One pandemic later and we are living in a world of virtual learning and 18 months later we are slowly beginning to integrate back to some semblance of normalcy. We wanted to take a moment to interview Haven Hills’ teacher to share her thoughts about the education program at Haven Hills and how the pandemic has affected her program.
- Interviewer: Tell me about Haven Hills’ Children’s programs and on-site shelter school?
I am extremely proud of the educational program my team and I have developed throughout my 10 years at Haven Hills. We have always maintained a child-centered curriculum, combined with rigorous attention to state standards; taught in a creative and engaging way. As a teacher who has previously taught in classrooms containing 30+ students, I feel blessed to have the luxury of an environment where I can focus on individual needs and strengths so vital to a child’s growth and self-esteem. Both the kids and I have thrived in this atmosphere. When I hear a 15-year-old boy tell me that mine was the first class where he ever read an entire book, or when a 10-year-old girl, told for years she was “stupid” at math, lights up at mastering division; it is no mystery why I have stayed here 10 years.
We focus on English/Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies every day. Art, music, and dance are also a big part of my classroom. Over the years, I have collected a terrific assortment of lesson plans for all grades and interests. Some, I have written, some I have borrowed, and on some I have collaborated. The remarkable thing about educators is that they love to share their successful lessons with each other! The structure of the classroom is divided by age and grade. We serve kids kindergarten through high school. I design an instructional program for each of the kids based on my initial assessments, state standards, and the children’s own strengths and interests. I only have them for a maximum of 45 days (about 1 and a half months), but it is wonderful to see what some TLC can do.
- Interviewer: How is their learning structured during the pandemic?
Throughout the last year, the Haven Hills team and I have challenged ourselves to maintain the education of our client’s children in any way possible. We have distributed thrice weekly lessons, worksheets, and curricula, offered Zoom classes, and purchased hands on science and art kits for the kids to enjoy. I have heard from many parents throughout the year that the children enjoy the educational packets and that the parents also enjoy doing them with their kids! So, as an unexpected bonus, parents and children have strengthened their bond! Yay! That said, though, I cannot WAIT to get back into the classroom, whenever that may be. I miss the interaction and the joy I get from my students.
- Interviewer: Do you work with partner organizations?
Most other DV (DOMESTIC VIOLENCE) shelters do not have onsite schools, which is a shame, because it is unsafe for the children to return to their old school (because of the abuser). There have been many cases of the abusive partner kidnapping the children from their school and/or using them as leverage against the DV survivor. So, back in the 70’s, when Haven Hills began, the women who founded it wisely wanted the children to continue their studies. They also knew the routine of school would provide comfort and structure to traumatized kids. They also intuitively knew that happy kids help heal the DV survivors. So, they designed a one-room schoolhouse for the survivor’s children onsite where the kids could thrive and get a lot of individual attention they have been needing for years. Other DV shelters are beginning to catch on to how necessary a school is for the health of their clients and have installed them or in the process of developing them. Another serendipitous event occurred during this last challenging year. A sister shelter contacted me to pick my brain on developing their own classroom onsite! I happily babbled on for an hour to their administrator and it truly reminded me how much I love teaching at Haven Hills. He told me he is going to incorporate many of my suggestions. This success is a shared one: I could not do the positive things for the kids I do without the support and encouragement of the Haven Hills team.
- Interviewer: Do you have any advice for parents out there who may be struggling with school?
Advice for parents struggling with school is first…realize we are all struggling so do not be tough on yourself. Also, do not be ashamed or embarrassed to reach out for support from other parents or teachers, online or by phone. There are terrific free resources available: the Los Angeles Unified School District, the PTA, even the public library! There are parent support groups that are open and encouraging to all — all you need to do is ask.
- Interviewer: Do you have a favorite teaching moment?
My favorite teaching moment is when school is over and the kids do not want to leave! Yes, that does sometimes happen. That is truly a great moment.