Serving in dual roles as both the Student Activities Director and a teacher in the English Department, Greg Callaghan has a unique opportunity to create community and a sense of care for all of ICA Cristo Rey’s students.
“I’m really proud of the community we’ve built in each class,” Mr. Callaghan said about his English classes. “Each class has its own vibe and feeling.” To cultivate this, he went on to say, “We spend a little time ‘not talking’ about English every day. We literally clap for everyone’s successes, big or small.”
Each class begins with a few minutes for students to both settle into the context of English class but to share “what’s new, what’s exciting.” Greg recognized that student successes sound a bit different now but are no less worthy: “Before the school pivoted to distance learning you’d hear, ‘This weekend I went to my friends Quinceñera’ or ‘I’m in the play at Riordan.’ After the switch sometimes it’s as simple as ‘I took a long walk.’”
When we first understood ICA Cristo Rey would be transitioning to distance learning, Mr. Callaghan mentioned it on Twitter and a classmate from college, a former teacher herself now working at a literary start-up, invited him to participate in beta-testing an app which uses pre and post-assessments to help scaffold questions for all students. “This has reaffirmed for me that learning is not ‘one size fits all,’ and I want to be better about pacing classes and giving my students space and autonomy to go a little faster or go a little slower. I think I will be more aware of it when I get back,” said Mr. Callaghan. His care for his curriculum and students is evident, especially in this unusual time.
With a degree in Interdisciplinary Education with an emphasis on teaching with technology, Mr. Callaghan was positioned well to move toward a model that includes online classes: “I had a course in online classes so I’ve had that to reference. One of the things that I learned there, and carried through to the face-to-face classroom, was that students can only do so much of one activity before they check out. Just by having tech doesn’t mean you’re using it correctly. Being conscious of that, I’ve tried to replicate our conversations as much as possible. Students are asked to respond to other classmates with an affirmation or clarifying question.” For those not familiar with Google Apps for Education, one of the options in the Google Classroom is a feature called Questions. When a student responds they can also see classmates’ questions and, if set up by the teacher, they can respond as well. “Kids are doing great with this actually. By putting the expectation of having to reply to two people, I’m seeing students who don’t always respond in the classroom participate fully in this.”
As technologically savvy as he is, Greg mentioned: “I’m also really cognizant of doing too much during this time. As a teacher, I’ve always looked for ways to engage students digitally.” He has been successful in this. “In some ways, I’m having a harder time justifying ‘new and different’ now, because I don’t want to add another level of complication for them or for me,” he reflected.
Greg has brought his tech skills to serve the school as Activities Director as well! Greg has helped build the recent “Sunday Night YouTube Live Q & A” episodes to help our Spartans navigate this end-of-year process, Student Body Elections, and other ICA Cristo Rey digital productions, including a Virtual Graduation, happening in two weeks, and our Virtual Junior-Senior Farewell later this week. It’s a night the juniors have traditionally hosted for seniors centered around a variety show and a sendoff for the graduating class. We’re all looking forward to it!