Friday, August 7, 2020

How Teachers Can Help Students Transition Back to School

Thank you all for an uplifting first week of preplanning (and some good coffee this morning)! I’m sure a number of us approached our first week back at Trinity with some trepidation. While our responsibility of welcoming back our students awaits us next week, I hope all of you felt some normalcy this week as we settled back into the routine of school even as we wore face coverings, social distanced, met virtually, and operated under our PRP guidelines. For me, it just felt good to be back at school!

 

For those of you new to Trinity, every Friday during the school year, I like to send out an educational article that recently caught my attention and that I hope provokes thought in you. 

 

As we live in fast-paced times, we’ve grown accustomed to the character limit of Twitter and the short videos on YouTube. Hence, I edit down the article to its most salient points so it’s a quick read. (If available, I link the full article.)

 

I try to find articles applicable to early childhood/elementary education.

 

I don’t agree with every article. I know we live in polarized political times where there is little tolerance for the opposing position. I, however, don’t confine myself to only one side in politics or in education. In fact, I especially like articles that make me think, ask me to reflect on my educational beliefs, and even confront my educational biases. As we discussed in our DEI session this week, a little cognitive dissonance is good for us!

 

The first article summary of the year is How Teachers Can Help Students Transition Back to School.

 

Just as many of us were anxious to return to school this week, many of our students will be next week as well. This article is a reminder that in the first weeks of school—especially necessary this year—we need to attend to our students’ social-emotional, affective needs. Academic development, achievement, and application are buoyed from our students’ emotional and physical safety, comfort, and trust we establish with them. One of the reasons I am so happy that we can begin the year with in-person school is we get the opportunity to see, interact, and connect, and get to know our students as we create a caring, responsible, and respectful community in our classrooms and throughout the school. As I heard in a number of meetings this week, we need to devote the first  weeks of school to building relationships and routines. No matter our age, we all need routines, consistency, and emotional security in our lives.

 

Thanks again for such a great first week of energy, conviction, and community!

 

Enjoy the last weekend of summer!

 

Joe

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The return to full-time, face-to-face learning in schools is an exciting time for students and teachers and, no doubt, a blessed relief for many parents. It is also a critical time regarding maximizing learning opportunities, both during and after this transition.

We are changed and different now, and we can move forward together, being kind and supportive to all.

Here are some tips and suggestions to support school communities in managing this transition back to school for all students, and particularly those with additional needs.

Routine and Structure: A return to regular school and learning routines will be like a comfy warm winter blanket for all students. Kids thrive off known boundaries and predictable daily routines.

Harness Self-Isolation Experiences to Build Student Confidence: The unprecedented level of responsibility that school students of all ages have had to embrace, is worth both celebrating and harnessing. Discussing this early in the year with your students can instill confidence in their self-direction capabilities. Moreover, building on these new levels of confidence and autonomy is another way for teachers to show they genuinely care for their students, creating a safe and supportive learning environment where students are challenged to strive for success.

Planning for Inclusion And Reducing Anxiety: Clear communication and planning are ways to reduce anxiety around the transition process for everyone. All teachers are taking the time to think and plan for the integration of COVID-19 restrictions within previously established classroom routines. At an instructional level, planning for inclusion by designing teaching and learning activities to cater for the needs all students has never been more important than now. The need to differentiate classroom learning will be greater now than before. By showing empathy to our students (as in ‘we’re all in this together’) and acknowledging the difficulties faced during self-isolation, we can support them.

Share and Explore Home Learning Experiences: Making time to explore and learn about our students’ experiences, particularly home-learning experiences, will be an important part of this initial transition. Our students will need time and space to readjust to school-based learning. We all learn by thinking about, and reflecting on, things we have experienced and done in our lives. Simply talking with children about their understandings and what they know about COVID is important. This is not a ‘one-off’ chat, children learn with repeated chats over time.

A New School-Family Relationship: COVID-19 has created so many complexities, insecurities, and anxieties. We have all been trying to balance and deal with the impacts on our own work from home lives. Happily, this has created more parent understanding and empathy for the work of teachers, and vice versa. Greater parent understanding of content could facilitate establishment of more meaningful student learning goals and better support systems at home..

 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Article Summary: May 15 2020

We’ve reach the final weekend of the school year! As the Grateful Dead sang, “What a long, strange trip it’s been!”

