In the final weeks of June, we celebrated the ending of our two Citizenship Preparation ESL classes. What began as two in-person classes on opposite sides of Grand Rapids soon became a collaborative and experimental response to the communities’ needs during an uncertain time.
About a month into our citizenship prep classes, the spaces hosting the classes were closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and everything was put on hold. Our staff immediately began planning for how we could resume classes virtually. After just a few short weeks, we were able to connect with our learners to share our good news: classes were back on – via Zoom!
While many people in Michigan were out of work during this time, a number of our learners were in roles classified as essential – working in factories for packaging and manufacturing. Many experienced increased hours and more varied schedules to accommodate new safety protocols. Despite this, they were able to continue attending class from home, and attendance remained strong.
Our team also made sure that lack of technology wouldn’t be a barrier to learning. Jose, who had no access to technology or internet, was able to continue his studies with materials mailed to his home. He talked to his instructor twice a week over the phone to practice his lessons.
In addition to attending classes online, studying, and working, our learners took the advantage of the “stay-at-home” time to spend more time with family and do other activities around the home.
Francisco spent his extra time at home working on projects in and around the house for his wife. He also spent more time with his sons, watching movies. Rose and Jeanne enjoyed getting outside in the fresh air, going for walks and gardening. Sonia found more time to work on her crafts, such as making greeting cards and embroidery. She also experimented with some “keto-friendly” recipes and went on walks along the Grand River with her husband.
Overall, our learners expressed their eagerness to resume in-person classes once it was safe enough to do so. But despite this, they have enjoyed the experience of the virtual class, its conveniences in the pandemic, and staying connected with their instructors and classmates during this isolating time.