For the 10,000 students attending Polish Language Schools on the East Coast, remote learning in the Spring meant renewed connections to Poland. What lies ahead is uncertain.
Read the original story in Bialy Orzel.
Remote education has been a challenge for all teachers who had to quickly adapt to the virtual teaching void of the school environment and for parents who had to promptly organize “school at home.” Now most of the school community is looking forward to the first day of the new school year, according to representatives of the Polish schools community in the New York area.
“When early this spring the COVID pandemic forced us to social distancing, closing schools and offices and coming up with quick alternative ways of continuing teaching and business, the primary goal of the Council of Polish Schools in America was to make sure we can continue to provide education to some 10,000 students attending Polish Language Schools on the East Coast,” says Bozena Mahmoud, spokesperson of the Council of Polish Schools in America, an umbrella organization for dozens of schools that teach the Polish language, history and culture usually by offering classes on Friday nights and Saturdays.
The Council purchased a yearly subscription to ZOOM for all its schools to use in remote teaching and communication with students and parents. The Council also offered its teachers a series of webinars with training in virtual teaching and posted learning materials on the Council’s website, www.centralapolskichszkol.com.
“Apart from that, school principals regularly met on Zoom with the Council’s board to share their experiences, swap advice and solve problems arising from the pandemic reality,” says Mahmoud.
Naturally, all in-person events and celebrations that normally fill the schedule at Polish Schools had to be cancelled. However the teachers and principals were able to engage their students not only in learning but also in various remote initiatives.
One of the most popular was #pokażswojąpolskość [#presentyourpolishroots] organized as a way to celebrate three May holidays: Polonia Day and Flag Day on May 2 and Constitution Day on May 3. The Council’s Facebook profile was flooded with white and red photographs of students demonstrating their patriotism and respect for the country their families came from.
“Following a Zoom meeting with Consul General of Poland Adrian Kubicki and deputy consul Mateusz Gmura, Polish Schools joined an initiative of Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs #Polonia4Neighbors,” says Mahmoud. Several projects were organized under this initiative, including “Little Editor” – interviews with interesting people, “My family and I” – cultivating family traditions and “Books from a home bookshelf” which encouraged reading.
“All these initiatives together with regular phone and email communication between the Council and its regional representatives helped the Polish Schools community in this difficult challenge posed by the COVID pandemic,” says Mahmoud, adding that despite the pandemic all high school seniors in Polish Schools were able to take their final exam “matura” remotely and the Council was able to fund its yearly scholarship for 46 students. […]
Now that the summer is coming to an end, the Council is facing another challenge – to launch a new school year in the midst of the pandemic. “The schools under the Council are located in various states where they have to follow local restrictions and regulations, and first of all create conditions for safe in person teaching,” says Mahmoud.
“Our school year starts on September 12, we are planning to launch in-person learning, but the final decision depends on the city authorities and New York Archdiocese ,whose buildings we are renting,” says Beata Popowska, principal of Fr. Augustyn Kordecki Polish Supplementary School, one of the oldest Polish schools in New York City. […]
Translated by Aleksandra Slabisz