 

For this week I decided to bring back my traditional ‘article summary’ format. What It's Like Living in One of the Only Countries to Adopt Herd Immunity is about what living is currently like in Sweden, one of the few countries that opted not to implement shelter-in-place restrictions for its citizens.

 

While life in Sweden has been anything but normal, the article’s author and her fellow Swedes have been asked by their government to practice what she calls ‘common sense’ behavior.

 

Over the past months she and her husband have continued going to work and her kids have gone daily to their local day care. Living in a big city, she avoids public transportation, which for most cities has proven to be a high-risk area of Covid-19 contagion. She socially distances at work and in public. With older parents, she speaks with them on the phone but has not seen them in person. She practices good basic hygiene, e.g., wearing a mask and handwashing frequently. She stays home from work and keeps her kids out of day care at the slightest sign of any illness.

 

Sweden has continued to allow bars and restaurants to remain open but limited the number of customers and mandated wider distances between tables. While she and her family have gone out to eat a few times, they mostly stay home. She does not allow her kids to have playdates with friends.

 

She’s seen some inevitable flouting of rules yet overall she and other Swedes have done a good job staying within the confines of these wider parameters. The results thus far  have been positive as Sweden has not seen a dramatically higher percentage of people contracting Covid-19.

 

For me this article is a good example of where we and different parts of our country will likely transition to as we move into the summer. Over the past two weeks I’ve begun to venture out a little more but remain mindful of wearing a mask, not touching my face, and vigorously washing my hands as soon as I get home. My parents live 2o minutes from me, yet I haven’t seen them in person since early March as they are both in high-risk categories. To support local restaurants, I do take-out and curbside pick-up but I don’t feel comfortable enough yet to sit down and eat in a restaurant. When I run or walk on the sidewalks in my neighborhood, I dutifully move onto the street to avoid pedestrians heading towards me—yes, it’s polite but it’s also an easy and safer way to avoid spreading germs.

 

We’ve seen Georgia and Atlanta businesses open up a bit more over the past two weeks. An article I recently read in USA Today reported our country overall has begun to see a decline in the contagion curve. Over the next few weeks all of us will determine what ‘common sense’ behavior means for us.

 

Enjoy the final weekend of the 2019-20 school year—and then the final days of school next week!

 

And here’s the corny joke of the week:

 

Why do you never see pigs hiding in the trees?

 

Because they’re pretty good at it!

 

Joe

 

Friday, May 8, 2020

End of Week Update: May 8 2020

As we move into the homestretch of the school year, below are our projected schedules/calendars for the final two weeks of school, this summer, and the start of the new 2020–21 school year. We must remain flexible as these schedules are based on current conditions and the hope that Georgia will see a downward trajectory of contagion in the upcoming weeks. If conditions change, we will modify plans as needed and communicate those changes. Rhonda, Sarah, and external directors will provide additional details for EED, UED, and external departments. 

Please note that parents will be apprised of our end-of-year plans in next Tuesday’s all-school communication.

 Next Week (Week of May 11):
  • Trinity remains closed, except for a few people coming to school on Tuesday and Thursday for “business continuity,” including the addition of the facilities staff.
  • Last week of full distance learning plans for base classrooms and specials.
  • Friday, May 15: Last day for school for Early Learners and Extended Programs classes.

Last Week of School (Week of May 18):
  • Monday-Wednesday, May 1820: Virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences; virtual grade end-of-year activities with specials teachers
  • Thursday, May 21: Last Day of School; the day ends about 11 AM
    • Virtual Sneak Peek for Pre-K–Fifth Grade students.
    • Virtual base classroom celebrations, including Fifth Grade Morning of Memories
    • End-of-year faculty/staff Zoom meeting at 1 PM. I will send everyone the calendar invite today. For those who can’t attend the meeting, we will record and post it on the Faculty/Staff resource board.
  • Friday, May 22:  As an optional end-of-year opportunity for all families/students to come together and celebrate the end of the school year, we will have a caravan parade of cars on campus.
    • Additional details will be sent to employees and families in other communications.
    • Please note that gift exchanges will not occur on this day.
    • All faculty and staff are invited to park on campus by 8:30 AM and line up on both sides of the perimeter carpool line.
    • Please remember to wear a mask and social distance. Please bring your own mask from home as we will not provide masks at this time.
    • The caravan will be led by the Sixth Graders, starting at 9 AM.
    • Parents will drive through campus in the carpool line, but they and their children will not be allowed to park or get out of the car.
    • Technically, the building will be closed but employees will have access to restrooms near the Visitor Lot entrance.

