creatively on your feet while dealing with a crisis.

Educators Learn from Virtual Teaching Experiences

While we miss the chatter of our physical classrooms, we've come to appreciate the smiles on our student's faces during video chats or from pictures sent by parents. We realize our presence is all that our student's have ever needed, and this fact does not change simply because we're teaching from home. This situation is challenging, but amid it all, we recognize we can rise to meet it.

The COVID-19 crisis is leaving an indelible impression on the lives of many, even our preschoolers who are not yet old enough to comprehend that they’re building the resilience necessary to thrive while overcoming barriers throughout their life.