By Lisseth Potosme, Program Director
Just as COVID-19 has changed everyone's life around the world, it has changed how we operate today, and our learning centers have not been the exception. Each day, our students face enormous challenges such as:
During Covid spikes, tutoring converts to distance learning with tutoring guides prepared by our teacher
Not having academic support in their home
Faced with a daily temptation to drop out of school
Getting promoted to the next grade even when they did not reach the normal minimum requirements to graduate, thus setting them up for failure in their new grade.
Facing the loss of loved ones or the fear they may lose loved ones at any time.
Their lives will never be the same......
To address some of these issues, we have made numerous changes.
Our student follow-ups in school that used to be once a month are now done weekly in order to track more closely our students' attendance and academic grades. This change has also helped us form a stronger alliance with the public school teachers and principals so we can together improve each students' academic deficiencies.
Our tutoring program has been run for many years by high school and university student volunteers. They have done a tremendous job. However, the tutoring program is now so critical to our student’s success that we have hired two new professionally trained teachers. These teachers hold classes in critical subjects for our students (Spanish and Math) as well as providing professional leadership to the tutoring program supported heavily by our student volunteers.
The new Spanish and mathematics teachers oversee the training of the tutors with new learning methodologies. As a result, our tutors are turning into academic facilitators in the classrooms and have their professionally designed lesson plans in Spanish and mathematics for students of all grades from 1st to 11th grade according to the educational needs of each group.
Due to the high unemployment rates among our families, the “School Snack” program that we offered for children for 138 students from 1st to 6th grade has now been extended to all of the 310 students in the program who receive a nutritious meal once a day, five days a week. For many of our students, this is the only full meal they receive.
Currently, tutoring groups are small groups with a maximum of 15 students, not only for the protection against COVID-19 but also because we wish to offer each student more personalized tutoring for a better understanding of content. This year, the involvement of parents has been an even more critical factor in sustaining our programs. Every three months, we conduct what we call academic assemblies where parents can obtain their children's academic results individually, instead of waiting for grades at the end of the term. Those parents whose children are presenting more significant difficulties or academic problems are able to get feedback and guidance.
These adjustments have required a significant effort on the students’ part as well and their efforts are rewarded. Students have been motivated not to miss classes and, in turn, receive prizes for excellent attendance at the end of the month. The prizes are extra school materials that they can use for their school classes.
All of the adjustments have involved a lot of logistical and follow-up work by the EI team. The extra effort is paying off and each day we are encouraged by the continual step-by-step progress as the students are regaining ground that was lost due to the pandemic.