Parent Resources in a Time of Unrest

I have not been able to write for the past week. I could tell you it was the stress of COVID-19, trying to lead a school at a distance, and holding a drive-in style Graduation. But, that would not be true to myself, and my beliefs – something I tell our students is so very important and meaningful. COVID-19 has been worrisome, and managing distance learning for three months has been challenging, but neither has made my heart ache like the racism that exists in our country and our world. Several recent events have brought this to the fore – yet, again.

Nelson Mandela wrote: No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love; for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Each and every one of us, as educators and role models for children, must do better. To say change is necessary is not enough. We must commit to doing the work immediately, and continually, as we listen, learn and have meaningful conversations about race in our country. This will be hard.

I believe that we can and should have these conversations in PK – Grade 8 schools. I told the Kent School employee group last Thursday in our closing meetings that along with our rigorous and relevant curriculum, which may have to be delivered in a hybrid way, kindness will also be the focus of next academic year. We must intentionally teach children how to be kind to each other in order to change minds and hearts. It is normal to be kinder to people we know and like.

Our employee summer read is A Passion for Kindness: Making the World a Better Place to Lead, Love and Learn. I am pleased to share that in October Kent School will host the book’s author, Tamara Letter, as the endowed Kudner Leyon Visiting Writer. I also highly recommend this wonderful resource for you.

In addition, I want to share some resources to help you talk with your children at home about racism and the protests that are occurring. 

My colleague Brenda Leaks, the Head of Seattle Girls’ School, a Middle School, wrote a poignant op ed I commend to you about having conversations about racism with children. 

https://www.seattletimes.com/opinion/we-must-have-difficult-conversations-about-racism-with-our-children/

The New York Times list for children’s books on racism is comprehensive. 

For an at home activity whenever you feel your child needs to practice being kind to people who are different from them, consider Just Like Me, from Harvard’s Making Caring Common initiative. https://mcc.gse.harvard.edu/resources-for-families/just-like-me

I also recommend reading Love by Matt de la Pena and Loren Long, and Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller. I have read both of these books to our Pre-K, Kindergarten, and First Grade students this year, and they are wonderful children’s books to read together with your daughter or son, even if they are in Middle School.  

Kent School is committed to diversity. Our School’s Diversity Statement affirms that we recognize that a diverse student, parent, faculty, and trustee population gives us all the opportunity to learn and grow from the many valuable differences and perspectives that our community offers. We strive to create an environment where differences are understood, respected, and valued.

The peaceful protests we have witnessed nationwide give me hope. I have hope as I watch young people speak up, that they will not repeat the mistakes of the past. I have hope as I watch my own adult children’s current outrage over a broken system. I have hope as I witness crowds of multiracial humans protesting peacefully for injustice. I have hope for our future.

I believe that our country needs compassionate, empathetic leadership in politics and policy making, and after witnessing our 8th Graders complete their Middle School years and graduate from Kent School last week, I am confident we are preparing the humans that our world deeply needs. 

We Adapt

by Todd Mignosa, Middle School Science Teacher

By this time last year, my long-term sub experience had recently run its course, I was mid-stride into a busy season of leading paddle trips for kids on the Eastern Shore, and I was planning on returning to Kent School as a math teacher come Fall. Before the summer even hit its hottest days, the theme of the year had become apparent. Adapting to change; it seems a fitting description of the year and, coincidently, the last subject my seventh grade science class studied during distance learning.

I got the offer midsummer to return to teaching middle school science rather than math. I was excited about many aspects of transitioning into a math teacher, but the comfort of sticking with something more familiar led me to opt for science. With the speed that the summer flew by, I’m glad to have made that decision. 

This was going to be my first time starting the school year off as a teacher. I was looking forward to taking more ownership of my classes, setting the tone, establishing the pace, defining the expectations. This is something that I quickly learned to be easier said than done. Most of the students already had me as a teacher the previous year, and many of them participated in summer camp trips with me. They already had expectations of how the year would go. This proved to be challenging as well as a relief because I was able to build on my foundation from the previous year, but some of that foundation needed to be rebuilt.

Given my background in outdoor education, I am constantly struggling but learning to adapt to teaching in a more formal classroom setting, which is not a fact that is lost on the students. In my mind, this is my greatest challenge and my greatest strength as an educator. I used to teach horseback riding and would tell the kids not to allow a horse to eat plants on the trail because once you let it take advantage of you and that neck drops, good luck pulling that hundred pound, stubborn head back up. There were many times in which I could have benefitted from being more strict, especially at the year’s onset. At the same time, my demeanor has allowed me to create rapport with and form connections to students that I don’t think I otherwise would have been able to. I strive to find a balance there that will only come with experience.