Week of Memorial Day, May 25
  • Monday, May 25: No School; the campus is closed.
  • TuesdayThursday, May 2628: The building will be open between 8:30 AM2 PM for employees to get any personal possessions from classrooms and offices.
    • Do not enter the building if you have recently had any cold or flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, cough, etc.), are living with anyone who has recently had any symptoms or was ill, or are in a high-risk health category.
    • Please enter through the main reception doors so we can monitor and limit the number of people in the building at any one time.
    • Wear a mask and (optional) gloves. Please bring your own masks from home as we will not provide masks at this time.
    • As a special thank you to our wonderful employees, Flik will provide grab-and-go dinners for all of you. I will send more information and specific details about how to sign up soon.
    • If you are not returning to Trinity for the 202021 school year, you can return school technology and other materials. Please note that you will also have the option to do this the following week.
  • Friday, May 29: Campus is closed.

 Week of June 1 (and beyond)
  • Reminder: Summer Camps in June have been canceled.
  • Anyone who comes on campus will be screened for illness prior to being allowed to enter the building.
  • MondayThursday, June 14: Parents and students can come into the building between 8:30 AM-2 PM to clean out cubbies/lockers and pick up their yearbooks.
    • Parents will receive details about coming on campus to gather belongings in a future communication.
    • Parents will have the opportunity to return borrowed library books and technology these four days. There will be a bin to collect library books and a process for returning technology.
    • For students returning to Trinity for the 202021 school year, families may keep loaned technology and students may keep laptops until August 3.
    • We will ask parents and students to enter through the main reception doors so that we can monitor and limit the number of people in the building at any one time.
    • Parents will be required to wear masks (preferred but not required for their children) and asked to wear (optional) gloves.
    • We will ask that no one enter the building if they have recently had any cold or flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, cough, etc.), are living with anyone who has recently had any symptoms or was ill, or are in a high-risk health category.
  • Friday, June 5: The campus will be closed this Friday and every Friday throughout the summer until the week of the July 27 summer camps for summer camp staff and campers.
  • MondaysThursdays: Beginning June 1, Trinity will be open 8 AM4 PM (please see information below about tentative date for staff to return to campus).
  • The Admissions Office will schedule New Family Visits on campus.

Week of June 15
  • We hope to be able to welcome external staff back on campus this week.
  • Regular office hours will be MondaysThursdays, 8:30 AM3 PM.
  • The School will be closed every Friday throughout the rest of the summer until the week of the July 27 summer camps for summer camp staff and campers.
  • For staff members with extenuating circumstances, e.g., childcare, please communicate directly with your supervisor.

Friday, July 10:
  • Sixth Grade Graduation at Trinity

2020-21 school year:
  • Week of July 27: Back-to-School Summer Camps.
  • Monday, August 3: New Faculty/Staff Orientation.
  • Tuesday, August 4: Preplanning begins for all faculty and staff.

As always, thank you for all you continue to do for Trinity and for your students! Enjoy the weekend and Mother’s Day!

Joe

Friday, May 1, 2020

Covid-19 Update: May 1 2020


Before I sit down to write these brief updates every Friday, I try to remember how I was feeling the week before. Have the events of the week made me more hopeful and optimistic or I am more forlorn due to the continued uncertainty and depressing news stories?

Well, this week there has certainly been eventful locally, regionally, nationally, and globally.

I was most interested in reports about how Sweden is faring with its decision to allow schools and businesses to remain open. A number of experts predicted their Covid-19 contagion would exponentially grow, but this far they have had a very similar percentage (just a little higher) of Covid-19 contagion as other countries that opted for the stricter shelter-in-place restrictions.

Atlanta has gotten a lot of national exposure with the effectiveness of the drug remdesivir in an Emory University clinical trial. While certainly not a vaccine (although a number of potential ones are in currently in clinical trial), this drug has had a positive effect in speeding up the Covid-19 recovery time for infected patients.

Other states are beginning to open up businesses a little more. Like Goldilocks, for some people it’s too soon, for others too slow, for others just right.

Even the New York Jets had a decent draft! If we have an NFL season, maybe they can move into the mediocre level and be 8-8!

So overall I am feeling better this week compared to last.

