Where Are The Teachers … Where Are The Children? – April 2020
Though I’m working remotely most of the time now, when I go into school to drop off or pick up the mail or other things I need, I can’t help but walk through the halls. It is so quiet and empty … so joyless. The bubble of children, the enthusiasm and laughter of our faculty and staff are no longer there, and for me, it is heartbreaking. I have so enjoyed this year at Villa! It has everything a Head of School could want, an extraordinarily dedicated faculty and staff members, a supportive and loving parent body, and special students with amazing personalities, all working hard to overcome a whole variety of learning challenges. But now, though I interact with them daily, it is just not the work I want to do, though I know the new work is extremely important if we want to support our children in continuing toward our and their goal of being successful learners.
And so, we continue on, as best we can. I’m sure our story is very much like those of other schools. We are learning a lot as adult professionals as we deliver instruction online and continue to motivate our students to do the very best that they can in this new school world in which we find ourselves. As a faculty we continue to meet and share best practices in the world of Zoom, Google Drive and Google Classroom. Days no longer have a beginning and an end. We began by building individual student schedules for morning classes so that each child would have instruction in reading, writing and mathematics at their appropriate skill level. Our teachers were teaching during the mornings and working together to build an afternoon schedule so that our students would also have social studies, science, language arts, art, music and physical education. It was a huge job and one that took the cooperation and commitment of every member of our faculty and staff. No one faltered even for a moment. Add to this scheduling the related services our students need, speech/language, counseling, occupational therapy in open times in each child’s schedule and you can just imagine the brain power this took to include every area each child needed.
Our master schedule is colorful and impressive and from that came a schedule for each child and teacher. I smile when I look at them for they are truly masterpieces, knowing the amount of focus, talent and dedication it took to complete them. We know there will be changes to them as a child needs something different, but for now, these schedules are guiding our work and ensuring that each child receives the very best education we can provide in this digital world. If we are honest, this is not what we as educators signed up for. We chose this profession imagining the work we would do with students in our own classrooms and the fulfillment that would come as we saw them grow and learn …. Live!! There is an intimacy and privacy to that kind of classroom that we dearly miss. However, we embrace this new world in which we are working … we have now brought our craft into the homes of our students and we must depend on their parents to be our partners on a daily basis. They are the ones that make sure the technology is working at their end; that their children have a quiet place for instruction with all the materials and tools they will need for a successful class; and most important, they make sure that a child is on time for classes and is dressed and fed before learning with their teacher begins.
I spoke with our faculty at a recent Zoom faculty meeting about this new normal. I told them that it takes great courage to be pioneers in this world of digital learning. We spoke about the uncertainty of these times and the common wondering of when it would be over. I also acknowledged the grief all of us are feeling for indeed there is a sense of loss …. We want to see our students in school again, we all worry about their health and safety as well as that of our own families; and we wonder if our lives as educators will ever be the same when this is over.
Some of our parents have asked if I regret saying “Yes” to becoming Villa Maria’s Interim Head of School with this unprecedented challenge before us. My answer is a vociferous “NO!”. This is the greatest challenge of my career and I feel that I’m right where I should be, making sure that nothing will stop us from providing our special children with all they need to continue learning and growing in confidence so they are ready for the new world that will emerge once this is over. It is indeed an honor to serve this incredible school community at this difficult time! My unfaltering hope is that we will be able to come back together before the school year ends.