By Ruthi Soudack
In normal times, the Niot Learning Centers, located in each of the seven residences run by the Society for Advancement of Education in Israel, provide valuable guidance and welcome support to students with learning differences and all students in the residence.
During the coronavirus crisis, with schools and residences closed and students in their homes, the Niot Learning Centers are continuing to function online, and have become an even more vital resource for students, teachers and counselors.
Niot Learning coordinators provide private lessons and small-group tutoring online to each participating student once or twice a week. They are in contact with all the students who receive lessons or tutoring, and have become an important resource in mapping students who need special help during this time, due to emotional stress or difficulties with remote learning.
When learning online, students are required to submit assignments that are then graded. In regular times, assignments are not all collected and marked in this way, and this has created stress for children with difficulties. Through the remote learning, teachers were able to map students who were not handing in assignments or were having trouble, and then asked Niot Learning coordinators to be in touch with them to understand their needs. Learning center time was then reallocated as necessary, with these students also receiving private lessons or tutoring in small groups.
Niot Learning coordinators are in touch with the students on an ongoing basis, and are particularly attuned to identify children under stress or who are exhibiting emotional distress. If they need emotional or economic assistance, they are referred to the educational counselors. In turn, the educational counselors, who deal with students’ emotional issues, have found the Niot centers to be a wonderful resource, both because they can refer children who need extra scholastic support to the centers, but also because, through the centers, they find out about children who need emotional support.
Homeroom teachers, who are extremely overloaded at the moment, can contact coordinators and ask them to pay special attention to the students who require extra assistance, and this also helps take some of the load off the teachers.
As the school Passover vacation begins tomorrow, coordinators are now focusing on establishing schedules and plans for the period following the vacation. These plans will be taking preparation for matriculation exams into account, as well as the needs of students who are having problems with online learning and require extra assistance. (It is interesting to note that the students who have difficulty with online assignments are not necessarily those who had learning difficulties before the crisis – sometimes remote learning works better for students who are challenged by classroom learning, and vice versa.)
Eden Israeli, SAE’s Director of Education Support Services, reports that some of Niot’s volunteers are continuing to volunteer with the students online. These are generally university students who receive a scholarship in return for helping children with their studies. Although they have been informed that they will receive their scholarship in any case, and don’t need to continue volunteering at this time, some of them have decided to continue anyway. “SAE,” Eden says, “is very proud of them and grateful for their help.”
Each of SAE’s educational residences has a Niot Learning Center, which all of the students in the residence use. Government regulations have stipulated that all residential students return home at this time. Many of these students come from extremely low-income families, and having the children at home, coupled with very high 25% unemployment situation, have exacerbated their distress. Many are lacking basic necessities such as food and personal hygiene products.
For this reason, the SAE is raising funds to supplement its regular Student Assistance Fund, and to provide the most desperate families with supermarket vouchers, to help ease their situation. Donate here to help these students during the coronavirus crisis.