Near the start of the school year, I was also adapting to my new roles as full-time bus/van driver and helping out with boy’s PE. I thoroughly enjoyed teaching PE. It was a welcome break during the day to get active and switch things up a bit. I’d be lying if I said that driving the bus wasn’t exhausting. Luckily, by the time I was starting to feel really burnt out by all the driving, Spring Break had hit.

I’m sure that all the changes and adapting that occurred post-Spring Break goes without saying. Looking towards next year, I am very excited to work on the curriculum and incorporate more labs and experiential activities. I’m sure the school year will take a different form than usual, but, as always, we’ll adapt.

Early in My Teaching Career: Reflections

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This is not my first year teaching, or my first year at Kent School. I was fortunate enough in the fall of 2017 to student teach at Kent School and then work there in the spring of 2018 as the after care instructor. My first year of teaching at another school was less than amazing, and I knew that the school was not a good fit for me. When Nancy, the Head of Kent School, offered me a job for this academic year, I could not have been more excited. 

The beginning of this year brought many changes. I had to transition from being at another school to a school I was familiar with, but with the added pressure of presenting myself as more than the former student teacher. I am the youngest teacher at the school and I feared being viewed as “the intern”. I was anxious, but my fears were swept away as I was welcomed by the community. 

My students further welcomed me into the Kent School community. My goal for this year was to obviously teach my students, but also showed them that in my classroom they are loved and valued. I wanted to show my kids that they may not be the best writers or love reading, but I accept them for who they are. I feel like I achieved this goal, especially with the feedback I have received during COVID. Academically, my students are stronger; they are brighter, better readers, and stronger writers. Many have more confidence in their abilities and at the very end of the day, that is all that matters to me.

COVID has caused many changes, but also revealed many strengths that would have not been as obvious without this unfortunate situation. This experience has shown me what a great support system that I have, how resilient my students are, and how thankful I am for my classroom. My administration, co-workers, and parents took this bad situation and made the best of it. We have come together and supported one another during this difficult time. Many of my kids have become strong, independent learners and shown themselves that they are capable of achieving greatness. I am so incredibly proud of them. Even though we have made lemonade out of lemons, I cannot wait to return to my physical classroom. I never realized how important a setting can be. 

My second year of teaching is certainly one I will remember. I have goals and ideas for next year, and I am proud of how this year turned out. There is always room for improvement, but it is also important to enjoy the moment. This year may not have been ideal, but I am grateful to have finished this year as a member of the Kent School community. 

A Bigger Toolbox

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COVID-19 is forcing everyone into new habits and new ways of doing business. At Kent School, the pandemic is inspiring us to find new, effective ways to teach children from age three to thirteen. It is not easy, and every professional in our school community believes that there is no substitute for in-person teaching that happens in our classrooms. However, our pivot to Connected Learning, has yielded a few unexpectedly pleasant surprises that will likely remain in place once we resume teaching and learning on our spectacular riverside campus in our spacious classrooms. One thing is certain, all who teach and learn have always appreciated our unparalleled setting, and we cannot wait to return.

Our teachers’ commitment to their students and to professional learning have allowed them to discover more resources and more skills that are helping them lead the way through Connected Learning. Boom Cards is an interactive, self-correcting tool that provides excellent review on material and will be as effective in the classroom as it is during Connected Learning.  In Little School and Lower School, the use of the Seesaw app has been invaluable. While Kent School teachers have been using Seesaw for several years, Connected Learning has deepened their use. Prior to Connected Learning, Seesaw was used as a vehicle for sharing photos and videos of student activities with parents. Now, Seesaw is the platform for sharing instructional lessons, much like Google Classroom is being used in Middle School, Third and Fourth Grades. Kindergarten teacher, Suzie Wright-Taylor ‘84 said, “I will teach students earlier in the school year how to use Seesaw so they learn how to use the app independently – eventually. This would be helpful for snow days or longer periods of remote learning. They will already know how to work the app and be able to complete assignments.”

