For all of the work and planning that went into making remote learning as rewarding an experience as possible this year, a major breakthrough in reaching students came by doing – nothing.
“One day I just decided to leave the Zoom open for lunch. It went so well we created a plan to have the kids stay in a remote cafeteria and socialize around a remote ‘cafeteria table’ before they go off to recess,” said remote teacher Eileen Mulcahy.
Mrs. Mulcahy and her remote teacher partner Will Marcotte quickly knew they stumbled upon something with the remote cafeteria.
“I’ve seen kids who previously struggled with attendance eager to come to class because they know that after their class, their cafeteria opens,” said Mrs. Mulcahy.
“The number of smiles light up the screen like summertime fireworks bring glee to the night. The students are able to catch up with each other in a way that we were previously unable to achieve,” said Mr. Marcotte.
Often, Mrs. Mulcahy will turn off her camera and mute herself, giving the students more of a peer-to-peer environment.
“I’ve seen kids become more vocal about sharing what’s happening in their lives and their homes,” said Mrs. Mulcahy. “They stress and decompress. They talk about things that are fun but also things that are bothering them.”
“We stay in the main room and just talk to each other,” said 4th grader Eli Urda. “We talk about pretty much almost everything that’s going on.”
“He stays on every day since they’ve started. He seems to really enjoy it. He has conversations with the classmates. I hear him giggling, so I think he’s really enjoying it,” said Eli’s mother, Erica Urda.
The remote cafeteria has quickly become a bright spot in an unprecedented and sometimes challenging learning environment.
“We want the kids to feel like part of a community and family, that they are loved and can have some of the same opportunities as others,” said Mrs. Mulcahy. “I call them pioneers, pioneers in learning. No one has ever done this before. No kid in history has done what they’ve done the past year.”