Rattled by COVID-19 Hudson teachers rally to show love for students

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Debbie Lazaros, a school psychologist

By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer

Hudson – Settling into each of their own personal COVID-19 quarantines, Hudson High School teachers quickly banded together last month to send a message to their students – “We Care.”

The words came in the form of two videos featuring the majority of the school’s teachers, administrators, and other staff. The first spoke broadly to all students. The second, meanwhile, addressed the senior class of 2020, which has lost many of its promised “senior spring” activities, including graduation, due to COVID-19.

Trusted like family 5.29

“We wanted to get something out there pretty quick just to sort of say ‘Hey, we’re here, we care about you, we miss you,’” Media Teacher Lynda Chilton said of the process. “We wanted to make that initial connection.”

Chilton helped lead the video projects, editing both videos and working with colleague Kerry Bartlett and Pam Porter, another fellow teacher, wrote a script for the senior video, and collected individual video submissions from project participants.

“As soon as we had an idea of what we were thinking about, she just rallied the troops,” Chilton said of Porter’s work.

This substantial outreach came just over a month after district schools hastily closed in late March.

After initially sitting in limbo with optional “enrichment work” available for students, the district switched to mandatory remote learning when Gov. Charlie Baker announced in mid-April that in-person classes would be cancelled through the rest of the school year.

“We were trying to figure out the right time to ask teachers,” Chilton said, saying she understood the stress teachers themselves were under as they also converted their lesson plans to fit the online landscape. “I was trying to figure when they had the ability to do this extra thing.”

Chaotic as the times are, though, Chilton said she and Porter saw overwhelming interest from coworkers.

“They wanted to do this,” Chilton said. “They wanted to express their emotions for what was happening.”

Even Chilton’s own editing process is emblematic of this.

Living in New Braintree, deep in the woods of western Worcester County, Chilton has no access to broadband internet. The DSL connection she’s left with, in turn, does not allow her to quickly download and reupload the types of large internet files she worked with on these video projects.

Undeterred, though, Chilton says she drove daily to the town of Paxton, 20 minutes away, where she edited video from the front seat of her car in a Dunkin Donuts parking lot with free WiFi.

With overwhelmingly positive reaction from seniors in particular, Chilton said it’s all been worth it.

“They’ve lost that huge sense of closure for their academic life and their social life,” she said. “[Knowing that, we] wanted to reach out.”

To see both videos, visit the Hudson High School website at https://sites.google.com/a/hudson.k12.ma.us/hudson-high-school/home

Erin McMurray, a social studies teacher

photos/submitted