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Washington educators engage students remotely in many ways — including singing

courtesy of Rowan Carrick
Rowan Carrick is a Tacoma elementary teacher who sings a lot in class and just sang a song about what it feels like to know in-person school is canceled.

In this age of distance learning, educators are trying to figure out the best way to connect with and engage their students. They’re emailing, holding video chats, recording video lessons, and making phone calls.

And some are singing.

Rowan Carrick teaches second and third grade at Bryant Montessori in Tacoma. She sings a lot in class, so it felt natural to write another song to let her students know they're not alone. She put it on YouTube and emailed it to her class.

“Dear class, just got the news that we won’t be back in school in May or June,” she sang, while playing the guitar and sitting on a couch surrounded by stuffed animals. “I will miss you, that’s true, but we can stay in touch through email and Zoom.”

Carrick said students share their feelings in class every day. And now, everyone is going through a lot — something she wanted to acknowledge in her lyrics.

In one part, she sings: “We’re all feeling strange and sad and weird. We all have questions and thoughts and fears. You’re not alone.”

“This is an insane time and it’s traumatic for everyone,” Carrick said. “It’s important to just be honest about it and to be open to having those conversations and saying, look, we’re not all feeling great all the time. This is really hard.”

In the Renton School District, Dimmitt Middle School principal Gioia Pitts had a flash of inspiration to take the song “Work from Home” by Fifth Harmony and tweak the lyrics to rally her students to dive into their lessons at home.

Credit courtesy of Gioia Pitts
Gioia Pitts (lower right) is principal of Dimmitt Middle School in the Renton School District.

“I know you’re always on your Chromebooks, ’cause you’re always stuck at home,” she sang in a video posted on the school’s Twitter feed. “And I don’t need all that complainin’, but Vikings do your work at home. You gotta do the work, work, work, work, work.”

“I love that song. I love the beat. It makes you want to dance,” Pitts said. “In the song, they say, you can work from home. And so I’m like, 'That is perfect.’”

Pitts, who said she holds Friday karaoke sessions when in-person school is in session, said it's good to show students it's OK to be vulnerable and put yourself out there.

She said students joked that she and the other school staff must be bored to make something like that.

“I’m like, hey, but I got you to listen and you’ve gone to the website," Pitts said. "I’ve done my job.”

Education EducationCoronavirus Coverage
In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.