Building community in a virtual world
When K-6 Toronto teacher Curtis Dardaine reflected on this past year, he thought of a quote he tries to live by.
“Find a way, just find a way,” he said.
As teachers altered their teaching styles because of online learning, Dardaine sometimes took an approach that may seem unorthodox: letting his students take the lead.
He called their parents ahead of time, learned their interests and worked to incorporate them into his class.
He set the tone with stretching and dancing in the morning, lesson plans for smaller group sessions, virtual visits with veterinarians, farmers, and authors and venturing out to a community-based non-profit or a lesson on bike safety.
With an unmatched optimism and attention to detail, he would pivot if a student’s attention was off, integrating their interest from sports to video games.
“My job was how to weave that into literacy and numeracy,” he said.
The hard work meant students were comfortable expressing their feelings when major social issues like anti-Black racism or residential schools were in the news, knowing their teacher was there to listen.
“It must start from a place of love,” he said, noting it can take months for students to build trust with their teachers.
Going above and beyond, he wanted to instill a sense of community in a virtual environment. And that is one of his greatest successes.
“Schools sometimes are surrounded by a sidewalk,” he said. “I always say everything that we do that’s inside of our buildings, we have to be able to do on the other side of the sidewalk.”