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School communities must show patience, Brown says

MADISON – “It’s almost eerie. It’s so quiet.”

Shannon Brown, Principal of Liberty Middle School, is having to adjust to an empty school and a new setting while working from home. All teachers and students also are adapting to school shutdown during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While working from home, Brown ‘attends’ administrator meetings and presentations in a virtual view with Google hangouts or other live, streaming meetings. “We make sure that we are in alignment with state requirements. We need to (confirm) that our entire team with Madison City Schools is all on the same page. We don’t need confusion. We don’t need stress,” Brown said.

“Everything is entirely online. What is different is that it is an unchartered time for everybody,” he said.

“I am having a hard time because I can’t see my kids. I’m used to sounds of the kids and the bells ringing. I can’t feel the temperature in the building. I can’t see who needs me (to help out),” Brown said.

“I communicate with my kiddos when I can,” he said, “so the kids can just see my face and hear my voice.”

Instead of ‘calling roll’ to check attendance, teachers “keep up with students in a ‘participation log.’ Teachers know who is finishing work,” Brown said. “We will hold students accountable. For the most part, their academic year ended at the third nine weeks, but we need to see that their mastery continues (in the subject matter,” Brown said.

During this time, everyone must be flexible. “Patience is of the utmost importance — for administrators to be patient with teachers, for teachers to be patient with administrators, for teachers to be patient with the students and for the students to be patient with teachers,” Brown said.

Liberty’s team has been very supportive and patient. None of the teachers has resigned because of the current challenges. “No one at Liberty has said, ‘This is not what I signed up for,’” Brown said.

School leaders “understand that there are a lot of variables and unknowns at this time. We have to communicate. My teachers have to tend to their children and see that they complete their assignments – all while they are teaching their Liberty students,” Brown said. “The last thing we need to do is to add to the stress.”

He said to imagine being a teacher who has a child at Mill Creek Elementary School, another at Liberty and a teenager at James Clemens High School.

“We see how big this (situation) really is and the stress it has created. It is not ‘all our way or the highway,’” Brown said. “We are not requiring teachers to reinvent the wheel. We need ‘alignment’ with assignments so one child is not burdened down and another is free of (homework).”

Education possibly could be changing, with more online classes without a teacher. “I don’t think that the computer will ever replace the teacher. A lot of our kids needs that touch and need that one-on-one (interaction),” he said.

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