Another teacher commented on her own growth in the area of technology use. Fourth Grade Teacher, Vivienne Falanga said, “I have really enjoyed my own personal growth during this time. I’ve had to learn how to use Google Classroom, Seesaw, Kahoot, Scholastic, and Epic. I’ve also had to be every child’s technical assistant at some time or another. I’ve troubleshooted the iPads, and their numerous setting requirements, helped to load apps, taught my students how to navigate email and Google platforms, insert documents, videos and pictures, and numerous other on-line tasks. If there is a need for Connected Learning in the future my class and I will have the necessary skills to use again.”

The team at Kent School also agrees that the need to make up lost instructional days due to weather or another unexpected disruption will no longer be necessary. Jenny Cernak, Assistant Head of School for Academics said, “We have all become fluent and resourceful enough to continue our teaching and learning from home, so we’ll be able to ease into that mode if weather forces us to close our campus.”  Middle School Math Teacher, Ellen Mischke, offered that she could even teach children who are home with a mild illness. “As long as they are up to joining the class virtually, I would be happy to have them participate in classes from home.”

From the Administration’s point of view, there have been several discoveries that will keep the school moving forward. Nancy Mugele, Head of Kent School said, “I have created connections with colleagues across the country. Our collaboration in a wider community of independent schools to strategize, plan and execute scenarios for success in the age of COVID-19 and beyond is encouraging and invigorating. The connections made will last a lifetime and will continue to benefit Kent School in new ways not yet known or imagined.”

Assistant Head of School for Advancement, Tricia Cammerzell, added “In some ways we have added a new level of customer service. For example, we have hosted several virtual admissions events and virtual Town Hall sessions for our parents and the broader community. While there is no substitute for person-to-person interactions, our virtual events offer a greater level of convenience for those who want to attend. Participants can simply log in from their workplace or home office, rather than take extended time away from work to attend.” Cammerzell continued, “In fact, we have seen increased attendance in each of the online events we have hosted.”

Given the choice between Connected Learning and in-person learning, Nancy Mugele said, “There is no doubt that I will always choose our unparalleled campus environment for teaching learning. The experience our students get by being with their teachers and classmates on our campus is unmatched. However, I am proud of how we have grown, pivoted and evolved to be more resilient and resourceful educators. Mugele continued, “I am as eager as anyone to return to our campus, but until we can, our school remains open, active and successful.”

Kent School is an independent school serving children from Preschool through Grade eight. Located on the bank of the Chester River in historic Chestertown, Kent School’s mission is to guide students in reaching their full potential for academic, artistic, athletic and moral excellence. For more information visit http://www.kentschool.org

 

 

 

Keep Your Focus

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by Nancy Mugele, Head of Kent School

A woman I admire, Eleanor Roosevelt, famously said, “The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.” Often used in graduation speeches, this quote resonates with me. Yet it is another quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that inspires me more. In my own research on leadership, I just re-read Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way by Robin Gerber, a senior scholar at the Academy of Leadership at the University of Maryland. In this book, Gerber provides a roadmap for leadership from the pages of Eleanor Roosevelt’s life. One of the tenets stuck with me: Keep working on your understanding of yourself and lead according to your own beliefs and values. 

 

On Friday, I told the employee group that I had hit a wall the previous week, resulting in tears, indecisiveness, and self-doubt. This shared vulnerability gave our faculty, and those who support teaching and learning, permission to hit the wall and come out on the other side. The struggle is real right now, and we have to acknowledge it. We were not strategically launching The Kent Online School when we steered the Kent School program to distance learning. We were swiftly and strongly reacting to safety precautions taken in the face of a global pandemic. We believe wholeheartedly in the deep value of our unparalleled environment for learning, and know that nothing replaces the rich experiences our students gain with their teachers in their classrooms. 

 

I re-read Eleanor Roosevelt’s leadership lessons after I hit my proverbial wall last weekend. The refresher helped me focus on my beliefs and values, which include optimism and hope (definitely on my short list for next year’s word). Eleanor also wisely encouraged leaders to “keep your focus.” This simple thought put self-doubt on the back burner and made me focus on our students. What is best for our students is always our first priority at Kent School. It is central to our mission for a reason – students are at the very heart of every educator’s desire to lead a purposeful life. 

 

Connection is the most important thing we can offer students now, even more so than content delivery. Whenever the time comes when we can be together again, our expert faculty will get our students back on track. That is their superpower. No students are ahead, and no students are behind. Our students are where they need to be, connected with educators who are keeping their focus. 

