Programming during a pandemic presents challenges & opportunities

Hello friends,

We miss seeing you in person at events and ESLC Learning Centers. We, like you, are learning to navigate the world virtually. Literacy Mentors and students began meeting in secure, virtual rooms in October.

Preparing to provide tutoring in a virtual environment required significant planning. This past summer, employees prepared by creating new volunteer training modules. They researched, evaluated, and selected virtual tutoring platforms for each school to make it easy for students to join sessions. Staff also adapted the lessons for an online environment and piloted virtual tutoring at Higher Ground Academy, St. Paul.

Beginning in September, staff began reaching out to committed volunteers to complete background checks and assess technology needs. For those with a need, AARP Foundation
Experience Corps is providing devices so they can tutor.

Due to the complexity of virtual tutoring, volunteers must complete 10 hours of technology, mentoring, and literacy instruction training prior to tutoring. The interface with the technology application for virtual tutoring varies by device, so staff is providing one-on-one practice and troubleshooting sessions for both volunteers and students.

Before a child starts, a staff member meets with a caregiver to gain insight about the child and assess technology needs. ESLC is providing a translator for these meetings, and if needed, internet access, so the child can participate in tutoring sessions.

During the process, the same staff member meets with the teacher to discuss the child’s literacy needs. After acquiring the child’s reading level, ESLC prepares and delivers duplicate sets of materials for each student and the Literacy Mentor.

When all the details are in place, the child and Literacy Mentor begin meeting at least twice a week. If a child is not making progress, ESLC will add one or two sessions per week as new volunteers complete background checks and training.

After each tutoring session, Literacy Mentors complete an online form to let the staff educator know how the child is doing.

As you can imagine, tutoring in a virtual environment is certainly challenging, but it also provides an amazing opportunity. Working adults can tutor from the office over lunch. More volunteers make it possible to serve more children. Online tutoring also makes it possible to support children who need additional sessions to get them reading at grade level. Children and families without access to literacy tutoring can participate.

Finally, staff will have the opportunity to connect directly with parents, learn about the child from the people who know them best, and build a culturally relevant parent engagement plan with their input. ESLC is creating a newsletter with activities parents and children can do together as well.

During this time of change, I am reminded of the words of Theresa Gerhardinger, SSND,
“Follow the star which has arisen you, and it will certainly lead you...”

ESLC is following the star this year and invites you to join us on this journey.
Blessings upon you and stay healthy,

Chris Flippo
ESLC Executive Director