Learning environment

Local families face change, new learning environment with school closures




THELocal students are in their second week of home learning after schools state and tribewide closed due to the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Many of these students, and their families, face challenges with a new learning environment.

Following a Friday March 14 executive order from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper that closed state public schools until the end of March, the Cherokee Central Schools (CCS) followed suit. . Governor Cooper extended those closures, in another executive order from Monday, March 23, until at least May 15, as has CCS.

Tsini McCoy, a member of the EBCI tribe and a freshman at Swain County High School, works on missions. (Photo courtesy of the McCoy family)

“The motivation of being in a live classroom is definitely lacking at home,” said Rosie McCoy, mother of two students from the Birdtown community. “They feel like they can grow back longer.”

She added, “They both have a better appreciation for the school. Neither of them had ever expected them to miss school like this, so it was an eye-opening experience. Not only do they miss their social life at school, but they miss the whole “school” experience.

Connor McCoy, 18, Rosie’s son and member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), is in his final year of Swain County High School. “It really made me uncomfortable. It is difficult to find the motivation to do things related to schoolwork. I miss my teachers and friends too.

Rosie’s daughter Tsini McCoy, 15, is a member of the EBCI tribe and a freshman in Swain County. “I don’t like being stuck at home because I like to see my friends every day. I am a very sociable person and it is difficult for me.

Connor McCoy, a member of the EBCI tribe and a student at Swain County High School, works on his laptop at home. (Photo courtesy of the McCoy family)

Being at home causes Connor to miss many things associated with being a high school student. “This experience made my last year not so great. I can’t see my teachers and friends, and I can’t do my senior sports. I will not be allowed to have a graduation party and I may not be able to walk to graduation. So that pretty much ruined my senior year. I’m just trying to figure out the problem and do what I’m supposed to do to stay safe.

Michelle Long, a member of the EBCI tribe from the Big Cove community, is a head teacher at New Kituwah Academy, which is also closed at the moment. At home, she works with two students: her son Denili Hill, 14, who is in ninth grade at Cherokee High School, and Layla ER Johnson, 14, who is in eighth grade at Cherokee Middle School.

“Math has changed so much,” Michelle said. “If they have any questions, I just tell them to do what they can. Internet and Wi-Fi are a problem.

Denili Hill, member of the EBCI tribe and freshman at Cherokee High School, works on homework on her laptop. (Photo courtesy of the Long family)

She said there were positive aspects to the situation, including an increase in time spent with family. “My children learn a lot more about cultural ways. They enjoyed the outdoors more! They fished. They put together some ramps and started a garden. Today they will learn to prepare river cane and Denili will help her father make stickball sticks. They helped prepare meals, they cook!

Denili, an EBCI tribal member, said: “It’s better than being in school. I have a lot of fun times. I exercise a lot more.

Layla, a member of the Santee Sioux tribe from Nebraska, said, “It’s boring because I don’t have my friends.

Cherokee High School (CHS) principal Dr. Debora Foerst spoke to One Feather about the school’s plan during the shutdown. “Cherokee High School is committed to a hybrid approach. We are a 1: 1 school because each of our students receives a laptop computer for educational use; However, not all students have access to the Internet at home. So, teachers prepared print packages, uploaded items to a shared folder that students were encouraged to access before leaving campus on Friday, March 13, and / or using Google Classroom.

Layla Johnson, a member of the Santee Sioux tribe of Nebraska and eighth grader at Cherokee Middle School, is shown picking up ramps as part of outdoor education during school closings. (Photo courtesy of the Long family)

She went on to say, “Students who need internet access can use the Wi-Fi that our CCS IT staff has placed in the parking lot in front of the CHS, and Cherokee Broadband has made free Wi-Fi available. in various locations across town. Students can stay in their cars, maintain social distance, and access the Internet to complete their work. ”

Dr Foerst said this new environment posed challenges. “The fact that not all students have access to the Internet has been a big challenge. In addition, it was difficult for teachers to create or produce material in such a short period of time that would support student learning over a long period of time. Finally, making sure we have an element of accountability in place for the work we send home has been a challenge. We want students and parents to take this work seriously, so completing it will be beneficial, and not completing it will have consequences. “

In addition to being the principal of Cherokee High School, Dr. Foerst is also the mother of a CHS student. “My daughter is a good student who is conscientious in her homework. In fact, the second the school was announced closing, she picked up her packages and got down to business. So schoolwork was not a problem. The biggest challenge, as a parent, is the fact that my daughter is super active and super social and both of those lanes have been moved or closed completely. ”

She added, “Her high school athletic season, her travel volleyball season and her work in the CHS musical ‘Hairspray’, it all ended immediately, not to mention the fact that she and his friends couldn’t get together, go bowling, or go to the movies. I still tried to increase my activity level. So we went out for a walk, built some evening fires in the yard and got pretty competitive in phase 10. ”

Ethan Clapsaddle helps four students, at three different educational institutions, with their work, including his son, Goo Clapsaddle, 11, a member of the EBCI tribe who is in sixth grade at Cherokee Middle School; her son, Walker Clapsaddle, 15, a member of the EBCI tribe who is in first grade at Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School; Johannes Solibieda, 15, a German second-year exchange student who attends Rabun Gap with Walker; and Nolan Arkansas, 20, a member of the EBCI tribe who is in second year at Yale University who comes to their house several times a week to use their internet access to complete his spring semester online after classes close. in person at the university.

“Some of the challenges we face are on multiple fronts,” Ethan said. “For the older boys, they were with us for their spring break before the outbreak restrictions, so they don’t have their computers, books, materials, etc. We can’t go back to campus to get these things, so we’re just trying to figure it out. We have limited computers here at home. So we have to run and share the Wi-Fi, tablets and laptop between the kids and my work needs and the doctoral program I’m in at Western Carolina University.

Haizleigh Driver, a member of the EBCI tribe and a student at New Kituwah Academy, fills out the worksheets for his school printing dossier. (Photo courtesy of the Driver family)

He goes on to say, “I guess beyond the logistical issues, there are just the frustrations of all of the home schoolwork for all these guys. I know these are unprecedented times for everyone, including schools. We are in that space between “are the kids going back this school year” or “how do we get them instruction and course content” at home in a beneficial way? ”

Goo said, “I’m not going to lie, I don’t really like work packages, but all of that made me miss school. I miss my friends, teachers and being able to play basketball.

Ethan also sees bright spots in the situation. “The positive thing for us was being able to spend so much time together as a family. Our schedules are always so crazy with work, school, and basketball that we can’t just hang out together. We have eaten more family dinners at home over the past few weeks than we have in a very long time which has been enjoyable. We were able to do more of the outdoors together like hiking, playing around the house, and just relaxing together and reconnecting. This part of it all doesn’t bother me at all.

Dr Foerst has also seen some positive aspects emerge from this situation. “As scary and volatile as things have seemed to all of us, there are definitely positives to everyone spending more time at home. I see families spending time with each other, and more and more people seem to be walking the trails and ramps! Students learn things from their parents, grandparents and other family members that we cannot always teach them here.

Kristin Driver, a teacher at New Kituwah Academy, has three school-aged students at home, including a second, third and fifth student. “The biggest challenge we have faced, when it comes to home schooling, has been finding a routine / schedule that works for everyone and meets all of each child’s academic, social and emotional needs. . ”

In addition to other parents, she has seen positive results. “There are many benefits for kids who learn at home: more time with family, time to teach age-appropriate life skills, more outdoor learning (in our backyard of course). ) and more flexibility. ”

Dr Foerst summed up the sentiment of many: “People cook at home and we all realize that being busy isn’t always better.