On Thursday, March 12, West Catholic High School decided we needed to provide teacher training about online learning. Students were told to come to school two hours late so teachers could have time to work together. When students arrived at school, the teachers used their class time to discuss what online learning would look like for our school and for individual classes should we be unable to attend in-person classes. There were growing concerns over the rapidly spreading coronavirus but no one predicted what would happen next.
On the morning of March 13, schools all over Michigan closed. West Catholic was ready to begin online learning--but what about our 32 international students? On March 16, many of our international students were encouraged to return home by their agencies. How would they continue learning? During that week we said goodbye to 10 of our students, and for four of our seniors, it was the last time. But despite returning home, learning did not stop for any of these students. Teachers meet the challenge with courage and compassion. Learning continued through online classes when possible and over email or other messaging apps when necessary. West Catholic teachers sought creative ways to communicate, support and grade our students who returned home, often to face quarantine. By putting grace before grades, each teacher found ways to make sure their students were still successful academically.
Whansu returned home to South Korea on March 17. South Korea had already seen a great deal of infection by the time Whansu got back home. He was quarantined with his family for two weeks, but he was not bored. He had classes to attend and assignments to complete. Because of the time change, he could not always attend classes, and when he couldn’t, he was met with empathetic emails from teachers reminding him to do what he can. “I had to be quarantined for two weeks and I just stayed at home. WC teachers were really flexible and are helping me get through this hard time and time zone difference. They also did great organizing their Canvas pages so it was easy to follow.”
Mia returned home to Vietnam on March 21. When she arrived home, she had to remain quarantined with all other returning Vietnamese international students in an empty college dorm in Ho Chi Minh City. “I have online classes from 10-12:30 a.m. EST time, which is 9-11:30 p.m. in Vietnam. It was tough the first few days where my body was jet-lagged. West Catholic teachers were very helpful and understanding about my situation so they excused my absences and extended my due dates.” Mia is set to finish her sophomore year without missing a day of class or a moment of instruction while on the other side of the world.