Sometimes, it can be hard to know just how well remote learning is going in the city. Parents might see what happens for their own children, but not for others. Stories emerge on both ends of the quality spectrum, with some teachers excelling in the new model while others hardly logging in at all.

As a parent myself, and a former teacher, I love having real conversations with real educators about the challenges they face and the ways they try to overcome them.

Suffice it to say I was delighted to speak with Ms. Kaitlyn Zwicke of Queens High School for Information, Research, and Technology, which is part of the New Visions for Public Schools Network. Kaitlyn is a third year high school math teacher, and active member of Math for America. As we spoke, I was struck by her appreciation for the role that empathy plays in her practice. Kaitlyn reflected:

“I had always learned since becoming a teacher that building relationships is the foundation to running your classroom. The management will come, the teaching will come. But you need to have relationships with every single student that walks through your door.”

“So, when we were posed with this remote learning challenge, I kind of took it back to day one. I said, OK I have in-person relationships with my students--but now I have to create virtual relationships with them. I made a welcome video for my students that I put in Google Classroom before I posted any assignments. I reviewed the structure of how Google Classroom would work. But then I was just honest with them: I was like I have no idea what is going to happen in the next couple of months, but I care about you first. The math will come. But as long as you are healthy and your family is healthy I want to make sure that everyone is OK. Then we will deal with the math.”

As teachers, schools, and families gear up for the fall, there’s something really important we can all learn from Ms. Zwicke: empathy makes education possible. What a lesson. Like I said, I love talking to teachers.

This post is based on a recent episode of the “Extra Help with Inside Schools” podcast. You can find the entire episode here.

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