How one elementary school teacher is keeping upbeat in an uncertain world

Mar 28, 2020

With schools now closed until May 4 at least, life for many of Dartmouth’s students and teachers has changed completely.

But despite missing their kids, teachers all over town are finding new ways to keep positive and stay connected — and third grade teacher at Potter School Lorrie Murphy is no exception.

Last Sunday, Murphy drove around town with her husband and daughter to put signs with encouraging phrases and messages on the lawns at each of her 20 students’ houses.

“Some people caught me, and some people didn’t,” she said with a laugh. “But I ended up getting so many pictures of their smiles.”

Murphy plans to do a little something every Sunday to get her students ready for the week. She calls it their “Sunday Surprise.”

But that’s not the only way her class is staying connected. 

Murphy has been recording and posting videos of herself reading aloud from books for her students to watch. 

And friend of hers, Dartmouth Police Detective Kyle Costa, asked the third graders to write their favorite quotes to post on the DPD’s Facebook page.

The police department normally posts one quote a day for their followers. Each day last week the page featured a photo of one of Murphy’s students holding an inspirational quote.

“It’s kind of part of our ‘Kindness Rocks’ project,” explained Murphy. “They know a bunch of different positive quotes, since we have a quote of the week in class.”

“The kids jumped on it, especially knowing that it was Detective Costa who asked for the favor,” she added. “I do a lot with my students with him.”

Det. Costa said that he plans to expand the project to more classes. “Any kid that wants to get involved will be great,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Murphy said, the class has been connecting online through virtual meeting platform Zoom.

“We’ve been Zooming like crazy this week,” she said with a smile. “The first time we Zoomed was just as exciting for me as it was for them...It was just nice to see their faces!”

Some of the parents will pop in and wave, Murphy said, and the kids can show her their favorite toys, books, and parts of their houses.

She said that it’s nice to see a little glimpse into their lives.

“The kids enjoy seeing my home as well,” she added. “Like they enjoy seeing my dog. They knew I had a dog, but now they get to see her, and they love it!” 

Murphy noted that for many kids, after the first week, the excitement of not going to school has worn off.

“We’re just trying to keep their spirits up,” she said. “I’m a mom. I know how they feel, because I can see it in my daughter. And I think that they’re kind of done with [staying home].”

With Governor Charlie Baker’s order to keep schools closed until May, kids will be missing over a month of school at least.

“Our biggest goal is to keep the kids feeling connected to school — to staff, to each other,” she said. “Let them FaceTime with each other. They need that. They’re not getting recess!”

Teachers are trying to help parents too — most of whom are suddenly confronted with the task of educating their own children. “It’s been a lot,” said Murphy.

“We can’t replicate the classroom, but we are definitely trying as a district to provide enrichment activities and resources for them so that there’s not as much of a gap,” she noted.

“Dartmouth school district has been phenomenal,” she added. “I gotta give props to my principal [Heidi Brooks] and assistant principal [Richard Porter] too, because they’ve really kept the spirits up for the teachers, and the students and their families.”

Murphy laughed. “That’s probably where all the positivity is coming from!”