 

Our Apollo 13

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The 50th anniversary of the launch of the Apollo 13 mission was April 11. Many of our readers may be most familiar with this mission from the 1995 film of the same name starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon, among others. The crew of NASA’s Apollo 13 was supposed to be the third group of astronauts to land on the moon. An explosion in one of the oxygen tanks during the flight forced the crew to abandon their plan, orbit the moon and return to earth. Certain functions of the ship were crippled so the astronauts, working with the team of engineers at Mission Control had to improvise and calculate, literally on the fly, to ensure the safe return of the Apollo 13 crew. 

In honor of the anniversary, our homebound family watched the perennial favorite. My husband, an engineer, grew up enthralled with the Apollo launches and recalls this mission in vivid detail. In the movie, he loves the part when the mission control engineers pull out their slide rules to make recalculations. When I watched last week I was struck differently by one of the more famous lines. The flight director, Gene Kranz, played by Ed Harris, overhears two engineers talk about the astronaut’s low chance of survival. Kranz interrupts them by saying, “With all due respect, I believe this will be our finest hour.”

That line reminded me of our teachers and parents in this historic period. We are asking all of them to pull out their slide rules and recalculate the way we teach our students. Instead of running from the challenge, they are rising to it, embracing new technology, working with the tools they have but may not be completely comfortable with. They are trying new things and adapting those that work well and discarding those that do not. 

Our teachers and our parents are making it all work on behalf of the students. If there was ever a time when the value of our strong school to home partnership snaps into sharp focus, it is now. At school, we often talk about the many benefits of our cross curricular instruction. Our teachers’ natural tendency to consult with and collaborate with one another is helping everyone as they adapt to new technologies and solve problems. Clearly this partnership spotlights the value of cross curricular instruction that we do so well. We are also buoyed by our teachers’ flexibility. Lesson plans may have changed but our academic goals have not. As an independent school, we realize the importance of our teachers’ freedom and autonomy to teach our curriculum is a vital tool in our #distancelearning toolbox.

This is surely our finest hour in the midst of a pandemic health crisis but there are many more brilliant hours ahead. Our very finest hours happen in classrooms that are located in school buildings, playgrounds, gymnasiums and outdoor classrooms, not when we are isolated at home. Our finest hour chimes in the face of a first grader who has cracked the code for reading. Our finest hour happens when a middle school student confidently speaks in front of their class, in Spanish! Field learning makes up some of our finest hours, as well. Ask any student who has been on our Fourth Grade Chesapeake Bay Studies trip about that experience. It is three days and two nights worth of finest hours. 

Like Apollo 13, COVID – 19 is a challenging mission for Kent School and it is bringing out the best in us. But our finest hours are ahead of us when we can be together again, growing and learning on our beautiful campus. Our community has come together to make this pivot to distance learning one of our finest moments, but I look forward to our finest hour. See you on campus soon.

Tricia Cammerzell, Assistant Head of School for Advancement, is in her thirteenth year at Kent School. She is the parent of alumni graduating in 2009 and 2015.

 

 

What to Do After Middle School: Exploring High School Options.

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Kent School is located on the bank of the Chester River in historic Chestertown. We serve students in preschool through Grade Eight. Therefore, all of our students will be choosing a new school when they matriculate to high school. Kent School provides secondary school guidance to our Seventh and Eighth Grade students. To guide our families through this process, we created this Secondary School Guide. While a few of the points are Kent School specific, the  consideration factors, timeline and suggestions are true for any middle school student who is planning. We hope this helps you with the next step toward  finding the right school.

Secondary School Guide

Considerations When Choosing a High School

Many factors determine where students should apply to high school. Each family will need to decide which factors are most important for their family. The chart below is a guide to help you prioritize.  There is no need to establish a ranking. These features are meant to help students and parents begin or continue a dialog about secondary school choices.

Academic Atmosphere
Student Diversity
Daily Class Schedule
Campus Facilities
Colleges that Graduates Attend
How Competitive Is It?
Cost
Boarding School
Day School
Course Offerings
Advisory Program
Cultural Offerings
Distance from Home
Extracurricular Offerings
Financial Assistance
Honor System
Independent Study
Internships
Methods of Instruction
Student/Teacher Ratio
Religious Affiliation
Grade Size
Class Size
Student Government
Technology Integration
Transportation
Urban or Rural Setting
School Values & Priorities
Other
 

Secondary School Application Timeline – The following steps should be completed by the dates listed below. Individual schedules and steps may vary but this is a good reference.

