March 13, a Friday, was the last time I was with my students. Yes, on a Friday, the 13th, it was announced through an email at 12:08pm, while I was teaching during a period called Phoenix Time, our intervention/enrichment time. I had 25 students I my room, all sitting quietly and typing on their iPads. My enrichment time is Blogging and all the students were writing a story or adding a comment to another’s story using Kidblog. The time to change classes was 12:13pm.
When I saw the email, I simply airplayed it to the Smartboard for all to see and began to read it aloud.
Dear APS Families and Staff:
In response to growing concerns and anxiety in our community about the coronavirus (COVID-19), Arlington Public Schools and Falls Church City Public Schools have aligned, and in close collaboration with other Northern Virginia school divisions, will close beginning Monday, March 16, 2020. The present plans are to remain closed through Spring Break, with students scheduled to return on Tue, April 14, 2020. We will continue to evaluate and monitor the situation on a daily basis and will provide an update on our plans as new information is available….
Given all the information available now, including other closures throughout the National Capital Region that impact our staff and families, we believe this is the best decision to make at this time.
All of us, school administrators, staff, and parents, want the same outcome–keeping our kids and community safe.
Each of our divisions will send additional logistical details of the closure to our staff and families later today. Thank you for your continued understanding and patience.
Cintia Z. Johnson
Interim Superintendent, Arlington County Public Schools
Peter J. Noonan Ed.D.
Superintendent, Falls Church City Public Schools
Quickly, all started to comprehend what I was reading. The quiet classroom changed quickly. Some cheered. Some shouted out questions. I answered by simply rereading the lines I highlighted above. Then it was time to switch classes and I had one more class to teach.
My agenda on Fridays is always the same – it is “Read-aloud Friday”. I teach 114 students in a class called Reading 6 in a 6-8 middle school. My students also have a 6th grade English class. My class is focused on giving my students an added boost to build their reading life. We read, we think, we take notes. And on Fridays, I model how I read and think and we practice having respectful class discussions.
Currently I am reading the following:
To support our next unit, the Social Issue Book Club unit, I use these guiding questions during the read-aloud:
- What is the identity of the character, specifically what social groups do they belong to (gender / race / ethnicity / language community / age / family structure / physical or mental ability / religion / interests / socio-economic status) ?
- Who has the power? What is causing the power imbalance?
Just before my read-aloud ended at 12:58pm on Friday, March 13th, I asked my last class, “Who has the power now in our life?” All replied quickly, “The coronavirus.”
I reminded the students before they left to keep reading. By reading nonfiction texts, we will now about things like school closing. By reading novels, they can seeing how characters deal with power imbalances. By reading we come to know how to live.
The last time I saw my students was Friday, the 13th in March, 2020. I now connect with them online. I look forward to seeing them again in person so we can get back to our read-aloud and our discussions.
And based on the novels I read, I believe in underdogs. I know our smart scientists will take the power back by eradicating this virus.