When we started this journey no one could possibly predict the changes that could happen so quickly. We all wondered if we were at all prepared to do this with the skills, tools and techniques we have in our toolkits. I am certain our parents were wondering the same thing along with trying to balance parenting with professional duties and ongoing challenges with dealing with changes each day.
Six weeks into this process I will let you know I have learned a great deal more than I knew was possible. Like you, I went through the stages of first, “waiting for this to be over”, and then being frustrated with this is “never over”, and finally into the stage of “acceptance”. Once I embraced this stage I was in a better place of listening, learning, and leading. I am so proud of the work of the staff of Tuscany School. Each member has risen to the challenge of maintaining relationships with students and parents, providing ongoing learning opportunities, tasks and challenges. I have delighted in popping into classes to see your children’s beautiful faces and hear their stories and sharing of their adventures. It is the best part of my day.
We all have become partners in the learning process and can learn so much from each other as well as the children. I have watched how children are growing into their understanding of how to work online. I smile when I think of the visits I made to classes early in April. Children were fascinated with finding their faces and seeing themselves on the screen. There were plenty of opportunities for exploring this type of engagement. Now I am so pleased to see so many children have moved into demonstrating their skills around the digital citizenship plan working in respectful ways. Learning how to focus on the discussions, taking turns in speaking and learning the tools has been a challenge that most are now quite fluent.
Our next step is looking at ways children can use their newfound skills in demonstrating greater independence in their engagement and task completion. Again, this is a work in progress and we all are partners within the process so have patience as we move to the next step in our learning.
When teachers create tasks for students in online learning, challenges arise. Teachers are not seeing the different ways children are approaching those tasks. What and how children produce is exactly what teachers need to see at each stage of learning. This way, teachers recognize what the child is able to do, provide ongoing feedback and make recommendations. If a teacher sees only the finished product, they are not able to provide the ongoing feedback the children usually receive when in the classroom. This way they can hear their teacher’s voice, accept feedback and make incremental adjustments to what they are creating. If you find yourself doing the activities with, and possibly for your child it is now time to sit back and let them take the reins. You have been so incredibly supportive getting them online, learning the tools of the new learning environment so it may be a good time to step back and let them run with what they have learned. Teachers need to see what children come up with on their own to have a clear picture of how to design activities at their level and not make them too easy or too difficult.
We respect your desire to save your child from frustrations but this too, is part of the learning process. I can speak from experience; technology is not my area of expertise, as many of you know. I am learning so much over the past month that even the staff are surprised at what I can do for myself! I keep them on call in case I run into trouble and that’s what I want you to do, too. Stay close to assist with troubleshooting, but don’t feel you need to take all the troubles away. We all learn through our struggles and feel a true sense of accomplishment through what is learned through the process.
I have learned some tips from colleagues that will help guide this:
Feel free to help interpret directions. Sometimes children are not sure what the teacher is asking for and your mentorship through this is so supportive. Once they know, give them space.
When your child asks for help, ask them, “What have you tried so far?” This will help them know they need to exercise their thinking muscles, give time for problem solving and move into their first attempts. If they have the chance to think about confusions and talk about them aloud, you may be surprised how well they can come to a new plan all on their own. Talking aloud can be a great strategy when trying to think of a solution.
Rely on teacher tools such as visuals, checklists, and other references for children to rely upon. Children can use these tools to check off what they need to do, how they can approach tasks and self evaluate what they have done. Their opinion of their work matters so much.
Take frequent breaks. I have had to learn this the hard way. I have discovered that too much screen time is very hard on my body, brain, and eyes. I am much happier when I spend a limited amount of time on screens and the majority of my time being creative and dynamic engaged with “movement” activities.
Give yourself a pat on the back. You are doing incredible work with balancing so much on your shoulders. This has been such a challenging time for everyone. Sometimes letting go of “schoolwork” is just the right thing to do in the moment. You know best.
I want to say a temporary farewell to our Lunchroom and cleaning staff: Mrs. Ali, Mrs. Ghalambor, Mrs. Spadafora, Mrs. Acanski-Dubroja, Mrs. Yeh, Mrs, Bloemraad, Mrs. Mansey and Mr. Gilliland have all received temporary lay off notices official today. We have appreciated the ongoing support that this wonderful group has been engaged in and want to wish them well as they tackle gardening, reading and a host of other activities during the next 4 months. We are all looking forward to having them return in the fall safe and well rested.
I want to thank you all for doing the heavy lifting at home, working in partnerships with our teaching staff and Educational Assistants. We are living through unique experiences. I am astonished by the number of “silver linings” I discover every day. It seemed that not long ago I wondered when this would end. Now I am wondering if we will be able to hold onto those learnings that have actually allowed us to focus on what is truly important savoring the moments we are able to share with our families.
Please know we miss you all, the school echoes without the sound of children engaged in the classrooms, hallways and playground. I will continue to pop into classrooms online and take joy in being part of this new learning environment.