08 May Montclare During Covid-19
In 2013 as an elementary school Principal, prior to becoming the Director of Montclare Children’s School, I was asked to lead the faculty in taking curricular instruction from the traditional classroom model to a blended learning model. In the book, Revolutionizing K-12 Blended Learning Through the i2Flex Classroom Model, I co-authored a chapter in which I described what the three-year process of this undertaking entailed in a K-5 educational setting where children’s learning would be supported by media and educational technology.
A few weeks ago, under extreme and extenuating circumstances, we observed the educational system globally shift to being fully supported by digital media and technology in a matter of weeks. Montclare Children’s School was ushered, along with most K-12 schools, into the age of distance learning, embracing technology as the means to continue our connection, share our curriculum, and bring Montclare’s teachers’ creativity into our students’ homes.
At Montclare, we mindfully limit screentime (none in our 2s classrooms) including during our celebration of The Hour of Code when we teach “screen-free” coding each year. As an early childhood Director, I often make recommendations about limiting screen time for young children in favor of face-to-face social interaction. Never did I imagine that, as a preschool, we would find ourselves in a scenario where the only way to achieve the latter would be to overlook the former.
Nevertheless, when we heard the first whispers that New York City schools would not reopen after Spring Break, we began to explore our options. As an administrative team, we plunged into exploring how our teachers could best provide age-appropriate, synchronous, and asynchronous delivery of our curriculum.
Montclare offers our teachers and staff professional development throughout the year as a means of maintaining growth and excellence. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, our entire staff has undergone the most transformative, intense professional development conceivable. We needed to reimagine everything we do as early childhood educators in order to respect social distancing while continuing to provide learning. Our outstanding teaching teams unleashed their intelligence and creativity, adopting new ways to meet developmental benchmarks and learning standards from a distance while engaging students in meaningful ways.
All of our teachers and specialists currently provide both synchronous and asynchronous activities and resources while we continue to evaluate our virtual classrooms and evolve to meet the learning and social-emotional needs of our families and students. We have already discussed how many of these new strategies will continue to enhance classroom practices well after the time when we are able to return to our building. Every hurdle is an opportunity to learn and grow.
Of course, none of this virtual learning with young children would be possible without our extraordinary, engaged parent community. This was never what anyone imagined when we routinely talk about the importance of home-school connection! However, as challenging as these circumstances are, our families have demonstrated immense patience and continual support, even as we all endure the weight of uncertainty here in the epicenter of this pandemic.
Until we are able to meet again face to face, we have taken all of our meetings online including parent-teacher conferences, our annual Town Hall, school tours, kindergarten exmissions meetings, and parenting workshops. In an effort to further support our community we are offering a virtual workshop on Coping with Anxiety While We Parent, Teach, and Work from Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic with Dr. Anastasia Galanopoulos.
We are beginning to see a light ahead and we are busy planning our return to school. Through this experience, we have come to understand that human connection is vital, not only to our students but to all of us. With newfound respect for the value of technology, we are exploring ways to improve and streamline our home-school communications for the years to come. And, while we are all still struggling and coping in our own ways, there has been an ever-expanding silver-lining to this whole process. We have learned that we are stronger when we are together, sharing our individual, yet common experiences.
I certainly believe that we can look forward to safely reclaiming elements of normalcy in the near future. I also firmly believe that I will never again take for granted the joy of being in the company of friends, family, and the wonderful people I work with and serve as the Director of Montclare Children’s School. We will get through these historical times with empathy, trust, and kindness.
To learn more about what we are doing click HERE.