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Do your homework and we’ll shave our heads: Baltimore school gets creative to keep students engaged during coronavirus

Fourth grader at Lakeland Elementary Middle School each completed 75 homework assignments in order to see assistant principal Justin Holbrook shave his hair.

The kids could be heard giggling through the computer as they watched their assistant principal shave off hunks of his hair while seated in his living room.

In another box on the computer screen a teacher was having the back of her head shaved by a roommate in a kitchen. The Lakeland Elementary School students filled the chat window with rapid-fire reactions.

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“Oh my Lord, he is going to be bald,” a student voice said. “When are we going back to school? I want to go back to school now and see him bald."

In the days of COVID-19, teachers and administrators have to get creative to keep students engaged. For the past two weeks, teachers at the Baltimore City school have been challenging their fourth graders to complete assignments. Complete a certain number of assignments in each subject collectively and someone will get a pie in the face, or, as happened this week, shaving a couple heads with clippers.

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As with a lot of school activities during the coronvirus shutdown, all this happened online on a learning platform where students and teachers could see each other.

“We were looking for a way to motivate our students and create a sense of community in our fourth grade,” said fourth grade teacher Katie Degener.

Educators said they’re seering signs the novelty of online education is wearing off for students, particularly those who were trying to do everything on a smart phone. The school handed out laptops this week and, combined with the challenge, that helped motivate students, teachers said. Nearly every student in the school have connected with school at least once a week in some form, and about three quarters are connecting three times a week.

Fourth grade student King Alston said the assignments were so much easier on his new computer. He didn’t really think his teachers would go through with the hair cuts. After tuning in with his classmates, he counted down — “3, 2, 1!” — and the clippers whirred.

″Oh, they are really doing this. Crazy. I was really surprised," Alston said.

Emma Sarfaty, who teaches English as a second language, said her new cut was “a little rough, but it will do for now.”

Assistant Principal Justin Holbrook said his new clean look felt good.

“I used to have my hair cut like this when I started teaching. My wife is not happy, but I feel I lost my COVID-19 pounds.”

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