On March 13th, the day Middle School had a field trip to an amusement park, we found out that the first case of Covid 19 in Guatemala had been confirmed. Previously, a few weeks before, we had had a conversation with Dr. Luz Elena who had explained to us all about the virus and the hygiene indications to prevent the disease, but we were far from imagining that it would reach us so fast. The next day, on national conference, the president had set several restrictions and regulations, among them, that all schools must remain closed. On Monday, the administrative body of the school met to determine the strategy to follow to continue classes with Middle School.
Then, we met with 4 of the teachers in the afternoon to plan the most convenient methodology to use with the students. Several options were evaluated, and we decided that going online was the best route to continue with the classes. But we had many challenges to face: first, not all students have access to internet. Second, not all of them have access to a computer. Also, all families had to set up an email account for us to communicate with them. The Edmodo platform was chosen as our online school system since it accommodated to our needs.
The next day, the restrictions were even more strict than the first ones established, and one of them indicated that not even the schools´ personnel was allowed at the institutions. All teaching centers must be closed until new order. Now we couldn´t get together to continue planning so each of us had to work with the tools available at our homes. This is how we started our virtual journey, learning from what we had. When ready to share our strategy with the parents, we encountered some resistance because of the reasons previously shared, but I must say the parents have gone out of their way to try to provide their kids the tools needed to work online. By the grace of God, during the month of April we were able to set 80% of the students on the platform. The remaining 20% don´t have a computer or internet so we have set up another system with them via WhatsApp. All middle school students are covered. We are grateful to Pam, Bernardo & Carla, and Proyecto Fe whom have, in one way or another, helped us to help the students continue with their studies.
We didn’t think the quarantine was going to last as much as it has, and it seems like we still got a ways to go. We thank the Lord for giving us the opportunity to explore new educative methods and improve our virtual teaching knowledge. Besides Edmodo, we also use Meet and Zoom for some of the virtual classes. All things accomplished have been the result of teamwork: the school´s administration, directors, teachers, students and the parents (I should add, the grandparents, uncle, aunts, siblings. Everyone has helped!). It has been over 60 days in quarantine and the middle school students have not lost a day of classes. Praised be the Lord!
We have struggled along the way and sometimes we have been discouraged. But, knowing how brave our students have responded to the circumstances and how eager they are to explore new methodology has encouraged us greatly, and has been a reminder that our work is not in vain, that we are part of their learning process through this historic time. And that the Lord has allowed us to be part of the education of the future.
We trust the Lord and his promises, that “He will not allow circumstances to be more than we can stand”. We trust that He is with us, that “overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.”
We ask your prayers for the students and for Colegio Bethel´s personnel, that all of us may come out of this triumphant and that we may be able to meet at the school again soon!
Jorge and Verónica Ramírez