Last spring, GFS made a commitment to parents of students in preschool through grade 2 to provide free at-home support in the fall for remote learning. The Learning Guide program was piloted in the summer and has been beneficial to our young students this school year.
Last spring, as COVID-19 emerged in the Philadelphia area, many parents and caregivers found themselves having to manage both full-time childcare and full-time oversight of their children's education, without the benefit of their regular support systems and the structure of in-person school. Recognizing the challenging position in which many GFS parents found themselves—particularly those with young children—GFS made a commitment to parents of students in preschool through grade 2 to provide free at-home support in the fall for those who chose to learn remotely and in the event that the school transitions to fully remote. The Learning Guide program was piloted in the summer and so far has been very beneficial to our young students this school year.
Using information collected during a Learning Guide Pilot Program that ran during GFS's virtual summer camps, the Auxiliary Programming team launched the first phase of the program in September, dispatching 20 guides to work in person with students whose families had made the difficult choice to not send them back to campus at the start of the school year. It soon became evident that the students were benefitting immensely from having had the opportunity to work side-by-side with an adult who is not their parent. As one parent described,
"We are thrilled to have Nigel as our James' learning guide. To say it is a life-saving experience is an understatement. James bonded with Nigel so well from week 1. I am constantly impressed by the creativity of games they play together, by the knowledge they share with each other, and by the patience Nigel has to solve any challenges related to remote learning. To see James is so engaged and interested in learning, both from his online cohort/in classroom teachers, and from Nigal, gives us the confidence to continue the stay-at-home arrangement for Nov-Dec." - Parent of second grader James
Learning Guides and their students, or "Tiger Buddies," have created wonderful bonds over the course of the last three months. Working with students on asynchronous activities, playing games during recess, and keeping children engaged during live Zoom lessons, Learning Guides have helped give GFS students a semblance of the social stimulation, excitement, and structure of "normal" school.
In the event of a shift to fully remote school, Betsy Neiva, Director of Auxiliary Programs, and her team, organized a comprehensive plan, which included recruiting and hiring 70 potential guides, organizing group learning pods based on age and location, and training participants. Given the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 in Philadelphia and in the United States, Betsy and her team are fully prepared for a potential shift to school-wide remote learning with a battalion of over 65 talented, highly motivated and profoundly invested Learning Guides, who will step in and provide much-needed support to parents, teachers, and young students as they navigate an unprecedented moment in their educational careers.
While this novel program has been complex to implement, the school recognizes its immense value, which can be shared, replicated, and adapted for other educational settings in the future. Thanks to Betsy, Stacey Cromley, and Isabel Schmidt '16!