Creative Connections: Communicating Through the Closure


I have to be honest. I didn’t see this coming. I never could have imagined that I would be writing about the emergency closure of all the schools in our district and state. But here we are. Most schools across the entire country and many more all over the world have closed their doors for the remainder of the school year. And, like many of you, we are doing things that I never could have imagined just six weeks ago.

That being said, I also never could have envisioned the creative ways that our teachers, staff, and students would find to maintain their connections with one another during this challenging time.

Sometimes it came in the form of a simple phone call with a parent, a hand-written letter mailed to a student, in the controlled chaos of a middle school Google Meet, or through a fun virtual spirit week, but regardless of the method, these are the moments that matter

At E. W. Chittum Elementary, teachers and staff are helping students maintain their morning routines with virtual morning announcements. They say the Pledge of Allegiance, give birthday shout-outs and provide important updates to students and families.

Principals and teachers have been coming up with creative ways to keep their students engaged in learning, including stepping in front of the camera themselves.  The team at Deep Creek Elementary, led by Dr. Barry Brown and Mrs. Heather Febus, is keeping the learning going for their students with a school-wide virtual read.

Grassfield High School’s Photojournalism students are also staying engaged through their G-News Home Edition that features local, national, and international news hosted by students for students. Mrs. Powell’s class is still sharpening their journalistic skills and connecting with their classmates during the closure.

And the Great Bridge Middle School Wildcats expanded their once in-house PAWdCast production to include instructional updates from our administrators in the Division of Teaching and Learning. You can listen to an episode here.

As we look forward to celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week (May 4-8, 2020), we also had to consider the creative ways we could communicate our thanks to the dedicated teachers that are at the heart of our community.  That’s why we need your help. We are asking you, members of our community, to show support for our teachers by printing this image and displaying it in your windows, on your doors, or wherever you can, to let our teachers know they are valued and appreciated. You can also let your favorite teacher know that you recognize their hard work, perseverance, and caring spirit, by sending them a digital shout out here.

Then, we’d also love for you to take a few minutes to hear the voices of some of our talented teachers in our new Teacher Voices series on our YouTube channel.  Learn about how our educators are working through our current challenges and finding creative ways to keep our students engaged.  

It’s always been clear that connection is key when it comes to truly being able to teach, or even reach, students. All over the city, our CPS team has found innovative ways to connect.  I know it hasn’t always been easy, but I also know it’s been worth it.  

Relationships matter most in times like these.  That has been our consistent message as this situation has unfolded.  We will continue to focus our energy on ensuring the safety and well-being of our students, employees, and families.  That’s how we will determine our success in this moment; by how well we take care of each other.   Staying connected is the only way to make that happen.

It’s these types of connections, and so many others I’ve seen on a daily basis, that are the reason that I am confident we will all come out on the other side of this pandemic stronger and more resilient than ever. Until then, keep communicating, keep learning, and keep connecting.