“While we may be physically apart, our connections are stronger than ever. I always tell my students that in life you have to relentlessly go after the things that you want; you have to work for it. I feel the same way about education. I will work relentlessly hard for kids, always.” — Megan Bailey
Like many educators, Middle School 2 English Language Arts teacher Megan Bailey misses being in her classroom — seeing hands shoot up in the air, hearing “loud and proud” voices, watching her scholars’ faces light up when discovering something new. So when schools shifted to distance learning for the remainder of the academic year, she searched for meaningful ways to engage her scholars and celebrate their achievements.
“Online classrooms shouldn’t just be a stream of assignments. When we’re in the school building, we work hard to make our classrooms a place where scholars want to be, and our digital classroom should be no different!”
She continues: “We can’t just simply share a screen with kids. Scholars need to interact with the content, they need to feel ownership of the space, and they need to feel seen, celebrated, and heard.”
To create that space, Megan strives to create engaging assignments that resonate with scholars. Take, for example, the weekly reading game show she films, Books and Tea, where a new “episode” premieres every Wednesday. Scholars find book excerpts to read against hers, and then the class votes on whose presentation is more engaging. Scholars can win silly prizes, like miniature cutouts of herself and co-teacher Katrina Beals.
And the fun doesn’t end there. Community Time activities often involve virtual scavenger hunts or “guess the gibberish,” a recent trend on Instagram and TikTok.
“Seeing our scholars laugh and connect with one another in a fun, authentic way is so valuable! I love spending time researching things other educators are doing to strengthen connections with scholars. There are so many amazing resources out there. I’m also super thankful for my team, who is always willing to try something new.”
“Megan exemplifies staff ‘Enthusiasm’ and culture-building in distance learning.” — Aly Chatham, MS2 Dean, Upper Elementary School Founding Head of School
And while Megan makes the most of the digital environment, she also understands the importance of stepping outside of that space. Each week, she mails positive, handwritten notes to scholars who are working hard and to those who need a little extra encouragement. In addition, she creates and delivers yard signs for anyone who earns a PRIDE Award.
“I decided on yard signs because they respect social distancing protocols, but also because they celebrate scholars in a community sense. Everyone should know how hard our scholars are working!”
Those small gestures don’t go unnoticed. Recently, a scholar spotted Megan delivering a yard sign from his third floor balcony.
“Hearing him call my name and just seeing the excitement when he saw what I was holding meant everything to me. His siblings were cheering for him; the neighbors started clapping. Those positive, celebratory moments with scholars and families — that’s what we need right now.”