April 27, 2020

Covid Conversations: Corinne Hairston Parris

Corinne Hairston Parris is a special education teacher at the Dearborn STEM Academy in Boston Public Schools. Recently she sat down with E4E-Boston Outreach Director Denise Manning to discuss her success with Zoom classrooms and the uncertainties that she has seen students still struggle with.



A transcript of the conversation’s highlights can be found below:

Denise Manning: What is a typical day for you as a distance educator? What does your classroom look like now?

Corinne Hairston Parris: Right now our classes are on Zoom which is an amazing function because we can still break students out into small groups and then annotate on the screen while we’re engaging students in the lesson. A typical day with my students is usually meeting with the general education teacher and any other educators ahead of time and talk about any trends we’ve seen with classroom attendance and reach out to students we’re connected with to make sure they attend. Students get nightly and weekly assignments and can reach out to us with questions. We are able to see our students face to face and let them know that we appreciate them showing up. While it’s not quite as good as being in a classroom, we’ve been able to adjust to this new normal.

DNM: How are your students doing emotionally?

CHP: My students are uncertain at times, because what we’re going through as a community and a city is unsure. We’re not sure when this pandemic will cease and our lives can return to some level of normality that the kids are used to, and when they can feel the same. I have some students struggling with the idea of staying in the home, and anxious about, “Can this come into my house anyway without leaving?” Just very uncertain. We also have students who need help navigating their home environment while still learning, and we need the most support in that area.

DNM: That brings me to my next question, what impact is this having academically?

CHP: I have partnered with a lot of my students and families and given them a contact number so that they can reach out if they need me for help. A lot of these students I did check-ins with before schools closed, and so it’s just been about keeping that going and setting up study sessions where we can check in and review the material. You have to be very creative in so many ways to make sure that you are supporting the whole child and ensuring that learning is happening.

DNM: What do you want decision-makers to do to get our students ready to learn when they return to school, and ensure any learning loss is recovered?

CHP: I think it’s very important for administration and teachers to gather and share best practices for returning in the fall. I know social and emotional health is very important to me as a special educator so we need work on rebuilding community, whether it’s doing lunch bunches where students can gather and talk about how they’re feeling being back or doing after-school activities. We need protocols in place to support families even more now that we know about lack of access to services and technology that has been brought to light by this pandemic. We need to continue to support them by providing lunch and breakfasts during vacation weeks and keep the resources we have provided now available to families going forward. We can’t just give resources going forward to the 1% of students who say, “Hey, I don’t have this at home.”

DNM: What is one source of joy or hope you have experienced recently?

CHP: A source of joy for me is maintaining relationships with students who I supported during the school year. I have students who meet me every week at a certain time to talk about what’s going on in their classrooms or anything fun they’re doing with their families, and that is definitely a source of joy for me.