Over the Summer – Read, Read, Read. Secondary school admissions officers will be much more interested in a well-read candidate than one who is skilled at video games.

Spend some time on secondary school websites. Formulate questions about the schools you might like.

August 2020 – Schedule tours and interviews for your list of prospective secondary schools. Your list should include at least three schools.

August – September 2020 – Register for SSAT (https://ssat.org/) .

An ‘at home’ test option for the Fall 2020 SSAT will be offered.

At registration, select the schools’ codes that should receive your scores.

Your child may have taken a practice middle level test last December. They should be registered for the upper level test in December 2020. If you wish, you can register them for another upper level practice test in October or November. Fall/Winter testing dates have not been announced by SSAT.

October 2020 – Attend Kent School’s Secondary School Fair on Monday, October 5 at 6:30 p.m. where up to twenty secondary schools will be represented including Kent and Queen Anne’s County Public Schools

To prepare for secondary school visits, schedule a 30-minute mock interview with an a teacher, administrator or an adult outside of your family.

Complete secondary school visits.

November 2020 – Select the schools to which you will be applying and begin the application process.

Students should apply to at least three schools making sure you have selected at least one school that you feel confident about your chances for acceptance.

Determine your timeline for completing all applications including supplemental essays. We think it is a good idea to have all applications complete and submitted by December 15. Make sure you are aware of individual school deadlines.

Submit all referral and recommendation forms to your advisor our school administrator by November 30. 

December 2020 – Complete and submit all applications.

Most independent school application deadlines are in early January. Please avoid any last-minute scramble by completing yours ahead of time and by giving your teachers and advisors ample time to complete their letters of recommendation.

Admission decisions are mailed or emailed in early March.

February – March 2021

For students applying to Public School STEM Academies should request and complete the application.

 

 

The Right Recipe by Cheryl Plummer, First Grade Teacher

20200414_140829It was Easter Sunday, fourteen years ago, that we said goodbye to my mother. Losing a loved-one, especially a parent, on a holiday can leave behind a cloud of grief, making it difficult to feel like celebrating. So this year I did my best to honor my mother’s memory by cooking and baking with my daughter, just as she did with me, and her mother with her, for so many years.

Pulling out my mother’s and grandmother’s recipes is always bittersweet. I am immediately flooded with memories as I see their handwriting and read their words. I find myself transported back to the childhood that I spent standing tiptoe on an old wooden stool, pulled up close to the counter, learning from them in their kitchens. Of course it also brings with it a heavy sense of loss. I spent this weekend alternating between boring my children with stories they’ve heard a hundred times and reflecting on all that has happened in our lives since my mother and grandmother have been gone. There was a good deal of laughter, and more than a few tears, but in the end, there was a peaceful comfort.

In the quiet moments between cooking, reminiscing, and grieving, I found myself reflecting on these first weeks of Distance Learning. Two weeks ago, as I was preparing lessons for the next four weeks, and possibly more, I was anxious and uncertain. What did my students need? What did their parents need? To be honest, I was feeling completely overwhelmed and woefully unprepared. When I was finally able to take a few deep breaths, I realized I needed to think about how to combine my twenty-plus years of experience with my MBE training to make a plan. So, with my “menu” in hand, I tried to provide my students and parents with a predictable structure that allowed for plenty of flexibility and choice. I knew I had to continue to find a balance between joy and rigor, which has truly become a hallmark of my teaching. I had to also consider the role of emotions in learning, the importance of cognitive load, the value of productive struggle, and so much more. Without the immediate feedback I typically receive from my students when teaching face-to-face, I had plenty of questions. Was this going to be too much? Would it be enough? How would I know? I was cooking in an unfamiliar kitchen and struggling to find my bearings.

For the past few weeks I’ve found myself telling my parents (and myself) that we would all be okay, that their children would come out of this and be just fine, and that there would be opportunities amidst the struggles. I heard myself promising them that we would find those opportunities together. But what would those opportunities be? I honestly had no idea. I was cooking without a recipe…a dash of this, a pinch of that, and hoping it worked.  I had no idea how to continue to make school matter in the way that it did before. I had no idea if it needed to. I didn’t know if I was getting it “right”. And, if you know me at all, you know that I am not the least bit comfortable with “not getting it right.”

