It’s old news by now that COVID-19 has thrown most of our worlds upside down, as we scramble to meet needs during a global pandemic and create a new sense of normalcy. In the midst of what can feel like chaos, however, there’s also an opportunity to learn. And learning is what we do best at the ELC!
Here are nine things staff have learned since closing our physical doors and opening virtual ones.
- Nobody wants whole, frozen pre-cooked turkeys in the middle of summer. A lesson learned from our new partnership with the OSH food shelf. This represents our first foray into providing a service that helps address barriers to education. Maybe we’ll try again in the fall?!
- Kids are the best teachers, but they need to have their breakfast first! One student’s daughter begrudgingly helped her get online, commenting, “I haven’t even had breakfast yet!”
- ELC staff members have some seriously cute pets. Often guest starring during Zoom staff meetings. See photographic evidence above!
- Don’t leave hand sanitizer unattended! We left our homework packets outside of the school for a weekend in a marked box, complete with hand sanitizer, to help make packet-pickup safer. We returned on Monday to find that everything, packets included, had been…generously sanitized.
- WhatsApp, FaceTime, Phone calls, oh my! If there’s a will, there’s a way our volunteers will make time to continue to connect with students on a weekly basis – sometimes for an hour or more each day!
- We have a renewed sense of the importance of patience. We’ve learned that calling 145 students is a commitment that deserves a lot of our time. We’ve learned that our timelines need to be flexible and that the best laid plans get interrupted by life. Adapting to change has always been a strength of the ELC staff, and it’s one we’re really leaning into at this moment.
- We believe anew in the power of trust. Students and staff have long forged trusting relationships, and we take our unofficial roles as community navigators seriously. In the early days of the pandemic, the first thing we did was call students to make sure they had the information and resources they needed. We continued to respond in ways we haven’t before, including a new partnership with the OSH food shelf, a staff-led supplies drive organized by Volunteer Coordinator Hayat Mohamed, and wellness checks to make sure students have accurate public health information.
- Distance makes the heart grow fonder? The distanced relationships between volunteers and students are more personal than ever, often becoming more than teacher-student and transforming into important friendships.
- We are one family. The ELC staff is closer than ever. Instead of quick hellos and goodbyes as the morning folks end their day and the evening folks begin theirs, we now all see each other every day on Zoom. As our most veteran staff member Mohamed Assalle said recently, “We are now one family.”