Calvary City Academy & Preschool closed on March 13, along with most programs in Florida. While closed, we had much to prepare for reopening. While children were home, we prepared packets to send home, met with children virtually, and even hosted things like field day, spirit week, and graduation virtually! Even with those successes, we were so happy to be able to return to being in-person when we reopened in June. Since June, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s what’s working for us:
When we started school, we spent the first 2 weeks just building routines. We focused only on learning the new hand-washing routine, how to line up, how to maintain space, how centers will work, and more. If you have planned a moment to teach, and can’t because you need to take more time to build relationships and routines, don’t worry about it. Just do what you can do.
The children have been great with masks and new routines. They’ve learned how to keep space while lining up and walking in the hallways. Our teachers are in a good pattern with one teaching while the other supports hand-washing, cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing. We’ve eliminated cloth material and things we can’t easily wipe down. Even with that, we have extras of everything- extra masks, extra gloves, extra supplies. And we also have an extra room, so if someone feels sick or has a fever, we can quarantine them until their family can come.
Because each classroom has two teachers, we tell our teachers they can always take a breather. We make sure teachers can take a walk at lunch. We have an empty classroom, so if a teacher needs to talk, we can sit, distanced, and talk it out. If a teacher is struggling, we brainstorm and help each other. Building a good environment that supports teamwork has really helped.
Now that parents don’t come into the facility and we do quick, masked drop-offs, it can be hard to find time to connect with the parents in traditional ways. My assistant director and I make sure we’re available to communicate. If parents need to meet with a teacher, we use Zoom for that. We have also found it helpful to use CLASS Dojo, signs with updates outside the building, and a daily planner that goes home. And of course, we also use email. The parents are excited and are doing well!
This is all still new so we’re always looking for more information. I’ve been reading what is working for others. I get a lot of ideas from the CLASS Learning Community. And coaching is always good! We’re still coaching during this time. Any training, webinar, or resource I can offer to our teachers, I do.
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.
I was supposed to be an architect, instead I was a teacher of young children; it felt like my calling.
When I started my coursework, they tasked me with visiting multiple classrooms. It overwhelmed me when in some classrooms, children were crying, teachers were frustrated, and no one seemed to enjoy the day. I thought I had made a mistake. Thankfully, I had a professor who inspired me to continue. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the behaviors I observed in both children and teachers, the professor charged me to uncover the root of those behaviors.
And so, my journey to support social-emotional development began.
Every state, every district, every school, every teacher faced decisions that they had never anticipated in the last academic year. As the end of the 2020-2021 school year approaches, it’s time to reflect on those decisions, learn from others, and prepare for the fall ahead.
This past year of hybrid and virtual learning due to the pandemic highlighted the gaps in learning and the inequities that we already knew existed. It is apparent, now more than ever, that there needs to be a narrow focus on bridging the divides (e.g., digital) that exist and meeting students where they are in order to promote growth and put less emphasis on standardized testing. This would allow teachers to concentrate on curriculum with greater impact, differentiate their instruction, and utilize effective strategies that they know make a difference for children’s outcomes.