The Next Nine Weeks : April 20 – June 18
Completing the 2019-20 School Year in CoronaTimes
The next nine weeks through April and the last day of the school year on June 18, will mark twelve weeks of conducting school with campuses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. As we emerge from Spring Break and get back into our developing rhythm of Rio Community Learning, we continue to stay focused on three basic aims;
Connect with children through online, phone, paper documents and supplies, meals, and other means to let them know they are still part of our school community that cares about them and their family.
Engage children in learning through online, phone, paper documents and supplies by reconnecting them with their teachers and classroom.
Improve the quality of learning over time.
Connecting with children is the number one priority. We want to make sure that all children connect with their teachers, counselors, and support staff so that their basic needs for safety, health, and well-being can be supported. In these “stay at home times,” this means connecting with families now more than ever. First, we worked to connect and make contact with every child in one form or another. Next we worked to connect them with their teacher and classmates. This means making sure they have a computer and internet access. This technology challenge remains our number two priority in connecting as we work to make sure any student without a computer gets one as well as any family without internet access receives an internet hot-spot.
Connecting goes beyond technology of course, our aim is for every child to be able to participate regularly with their teachers and classmates in one way or another. For many students, this means they will have weekly video conferencing sessions and other online ways of communicating and learning with their classmates and teachers. We are working hard to make sure students and families that need help with navigating this new online learning model get the support they need.
Connecting also means helping students with their specific needs. As is the case when children come to school in the conventional way, different students have different needs. Connecting to children and supporting them with their specific needs is ever more essential in the coronavirus times. Our staff are learning to adapt to these new times and connecting with families and working through problems and challenges will take patience and time. Students who need special or differentiated materials or support are a major priority in making the child-family-school connection work in these stay at home times.
Engaging children in learning is why schools were built. Now that we are working to support student learning without having them in our buildings, we are adapting to new ways of recreating and adapting the teacher- student and student-student relationships. Depending on the age level of the children and the learning models used in the classrooms before the school closures, this recreation and adaptation to Rio Community Learning can vary from school to school and classroom to classroom. In the next nine weeks we are working to find the models that work best for each child and teacher and find the right balance of formats, schedules, and varieties of activities that can keep children and families interested and learning while not overburdening them and adding to an already stressful situation.
Engaging children in learning implies that they are interested, actively participating and expressing their meaning-making in a variety of modes. There are many new barriers to this engagement in these coronatimes but there are also new opportunities and conditions that may elevate these elements. Children have different levels of support and resources in their homes in order to support their engagement in learning at home and this is a major priority in the initial phases of this learning at home period. Striking the right balance for children, families, and teachers is essential. Engaging children in learning should be seen in terms of the basic fact that children are natural learners and all situations provide opportunities for children to learn. The daily activities of a day in the home provide opportunities for children to read, write, speak, listen, solve problems, collaborate, communicate, think critically, be creative, make things, and care for themselves and each other. These daily activities are always part of children’s learning even when school is in normal session. Families will need to find the balance and appreciation for their own ways of supporting their children’s development. It is likely we cannot replicate everything at home that teachers and schools do when classes are in session and campuses are open. Less is definitely more in these times, and going deeper and more reflectively will be greatly appreciated by children.
Improving the quality of learning over time is our next challenge. As our teachers, support staff, families, and students become more used to these stay at home learning conditions, we are working to learn how to improve the learning. To do so, we are examining data and asking for feedback from all the people involved. In a sense, we are building the models for learning as we use them. We have nine weeks to continue to improve learning and our focus will be on useful feedback rather than traditional grading. We are currently working with teachers to establish an agreement as it relates to grading. The fundamental elements of the agreement will include a hold harmless concept in that students will maintain their grades earned before school closures but also have the opportunity to improve them by demonstrating improved skills and practices by completing tasks during these stay at home times. Schools and teachers will develop greater and greater support for students who are not achieving grade level standards or developing key literacies while supporting all children in their ongoing development of learning interest, fluency, and meaning making over time.
Rio’s community was strong and connected before these coronatimes. In these coronatimes, our sustaining and developing this strength of community will help school staff and families adapt and improve and serve children. We look forward to the next nine weeks of the 2019-20 school year and to engaging with children and families to the best of our ability. We miss working directly with all our children and families and look forward to the times when we all can return from our homes to our regular classrooms and offices and face to face ways of learning.