Obviously the next two weeks are important for Georgia. As people begin to venture out more, we need to at least see a plateau or ideally a decline in those contracting Covid-19. I am hope Georgians continue to take appropriate precautions and follow CDC health and safety recommendations. Like you, I want to get back to school and a return to some semblance of normalcy but it’s going to take a while yet. Still, we’re beginning to inch ahead!

I did want to share a few student quotes about their thoughts about schools being closed from an article I read this week.

  • Learning at school definitely helps motivates me to get my work done because I’m in the environment to do work and there’s really nothing else I can do. At home I have the liberty to literally do anything other than schoolwork: 16 year old

  • Life without school is much more boring than I thought it would be: 14 year old

  • Every day I take a walk around my neighborhood with my parents and when I see my friends they tell me to stay six feet away. I get really sad I can’t be with them: 9 year old

  • My little brother asks every morning if the germs went away yet. He really misses school like me: 7 year old

  • I like our video morning meeting every day with my teachers and friends. It makes me feel like I’m still in school. My baby sister won’t leave me alone so I decided to let her join: 6 year old

And here’s the Corny Joke of the Week (courtesy of Drew Steinberg):

Did you hear about the kidnapping at school?

Oh, don’t worry. He woke up.

Joe

Friday, April 24, 2020

Covid-19 Update: 4/24/20

As we reach the end of Week 6 of distance learning, three more ‘regular’ weeks remain, followed by our final week of school (the week of May 18) with the last day of school on Thursday, May 21. (We are developing various activities for our sixth graders and their parents for Friday, May 22, and are hopeful to have a ‘live’ graduation sometime this summer.)

As always, thank you for your continued work and effort in providing engaging and impactful virtual learning experiences for your students. And to external departments (enrollment management, business office, advancement, communication, technology, facilities) for continuing school operations remotely!

As of us are aware that Governor Kemp permitted some businesses to open today provided they follow safe hygiene and social-distancing guidelines. Other businesses, including restaurants, have the option to open Monday.

If you’re like me, you’re conflicted about this. On the one hand, I understand the economic motivation in letting businesses re-open. On the other hand, I’m worried this may lead to a resurgence of Covid-19 contagion as we begin to leave our homes and increase our contact with others. My wife and I spend a lot of time at our local YMCA (which has opted not to re-open today), but when it does reopen, we most likely won’t be working out there for a long time.

At Trinity, we continue planning for various contingencies: if Summer Camp begins on June 1st, what safety protocols/practices will be when we return to campus, what happens if we need to close school again next year? There are a lot of hypotheticals and what ifs but the mantra of risk management is ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best.’

As I watch and listen to the news (local, national, international), I still am anxious about the uncertainty of what is coming next—one week, two weeks, four weeks from now, yet there were a few more hopeful, positive updates this week.

Even as we begin to see some positivity, let’s not let our guard down! We all need continue to practice social distancing and safe hygiene habits, especially as some of us begin to venture outside our homes a little more.

Be safe, stay positive, and please reach out if you need any support.

Here’s this week’s corny joke:

That’s a pretty ceiling.

Thanks, it’s not the best but it’s up there.

Joe

Friday, April 17, 2020

Covid-19 Update April 17 2020

As we come to the end of our fifth week of online learning, we’ve reached the midpoint--we’ve got five more distance-learning weeks to the school year.

Even though many of us have begun to find a rhythm to teaching and working from home, a lot of stress remains for most of us. I try to put away my tech devices at certain times in the day, but I still end up responding to emails and answering phones calls and texts throughout the day and often into the night. You’ve probably read articles about people having especially vivid dreams (myself included) during this shelter-in-place quarantine time—I think it’s a result of our brains remaining active even when our bodies are at rest. We’re all multitasking and efforting to balance the many demands of our lives.

While the current forecast is for Georgia to reach the crest of contagion in about two weeks,  news updates have begun to share glimpses of positivity. For example, Denmark just reopened its elementary schools this week. I can’t quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but any positive news is a reminder that the Covid-19 tunnel will have an end.

As always, tremendous thank yous and kudos for all you’re doing. Your students and parents are deeply appreciative of and thankful for your work, effort, and support during this confusing and frustrating time. As I mentioned in yesterday’s webinar, for many of our families we are the foundation of support and continuity they rely on and need.

The video Jedd sent out this week was a great reminder of the strength and positivity of our community. (I asked Justin how many takes it took him to make the over-the-shoulder, half-court basketball shot. From now on, call him “One Take Cahill!”)

