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A tale from Margie Pardo, school counselor

IS 171, East New York, Brooklyn
New York Teacher

I’ve been working remotely since we left in March and it’s been extremely difficult because I’m a hands-on person with students. It was very long hours — it still is — because reaching some of the students is harder. We had the wrong numbers for some students, and some had their phones disconnected. When we can’t find the students, our attendance teacher and our principal make home visits. Everyone is supportive.

The incoming 6th-graders are so amazing. We met them virtually for orientation night when we were recruiting in June, so they knew our faces. They all have my phone number. I have parents and kids calling me during the weekend. I’m OK with that, until a certain time. I get up very early and start working and I’m still calling parents and students at 8 at night. Then I have to do my own thing — make dinner, take care of my health.

The way the schedule is constructed, I have periods of social-emotional learning early in the morning. I like to engage students with a song, a small icebreaker, a short video. Then I pick a topic but sometimes my topic goes out the window because, guess what, they want to talk about something else.

Then I have a lunch club, where students can reach me. I also have my mandated students, who I schedule on a regular basis.

I’m very down to earth and created virtual parties for my students to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. We have a party with games and the winners get prizes, so I’ve actually met some remote students for the first time in front of the school to give them their prizes. And I’m starting a karaoke afterschool club.

In our school, we do as many things as we can to engage students. Our goal is to create a safe space where students feel they belong and are validated.

— As told to reporter Cara Metz