A photo of Urmila and Franceline
Professional Practice

Conversations in a time of COVID-19: Urmila RECE and Franceline OCT

This series profiles the experiences of RECEs (and their colleagues) as they navigate the pandemic.

Franceline and Urmila together in their classroom

Urmila Jayadevan RECE and Franceline Berthelet OCT (member of Ontario College of Teachers) have worked as a team for five years at the Toronto District School Board.

In the beginning

Since the Ontario Ministry of Education announced that students must learn from home, Urmila and Franceline have been doing their best to support online learning for their kindergarten class.

“Initially, we didn’t have the technology in place to teach or share resources,” says Franceline. “It was challenging to learn how to use all of these programs at once. We had to lean on colleagues for support to minimize ‘technology breakdowns’.”

“We felt really disconnected at first from colleagues and the children,” Urmila adds. “Since this pandemic may change practice in the future, we’ve decided to cope the best way we can, which includes establishing routines and making time for close relationships.”

The keys to success

Although your circumstances may differ, Urmila and Franceline have found their own ways to support their physical, mental and emotional health.

“I need a consistent daily routine,” Franceline says. “It keeps me focused on school and also on reading, both personally and professionally.”

Urmila says, “for me, it’s maintaining connections with my loved ones. I try to exercise, do yoga, paint or cook.”

Relationships are central to the profession, so staying connected remains paramount to the duo’s new ways of teaching.

Urmila says that making an effort to stay connected is “an opportunity to share any challenges we’re having. It opens the door to developing creative solutions as a team.”

The learning continues

“We love to see the children’s responses when they see our faces and our emotional reactions to seeing them,” Franceline says. “We’re so happy they’re engaging in the activities we’d started in the physical classroom before the pandemic. Many children are showing us the skills they’re developing at home, either through their own learning or with their families.”

Urmila and Franceline are using Google Classroom to connect with children and families. They speak regularly about their teaching plans and to talk about their ideas and obstacles faced. “We carry the same attitude we have in the classroom, and apply it to the online learning we’re doing to maintain some consistency,” says Franceline.

In addition to the online activities they share, they’re also providing resources to families so the children are supported in play-based learning at home.

“We’re reaching out to families with all of this great technology,” says Urmila. “I’m encouraged by seeing the children post pictures or write comments on how they felt during a particular activity or what they learned.”

Final thoughts

“We really have a strong teaching relationship and continue to effectively collaborate,” Urmila says. “I’m confident in our society’s ability to heal and restore.”

Franceline misses the “personal touch” of teaching in the classroom, but she’s been receiving encouraging comments online from families. “It’s giving me great pleasure to read parent replies, such as ‘my child is listening to your stories at bedtime and loves it!’”

Because they’ve had to lean on each other and depend on other colleagues for support, the two feel that their co-working relationships are stronger than ever. Franceline says, “We can’t do this alone, nor would we want to.” Urmila shares a parting note for children, families and colleagues: “Let’s hope we see all of our ‘school family’ soon – we miss you!”