With the announcement that school will remain closed for the remainder of the school year, a number of parents have requested home addresses of Trinity faculty and staff as they and their children want to send thank you letters for all you’ve done. If for any reason you do not want your home address shared, please let your direct supervisor or me know and we will set Trinity’s address as your default mailing address.

One additional announcement: Dana Chambliss will be our Logistics Coordinator next year!

Enjoy the weekend, get some rest, and if possible lay off the technology for a while.

And here’s the corny joke from the week, courtesy of Pam Lauer:

I’m proud of myself. I finished this jigsaw puzzle in just six months!

That sounds like a long time to me.

Not when the box says 4 to 6 years.

Joe

Friday, April 10, 2020

COVID-19 Update: Distance Learning for the Rest of 2019-20 School Year

Faculty and Staff,

Next week I will be announcing that Trinity will continue with distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, which will officially end on Friday, May 22.

Although not surprising, it will still be difficult for our community to hear and process, and you need to be ready next week for your students and their families to grieve the loss of not being on campus for the rest of the school year.

Like most other schools in Atlanta and throughout Georgia, Trinity will not be extending the school year into June. There are too many variables, complications, and uncertainties to even considering this.

I deeply appreciate how much time and effort our faculty have put into distance learning--Early Learners through sixth grade, specials, Extended Programs, learning support.

As distance learning will continue until the end of the year, it is essential that we continue to provide meaningful and engaging experiences and assignments (both synchronous and asynchronous) for our students. It’s vital that parents see that while distance learning is imperfect compared to their child being at Trinity and taught by you in person, it still has tremendous value and their children have been and will continue to learn and progress academically during the final weeks of the school year.

Adding to this value proposition, teachers will complete their regular end-of-year student evaluations/assessments through progress reports, parent/teacher conferences, and, for 4th-6th, numerical grades. The timing and specifics of each will be a little different (which Rhonda and Sarah will share respectively with EED and UED faculty), but again, it’s crucial that we document that our students are learning in real and meaningful ways; grades and checklist ratings validate that learning. Please also note that faculty will not have ‘writing days’ this spring.  

I also appreciate your work and effort in doing your best to provide important, traditional grade-level events into your distance learning plans like Colonial Day, Wagon Train, Chick Masters, etc. This includes the Sixth Grade team working with their students and parents on traditional milestone events; we are in the process of scheduling an ‘in person, actual’ graduation ceremony (but not Moving Up Ceremony for 1st-5th grades) sometime this summer for sixth graders and their families.

As a reminder, Trinity will continue to pay employees their salaries.

While Summer Programs currently remain on schedule to begin on Monday, June 1, we will obviously need to reassess in mid-May. If we do need to cancel Summer Programs, parents will receive a 100% refund—and counselors/teachers will not be paid for the summer sessions they were going to teach.

The 2020-21 school year is scheduled to begin on time, with faculty/staff Preplanning beginning on Tuesday, August 4, and Visitation Day on Wednesday, August 12.

As I’m sure all of you know, many variables and moving pieces remain as we move into the final weeks of the 2019-20 school year and plan for the 2020-21 school year.

Key for us—and other private schools—is enrollment. Many of our families’ personal finances have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 and the Board is working on strategies to help both new and returning families with next year’s tuition. The Board and Leadership Team are working on possible scenarios, but we know the essence of Trinity is our faculty/staff and our students and their families. We are all making personal sacrifices to support the greater good, and we may need to prepare to sacrifice more.

Like all of you, I have become accustomed to and productive with virtual meetings over the past weeks, but we all miss in-person connection. We all want to be able to go to a ball game, have a drink at a bar, go out to dinner with family and friends, socialize at a neighborhood barbecue, go to a movie theater, browse at retail stores, get a haircut, and countless other routine daily activities outside of our homes.  I’m hoping when we get back to our regular lives, we never forget how isolated we’ve felt sheltering-in-place and never take for granted these simple but essential pleasures in life!

And finally, here are two jokes—one for Passover and the other for Easter:

What’s the difference between matzah and cardboard?

Cardboard doesn’t leave crumbs on the rug!

How many Easter eggs can you put in an empty basket?

One—after that, the basket’s not empty anymore!

Enjoy the long holiday weekend!

I can’t wait to see all of you again sometime soon at Trinity!

Joe