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Quest Teacher Creates Engaging Moral Focus Lesson for Students

Students at Quest Charter Academy have taken the challenges of learning amid a pandemic in stride and one fifth-grade teacher is making waves creating dynamic lessons to engage her students, encouraging interaction with the Moral Focus curriculum.
In January, Hillary Dandridge, fifth-grade teacher at Quest, introduced a perseverance Moral Focus assignment into her lesson plans for the year, opening up the opportunity for students to share their experience learning during COVID-19. “This lesson was new this year because I felt as though this year was unique and it takes a special student to dig deep and persevere during these times,” she reflected.

The first part of the assignment asked students to think deeply to gain an understanding of what perseverance means. “We took a few days to discuss the definition and came up with some scenarios of which one would have to persevere through,” Dandridge explained.
Next, students were instructed to do a reflection about learning during a pandemic. Serving as a social studies teacher at the school, Dandridge shared that she’s driven by the idea that she and her students are currently making history. “Having our Moral Focus virtue be perseverance was perfect because it takes a lot of perseverance to stay focused and do your best during unusual times,” she shared.

“My inspiration for this mini-project was based on the history we as teachers and students are living in today,” she explained. “I wanted to capture the perspective of my students’ experience while having to learn academically during a global pandemic at home and online.”
During the reflection portion of the assignment, students were asked to answer the question: “What does it mean to have perseverance as a student learning during a pandemic?” With that, students created their own Google Slide sharing their experiences. They were directed to use creativity with images and colors to illustrate their points.

“Once my students were done, I was surprised by how well they did,” said Dandridge. “My main goal was to allow them to have a voice during these times. They’ve been in a position in which they are told what to do with safety precautions, but I wanted to them to give their point of view on how to stay determined and focused while attending school in-person and online.”
Dandridge also shared her takeaways from teaching and adjusting her approach to leading a classroom during the pandemic. “Teaching during Covid has been a challenge,” she said. “For me, the main challenge was the online learning. I believe students need to experience school, meaning the classroom, the structure, and the social mechanism of being at school. These all play a major part in the success for students, especially students who need that structure.”

Throughout February, students are now focusing on courage, the Moral Focus virtue of the month, by exploring Black History Month. “My Moral Focus and social studies curriculum align because I am teaching the history of oppression for African Americans and women while we are witnessing history with the first female African American woman Vice President,” said Dandridge.
She is now turning her attention to include March’s Moral Focus virtue of the month in her lessons, focusing on encouragement. While her plans are yet to be solidified, she aims to create something to encourage other teachers throughout the building.
Dandridge also expressed pride in her students and all they have been through over the past year. “I have one of the best fifth-grade class here at Quest,” Dandridge shared. “These students show up every day online and in-person willing to listen and learn. I very much appreciate the students this semester! They are hard workers and will someday change the world.”