Teaching in Challenging Times

PERSEVERING THROUGH THE PANDEMIC

When schools in Belize shut down in March, Holy Cross Anglican teachers scurried to create packets of review materials to send home with students. Teachers communicated with families however possible including using WhatsApp …and the school limped to end the year with a modified graduation for Standard VI and little celebration.

The shutdown impacted teachers as well as students. One of our experienced teachers shared the reality of an economy almost totally dependent on tourism, “In June we were back to share report cards. This was when I realized what my children [students] were going through. During the distribution of report cards, stories of not having enough to eat, of being evicted, of not being sure if they would send their children back to school was what I heard…. It made me see how vulnerable the families that I serve are.”

In August teacher workshops focused on a possible hybrid model with students attending in shifts. Then a new wave of virus hit and the country headed into a second lockdown. This brought about the Government mandate for remote learning which in Belize means using paper packets for primary schools. With the second lockdown HCEF Board members Deacon Jan Lamb and Lonni Skrentner led online mentoring sessions for the teachers. They focused on teacher collaboration and communication within and across grade levels in the development of the paper packets.

Besides continuing to create, copy and assemble learning packets, teachers record short WhatsApp videos for communication and minimal instruction. The remote teaching aspects remain challenging, for instance, how do you teach lower level math without manipulatives? How do parents who don’t speak English help their children with their school work?

Teachers miss the true hands on nature of teaching. Another experienced teacher shared “As time progresses the need for everyone that makes Holy Cross possible becomes more evident. Our students and parents need the teachers, and we the teachers need the help of anyone that can help us to do our job a little better, a little less stressful when dealing with this new norm.”