A Nashville kindergarten teacher tells how delivering food, improvising online learning, and sharing his cell phone number helped him forge a powerful bond with families in crisis during COVID-19

At the beginning of March, Nashville was hit by a major tornado. In Metro Nashville School District, where I teach kindergarten, 85 percent of our students are on free and reduced lunch, so when schools closed due to COVID-19 a few weeks later, our focus was on meeting the humanitarian needs of our families, many of whom were still recovering from a natural disaster.

At first, the district chose to not formally engage in distance learning, although teachers were encouraged to provide resources and lessons at their discretion. Every day we provided breakfast and lunch for the 85,000 students in our district through meal pickups. If families couldn’t get to the pickup site, we delivered meals to the homes while following all necessary safety precautions. The district also provided work packets online and printed packets for pick up.

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Another reason we didn’t immediately jump into formal instruction online was that, because of the population we serve, we knew there were issues with technology access. Each teacher surveyed our parents about what devices and internet access they had, then the district was able to distribute laptops and iPads to families who needed devices.

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