Bringing students and teachers together as a learning community usually takes place inside the walls of a classroom and school.
It would be easy to lose that sense of community during a time of physical distancing when students and teachers aren't able to be face-to-face. However, many schools and teachers are finding video to be an effective way of sharing the message that everyone is still learning together during school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been wonderful watching other SPS staff videos and messages circulating online. We are all seeking ways to connect because we care about one another and it's a beautiful thing," said Heather Lake, a teacher at Vincent Massey Community School, who help coordinate her school's video production.
Music-based and fun "we miss you" videos have been popular choices for teachers and schools looking to keep connected with students and families, but video has also been used for announcements, principal's updates, tips for parents, and other creative ways designed to build and maintain a community of trust and camaraderie.
Videos from teachers at Wildwood and Westmount schools have guided students through workouts and other physical education activities. Future kindergarten students have been introduced to their teachers and classrooms through virtual tours offered by schools such as Chief Whitecap and Victoria. Students who missed the performing in the musical Grease at Tommy Douglas Collegiate were recognized in a video of practice highlights. And many schools, including Sylvia Fedoruk, have celebrated the many ways in which students are learning at home.
At Vincent Massey, the staff-created video shares their experiences of working from home and provides a glimpse into their lives. Teachers and staff share how much they miss working with students each day at school and offer a strong message of unity and sense of community, despite being distanced from one another.
"Creating and sharing this video was a fun way to try to remind one another that we are all connected as a community of learners in what we hope is an accessible way to students and their families," said Vice Principal Jill Monahan.
"We are always looking for new ways to connect with students and families. Building and maintaining school-home relationships is so important for ensuring that students are well-supported on their educational journeys at the best of times, and physical distancing measures have certainly added layers of complexity to connecting with one another."
Lyrics set to the tune of Yael Naim's "New Soul" illustrate the ways in which staff and students have had to adjust during the period of learning and working from home.
We are new souls in this very strange world
Digitizing learning while we're zooming from back home
And we are learning, this old world keeps turning
Counting down the days until we see your face again
"We wanted to remind students and families that we are continuing to work on their behalf and that they are loved and valued," said Principal Jody Glines. "We also wanted to highlight the diverse challenges we are all facing as we try to adapt to these new ways of learning and being while bringing some humour to what can be quite a stressful situation."
The cheerful melody and repetitive lyrics of Naim's song made it an often-requested sing-along choice for Vincent Massey students during music classes. The new lyrics and the opportunity to record the song for the video brought out the musical talent of staff members.
"Shooting the video was one of our first collaborations when we embarked on this distance learning journey," Lake said. "Working together to create something fun for the purpose of connecting with the students who we miss so much was the perfect antidote to our newfound isolation and an anxiety-provoking news cycle. It was a lot of fun to put together and it was a great way to connect with each other in a meaningful way."
The school's families and staff members alike have expressed gratitude for an opportunity to connect with one another while creating and/or viewing the video and it has received a positive emotional response from more than a few of the school's community members and students.
View a playlist sampling of SPS videos below or on the SPS YouTube channel.