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How teaching from a distance is bringing me closer to my students

April 27, 2020
Tara Lafferty is a middle school teacher at Divine Providence Academy.

This guest post is from Mrs. Tara Lafferty, a teacher at Divine Providence Academy.

I teach 6th-8th grade at Divine Providence Academy. Most of my students live on farms, or on land with a lot of space. Their homes are also spread out from each other, dotting a radius of 30 miles or more.

Transitioning to online teaching and learning was fairly smooth. My students were familiar with platforms such as Google Classroom, since I was already using these tools to deliver content. The next step of using live video conferencing together was an easy one.

However, what was difficult was being away from each other. At first, I approached class like normal, guiding them through their lessons and the work expected from them. But, my students were more reserved than normal. Finally, in our classes during Holy Week, they began to open up and simply talk. I let them.

While we may think students talk via social media - they don't. Many classmates aren't on social media. Or if they are, it’s less meaningful. They needed to have face-to face connection. So, I have learned to sit back and let them talk as they would during lunch, recess and breaks.

During one of these moments, it got quiet. Then, a student said, "I'm lonely."

It made me realize what this was truly about. Since then, our daily online meet-ups still include our guided lessons, but I also allow student time. 

Later, a student asked me in class, "Mrs. Lafferty, can you just read to us?"

Wow. Middle school students wanting their teacher to read a book. They didn't care if it involved a lesson or not. They simply wanted to be read to. Children who can access YouTube and watch famous people read instead want their teacher while sitting with their classmates. So that's what we're doing: guided lessons, talking, and simply reading a book.

This moment in time is about their inner peace. The peace and love of God and what Jesus gave us. Jesus was and is the ultimate teacher, and he teaches love. This has forever changed me as a teacher.

I'll keep on reading to my students, even if they need me over the summer.

Mrs. Lafferty’s story is one example of how Catholic school teachers continue providing students with learning, opportunities to grow in faith, and time to stay connected with friends. During the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers, school leaders, and families have partnered to deliver the Catholic school difference at home.

Learn more about Divine Providence Academy or any of our Catholic schools by contacting our admissions team.

Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids are an alliance of 31 vibrant learning communities (26 elementary and five high schools) serving more than 6,340 preschool through 12th grade students throughout West Michigan. Our schools inspire young people to grow in Catholic faith and grace, achieve more in school and life, develop creativity and character, and feel welcomed and cherished for their unique gifts. We partner with parents to awaken the whole child to a world of light and life — that grows better and brighter when children reach their potential.

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