Author: Richard Barth, KIPP Foundation CEO
Sharing the extraordinary efforts and leadership happening across our KIPP Team & Family is something I look forward to every week. During this unprecedented time, I wanted to bring to us all the perspectives of two of our KIPPsters, Maddison (5th grader from KTX-Houston) and Serenity (8th grader from KIPP Kansas City). It’s a snapshot of a day in their lives. They are brave, curious, vulnerable and adaptive; you see this in our KIPPsters every day.
Every weekday morning, over 100,000 KIPPsters wake and look to you, our teachers and leaders, for learning, wisdom and connection. It’s an immense responsibility. And I see you meeting it with joy, dedication and determination.
8AM — Students wake and dress for school
In Texas, where KIPP distributed 11,000 Chromebooks, students are expected to be dressed and sitting down to breakfast by 8am, ready to follow their grade-level Distance Learning Plan. By 8:45 in the morning, Maddison begins her day with independent reading, in a room where the quiet is both welcome and at times, too quiet. She misses seeing her friends and looks forward to being online at 9:30am with teachers and classmates for English Language Arts (ELA).
In Kansas City, Serenity helps care for her two-year old sister, then takes her computer out to the back porch so she can focus. First up is Math class. She’s worried about keeping up. “I finally got into my dream high school, Lincoln Preparatory High School. And then this, COVID-19; and I wonder if (not being in school) will hold me back. Sometimes math takes me more time than other people. I really want to be ready for next year.”
Heading to Google Classroom online, Serenity works problems long-hand, on paper, checking her work as she goes. If she’s stuck on a problem, Serenity borrows her Dad’s phone to call her math teacher.
9:30AM — Across the country, KIPPsters and teachers are at school, from home
Maddison goes online in Texas to meet her teacher and classmates in Google Classroom. Like other students, Maddison says she took seeing her classmates and teachers face-to-face for granted. “It’s not the same going online,” says Maddison, “but the upside is fewer distractions.”
In Kansas City, Serenity’s experience is just the opposite. A two-year-old proves a big distraction during her morning music class. In school, Serenity plays the trumpet. But, since there aren’t enough instruments for every student to take home, her inventive music teacher, Ms. Monroe, has students clap-counting complex music patterns to level-up their skills while instruments aren’t in hand.
“At school,” says Serenity, “we say, ‘Find a way or make one.’ And, so even though it’s hard right now, we do it.”
10AM — Take a break and then back to work; it’s math time in Texas, and language arts in Kansas City
In English Language Arts, Serenity’s teacher, Ms. Moore, assigned a packet on pandemics throughout history because she wanted students to know they weren’t the only ones to experience a pandemic, and that they are strong enough to get through this. “That was completely new to me,” says Serenity, “how many people those pandemics killed, the areas that it impacted. It’s history. And now, we are making history.”
“These are the analytic skills we taught in the academic curriculum,” says Ms. Moore, “but now there’s a real life application. You read two different texts about coronavirus, and they both say different things. Are you going to just believe what people say or are you going to analyze what you read?”
In Texas this week, Maddison’s assignment was to read two texts: “I am the Library Lady” (by poet J. Patrick Lewis) and an article about “Making Books in Braille.” To further develop her analytical writing, Maddison needed to write about the similarities and differences between the two texts.
Shifting to Math, this week’s pre-algebra curriculum had Maddison finding the quotient of a whole number, and working with unit fractions.
11AM – Science, Lunch, Social Studies
In Virtual science class, this week’s lesson focused on sedimentary rocks, fossil formation, and the earth’s rotation. “I like working at my own pace,” says Maddison, “but I also know I should have appreciated school more than I did.”
12PM–2PM — Lunch and one last push before getting some outdoor time or meeting one-on-one with a teacher
“At first I thought this was all going to pass,” Serenity reflects. Considering that all those moments students visualize in the future are, for them, potentially not going to take place (at least not like they had planned). “Like walking across the stage to celebrate the completion of 8th grade,” Serenity says, “I’m so sad that we might not be able to do that.”
Meanwhile, 5th grader, Maddison (pictured in blue) just got word that her school will be closed for the remainder of the year. It’s tough news. More weeks of grappling with isolation, competing demands, and the need for new levels of family engagement.
“Sometimes before I go to sleep at night, I think about it,” says Serenity. “It’s really scary to me, that this virus could possibly happen to anybody.” To cope, she writes stories with a happy ending, about a time when schools open up again.