After these first weeks, I still don’t know if I’m “getting it right,” or if there even is a “right,” but I do know that there has been a subtle shift in the way parents are seeing and relating to their children. This may be “distance learning” for my students and me, but for their parents, it has been up-close and personal. For possibly the first time, many parents are getting a front row seat to their children’s lives as students. This unprecedented opportunity is changing both their perspectives and their perceptions about their children as learners.

Parents are seeing their children’s academic strengths and challenges up close. They are witnessing their children’s ability to problem solve, their willingness to take risks, their perseverance, their resilience, their responses to successes and failures, and their ability to adapt to a “new normal”. But, perhaps most importantly, they are getting to witness, and share in, those “Ah-Ha!” moments – those magical “light bulb” moments when a concept clicks or a skill is mastered.

I’ve often said those very moments are the reason I continue to return to the classroom after twenty-two years, and they are most definitely some of the moments I am missing the most during our campus closure. My loss, however, is turning out to be my parents’ gain. The fact that my parents are now getting to experience these special moments first-hand has turned out to be the silver lining of this COVID-19 cloud.

The question now is how do I continue to foster this level of parental engagement in my classroom when the need for social distancing has passed. How can I continue to provide this open window into their children’s lives at school once our campus reopens and my classroom springs back to life? How do I successfully combine my MBE training with what I’ve learned from this crisis in a way that is meaningful? I’m not sure I have any answers yet, but I know that this experiment in distance learning has already changed the way I view, define, and experience teaching, learning, and the home-school partnership. When life gives you buttermilk, you make biscuits, right? So now, for me at least, it’s all about taking the ingredients that I have been given and finding the right recipe. I can only hope that I’ll be able to do it in a way that would make my mother and grandmother proud.

You’re Doing Great!

 

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You’re Doing Great!

by Jenny Cernak, Assistant Head of School for Academics

Distance Teaching and Distance Learning has challenged us in ways we have never been challenged before. Did you ever think you would be fluent in Zoom? Me neither. I am always happy to attend a virtual meeting, but organize and present one? That is someone else’s job. But here we are. In addition to doing our everyday jobs, we are being challenged to be IT experts, teachers, students, artists, engineers, leaders, keynote speakers and whatever else is being thrown our way. Guess what? You’re doing great! 

It is pretty clear Distance Learning is not just for our students. We are all using new online tools and learning them as we go! l It’s likely we will keep using these tools productively when COVID-19 is safely in the rearview mirror. I can see greater flexibility in scheduling Parent Teacher Conferences held via Zoom. In a way, I think your teaching may be even more personalized now, as I hear about small group work, and I can see that continuing. I can see students completing and submitting projects in creative ways. I can see video messages and lessons becoming more common. I can also see what may be a very unpopular development; I think snow days will be a thing of the past!

I am not the only one who is inspired by your resourcefulness, creativity and drive to teach. Last week, we asked our parents some important questions on the realities of Distance Learning to help guide our expectations on student outcomes during this unprecedented time in education. We received some very constructive suggestions on how to improve their child’s experience, which we will be sharing with you, but we got back much more. Here are some of their comments:

I am so pleased with all that has been put in place so quickly. There is so much to learn when transferring from classroom to online and I appreciate it all. I think the only piece missing for me, as I always seem to worry, is how is he doing? I know work is getting turned in, but what is the quality like? I really like the guardian feature on Google Classrooms for parents that just gives a weekly summary of work and if it is completed. There is no additional work on the teacher’s side except to invite via email parents. Just an easy way to connect us to the process.

It is evident that the leadership at Kent School has what it takes to navigate difficult situations. I applaud the administration and the teachers for their efforts during these unprecedented times. Thank you for all you do for our children/families.

Jess Thompson has been great with consistent, honest feedback, supporting Tori, and providing great suggestions on how to complete work. We Appreciate her efforts!

Communication from Mr. Pearce has been terrific. Kudos to him, please! He has the 6th grade class really engaged. 6th grade has a structured schedule they follow with meetings and workload.

We have everything we need- Cheryl has been creative and efficient in delivery of academic materials and guidance.

Thanks for doing a great job with the online classes.

Overall, the school has done an amazing job planning and preparing work for our children. My kids are enjoying the assignments. I have been very pleased with the one-on-one attention they have received. The distance learning platform has encouraged my middle schooler to reach out for one-on-one assistance and receive more individualized attention, not only in the form of help, but also in the form of enrichment that is tailored to her needs. Which I would love to see continue. The teachers at Kent School have truly been phenomenal!

