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.
How do you make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? I posed that question to a random selection of contacts via text message. What did I discover? Everyone in my sample group spreads on the PB first, then the J. There are a variety of ways though to apply the jelly, but in my random group, the jelly always comes second.
Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches make me think about Behavior Guidance, a dimension in the CLASS® toddler observation tool. Especially the first two indicators of behavior guidance: proactive and supporting positive behavior. Proactive is the peanut butter! It goes first. That layer of peanut butter is the base for the jelly, which promotes positive behavior.
“What I think I’m most proud of as a professional in the field is our ability to show up, our ability to still do it, to still roll with the changes… We have to adjust. That is what educators did the entire year. We show up. We have a strong why. We love what we do.” This is a quote from Colleen Schmit from our recent webinar, Celebrating Great Teaching. She’s talking about how hard the last couple of school years have been for teachers. Teachers faced a similar difficulty 20 years ago when the United States faced a national tragedy.
I was a kindergarten teacher for eight years at a public school. I loved my job, but somewhere along the road I started to become crotchety. I was often annoyed with my colleagues and frustrated with the demands of the district, and I was sure I knew better than any training or professional development session I would ever be forced to attend.
Shared physical presence is a large part of how we’re used to connecting with each other. Strong connections and relationships are important for children who may have recently experienced loss, high stress, or trauma. As teachers connect with children in a virtual setting, it can be more challenging to think about how to create a safe space for learning, sharing experiences, and taking risks.