Bridging Literacy Education Across Isolation


In April, we shared an article about how LCNV had worked together to continue classes through distance learning platforms, and kept providing English education to the community that need it the most. Recently, we interviewed our instructors and students to take a closer look into the Distance Learning classrooms. Like with most changes the reaction to pivoting online was initially apprehensive, but by the end of the semester Distance Learning programs turned out to be an invaluable success for the LCNV community. As the teachers and students commented, it was a process where they “grew together, and all learned about something new.” “I think that has been a huge accomplishment for LCNV to continue bringing education to students in a different approach during this difficult time,” says Instructor Karen at the end of the semester, “Students are definitely the beneficiaries of that, and the technologies they learned are easily transferable in their lives.”

Instructors, as well as students, have shown an enormous amount of dedication, flexibility, and patience during the transition. At first, most of the instructors and students expressed their concern about this new way of instruction. “I am not a tech person, and I am not sure how I will cope with teaching my students in distance,” shared Wafa, teacher of an LCNV Beginning English level 1 class, “but I like challenges and want to try to work this out. Our class first started out with only me recording and sending students materials and videos, but then gradually we moved to video chat once a week, then two times a week, and soon enough we are able to have classes three times a week just like we had before.”

Teachers encouraged students to have as much conversation as possible, knowing that with virtual classrooms, it can be hard for students to walk around and interact with each other as much as before. For example, co-teachers Karen and Lesley frequently break up the virtual classroom into smaller groups and let students speak English with each other while they offer support. According to Karen, they were able to give immediate help and feedback “like we were in classrooms”. To better engage with the students and help them to adapt, teachers made adjustments to the time and delivery of classes based on students’ accessibility and schedule, and used a combination of materials from textbooks and online resources. When LCNV student Mei was asked about how she felt about the class moving online, she shared: “at first distance learning seemed tough, however teachers helped me to adjust to this new approach, and I gradually found it time-saving as it allowed me to take care of my child while being in the classroom.”

Understanding that students also have the need to socialize apart from learning English, teachers extended the classroom’s impact beyond the space of education. Stan, teacher of one of LCNV’s Beginning English level 3 class, used one of his weekly sessions as “Friday Fun Night”, where he and the whole class watched TV shows, listened to songs, told jokes in English, and more importantly, chatted about interesting events that happened during the week. For Stan, distance learning created the best opportunity to incorporate multimedia materials, expose students to real life scenarios that are not included in the textbooks, as well as provide some social and relaxing time during the quarantine and social isolation.

For Elizabeth’s Family Learning Programs (FLP), the teaching experience is also vibrant and dynamic. FLP is a program designed for helping non-English speaking parents work together and interact with their children, build a habit of family learning, and improve English during the process. “I soon learned that we needed to start with less to achieve more,” shares Elizabeth. For her, it was a big adjustment in the first few weeks as she needed to learn how to pace the class. As it can sometimes be hard to predict what topics will resonate with students, Elizabeth decided to let students take control over the classroom topics and put herself in a more “guide and support” position. For example, while students were discussing food, they would occasionally take the whole class on “tours” of their garden to show what they grow, and show their whole house on the way - which is not what Elizabeth had predicted or arranged in the first place - but she encouraged the students to do so anyhow, because when they passionately shared a portion of their life, their eagerness led to a more natural way of learning English. “After I paced myself and let students have control over the flow of conversations, I got really amazed by the topics and students’ achievements that bubble up along the way.”

During these experimental weeks of distance learning, LCNV instructors meaningfully continued student learning, surmounting a myriad of obstacles along the way.

The virtual classrooms bridged across isolation and created a time of positivity and togetherness for students, teachers, and the whole LCNV community. At the end of the semester, all the instructors reflected that students were eager to keep the classes going and did not want the class to finish as they enjoyed the togetherness. One even commented that the instructors “lit their path of darkness.” LCNV’s distance learning summer session is up and running for the month of July. We look forward to hearing more heart-warming stories, exciting achievements, and moments of positivity from our virtual classrooms!