I think the workload is perfect and all of the teachers are doing a fantastic job with integrating the lessons online.

By and large, I have been extremely impressed with the rapid response and every evolving nature of Kent School’s conversion to distance learning. My son’s teachers (Mrs. Fry and Little School) are working hard, and it shows. Thank you to all…this can’t be easy, but you are making it look that way!

So, please take a breath and a minute to enjoy this beautiful day. You’re doing great.

 

Kent School: Committed to Connection 5 Tips for Successful Distance Learning in Preschool

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by Director of Little School, Bonnie Williams

I’ve been hearing from parents of other preschool students that distance learning is extremely minimal, or even non existent. I can see why this would seem impossible. But here we are, Little School is in the middle of week three of distance learning.The meat of my position as a teacher and director is to provide a safe environment for my students to learn positive social interaction, Kindergarten readiness skills and, most importantly, a lifetime love of learning so my students want to COME to school. We do this with constant hands on projects and learning through play. To have social interaction children have to actually be with each other! How on earth does a preschool teacher do this without being WITH the children? It has been a whirlwind of constant (and ongoing) tweaking, pride swallowing, and trial and error but it is possible! Hopefully these tips will help you as well during this temporary and unusual time.

  1. Consistent communication

Let me be very clear… not constant but consistent communication is key. Parents are used to a schedule and our parents thrive on it. The majority of my parents are working parents with conference calls and scheduled clients. Having a consistent time that I am posting activities (we use the SeeSaw App for daily communication) has been invaluable for parents who need to organize their time as well as teach their child. I use email for weekly communication that outlines what to expect for the week to come. We are also scheduling regular Zoom meetings so that parents can put those meetings on their calendar and no one is competing for the laptop or tablet.

      2. Make lessons in multiple modalities or with materials that families have       around the house.

If you can make individual packets for your students then by all means do it! It’s the surest way to ensure that your students have all the materials that they need for the projects that you would like them to do. My concern with this method is that it may not be very sustainable for long. Right now because we are still considered an essential business so we can still go to school and prepare packets. However, parents may not be able to drive to school to pick these up. Be prepared to present lessons that can be accomplished in multiple ways. (For example: if a child does not have scissors then they can tear the paper. They are still getting those fine motor skills!) Also, using materials that can be found outside is always a plus! Plenty of sticks and rocks for all and who doesn’t love a scavenger hunt to find these materials?

       3. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

Sorry, not this time, Mr. Spock. (My apologies… I was raised in a Trekkie household and quarantine has made me a tad punchie). Listen to your parents with kindness, patience and a full heart. They are trying desperately to get their work done and teach their kiddos. They have anxiety about their children having the ability to go to Kindergarten. Not every single request will always be matched but listening with an open mind and using those super creative preschool skills of yours, there is always some sort of middle ground. For example, many of my parents in our fours class were having trouble keeping up with some of the craftier projects. Those projects are very hands-on and trying to complete their own work while completing these projects was leading parents to feel that their child was falling behind. I absolutely dislike worksheets in preschool, however, during these times they felt appropriate for parents to be able to have their child complete as well as reinforce the Kindergarten readiness skills that we’ve been learning this academic year. If I was going to give worksheets, they were going to be worksheets that went beyond just writing and reinforced other fine motor skills (cutting, gluing, rolling dice). It took some time but I finally found a packet I love and the feedback has been amazing from parents.

      4.  Lower your expectations about deadlines.

This seems silly to say for preschool but don’t expect photos of projects to come rolling in all in one day, during school hours or sometimes at all. I do check-ins with parents that I don’t hear from and trust me, they are doing the work. They may not be posting but they’re always apologizing for not getting an activity out the same day it was posted. Please tell your parents to stop apologizing, everyone is doing the best they can

     5.  Keep the Connection. Show your face and stop being camera shy.

This is my favorite, and I think the most important! The students want to see you. Even if it is reading a book or talking about the weather, they like to see you and hear your voice. Your students don’t care if you haven’t showered or blow dried your hair (at least they haven’t told me yet). Keeping that connection during this time is more important than ever with your students. We have been using Zoom for class “circle times” but it’s more of an excuse to stay connected. Sure we learn and sing but the opportunity for kids to connect with their friends and teacher face to face is invaluable. When we go back to school (hopefully sooner than later) our students will have a smooth transition and we won’t feel like strangers!

For Little School instructional videos email info@kentschool.org.