I have been praying for each of you this week. I hope you are well and settling into this new normal. Thank you for completing the survey--your input was vital to helping us know how to proceed. If you haven't filled one out for each of your children, its not too late to do so. I will probably be sending out a similar survey every week just to be able to know how we can best meet our student & family needs. And know that you can always come to the teachers or myself with any questions, concerns, or ideas. Communication, grace, and flexibility are going to be our keys to success as we figure out this challenging time together!
There is quite a bit to communicate, so please read this thoroughly before Monday morning.
Class Schedules / HAS Page The teachers have created HAS pages (Home Assignment Sheet) using a uniform template, which should simplify things for families with siblings across classes. This document includes the Zoom Class schedule, the work that should be done each day, etc. Hopefully this will be a single-page reference for you to have all you need to know during the week.
Lord willing, we will send out the HAS pages by Saturday morning so you can plan your next week accordingly. We will try to keep similar class schedules each week, but as we add additional classes, have 4-day weeks, and manage different class needs, there will be some variation. Based upon the feedback from many of you, we have also added another class wide check-in mid-week.
Additional Learning Activities Many of you have requested more work, but many of you have also felt like the workload of this past week was enough. Therefore, the teachers have suggested some additional learning activities which are purely optional. These are on the side column of their HAS pages.
We are also working to develop Science learning activities which can be completed as families for those who choose to do so.
Beyond what the teachers are assigning, if you have extra time, I'd encourage you to use it to work on memorization of math facts and to read with your child (or encourage them to read). Your child can never have too much reading time!
Zoom Class Tips A few notes on making the Zoom Classes as successful as possible:
Arrive to class a few minutes early with the supplies/books needed;
If siblings have classes back to back, have the second one stand beside waiting for his/her turn to make for the easiest/quickest transition;
If you happen to have access to a headset with a microphone, have your child wear this so they can be heard best & background noise reduced;
Remember that if your child is wearing headphones without a microphone, the computer microphone picks up everything else in the room--just because you can't hear the class, doesn't mean the class can't hear you!
If at all possible, set up the zoom call in a space separate from siblings. Because some classes are more interactive, teachers can't keep everyone muted at all times and the quieter the background noise, the smoother the class runs. We know this isn't possible in all circumstances, so don't stress about it if its not a possibility in your setting.
Completing & Submitting Work As your child completes their assignments at home, I know it is tempting to jump in when you see that they have done something incorrect. However, we ask that unless they come to you with a specific question, refrain from correcting them as they work through each problem. Your child's teacher being able to see which problems they get wrong is critical for them to know what needs to be addressed in the next class. For example, if a child misses most of the problems on a math lesson, their teacher needs to know that they don't understand the concept. But if a parent (or older sibling) has helped them on each problem, then the perfect paper that is submitted to the teacher isn't a true reflection of their level of understanding and doesn't tell the teacher what she needs to know to help the student. Or, if the majority of the class misses the same problem, then this indicates to the teacher that there is a class-wide gap in understanding of the concept. Both of these things are vital for the teacher to assess their own teaching and make appropriate adjustments.
We are still working out the best methods for submitting work and marking. We recognize it is a lot of back and forth and are wanting to make it as simple as possible.
Mrs. Stanley's parents, please see the notes on your HAS page regarding the option to do the marking yourself.
Uniforms Thank you all for your efforts in complying with the request to wear uniforms. As we've received feedback from some of you, we would like amend our previous email: We are strongly encouraging that your children do wear uniforms, but if it is a source of stress for your child to change in & out of their uniform, then don't worry about it. We would rather have students come to class calm and happy wearing something else, than to be in their uniform but anxious. We simply ask that they not be in something that would be distracting to other students or a shirt that is sleeveless. (Another option is to just toss on a school sweater over whatever they are wearing.)
Student Grades We know some of our students and parents have been anxious about how this season will effect their term grades. We will be sharing more information with you soon, but for now please know that we are striving to find the right approach to keep students motivated to put forth their best effort (and let's face it, for some kids, striving for an "A" motivates them!), but not creating anxiety over grades, and an approach that is also equitable as everyone's current learning environment is drastically different.
If this is a concern to you or your child, please reach out to me early next week and let's chat.
Student's Connecting With Each Other Many of you have also expressed a desire for your children to have an avenue to connect with their peers. Here's a few potential avenues for this:
Yesterday I created a "Kid-Chat" channel in Slack. If you would like your family's slack account to be added to this, let me know by responding to this email. If you do this, please see my pinned note on how to mute the notifications in this channel so Zoom classes are not interrupted with other students' chatter. I am a part of this channel, so will be able to see all that students say. If there is anything concerning, I will address it, same as if it was an incident on the playground (and of course you have access to all the chat history when you get on Slack). I will only be monitoring this when I am at my computer, so not always in realtime.
Several parents have allowed their children to set up accounts on Facebook children's messenger. It is my understanding that this app allows for group chats and video calls. If this is something you have questions about, perhaps post in the FBCA family page on Facebook and see if any parents could give you more insight.
If a parent volunteer wanted to arrange Zoom calls for their child's class or school purely for social purposes, then you sure could take the lead in this. The school-wide schedule is available on the whole-academy slack channel, which could help you see when there are free spots.
Some Important Caveats: I know we have diligent and discerning parents, but I must also issue some reminding words of caution as your children venture more into the online world: should you allow your children to connect more with each other through these or other apps, please stay diligently aware of their interactions. In the same way that we would not allow students to play in our school parking lot unsupervised, we ask that you do not allow your students to have online interactions, even if you assume it's just with each other, unsupervised. Specifically:
I believe Slack is "safe" in regards to outsiders not being able to access our workspace, but nothing is full-proof (and remember my above statement of this not being monitored around the clock).
I have no personal experience with facebook children's messenger and my inclusion in this list is simply to say what I know other parents are using and is explicitly NOT an endorsement by FBCA.
I'm also aware that Zoom calls have been known to be hacked, better known as "Zoom Bombing," and I ask that before any parent plans a peer Zoom call for our students, you talk to me about the ways to make it as safe as possible. If peer Zoom calls are arranged, please regard this in a similar vein as a "play-date." This is an outside school activity that your child is invited to by a fellow school family--NOT a sponsored school function.
Furthermore, please keep in mind that crisis changes culture--both on a large scale as well as within our own homes. What we see as short-term "fixes" to an immediate problem can leave lasting changes, many of them positive! But please just be prayerful as you navigate how to respond to this current state of isolation, recognizing that once you have given your child access to particular modes of communication, it may be hard to remove them when this season passes. If you'd like further resources on internet safety, let me know and I can send some your way.
Slack Tips Finally, here's a few extra tips for Slack:
In a channel, if you click the "i" in the top right corner, you will be able to see more information about that channel, including "pinned items" which are messages we have deemed important for you, and "shared files" which are all the files we have shared with the class, including HAS pages.
If there is a message that you want to be able to come back to for later reference, hover your mouse over it and click on the little ribbon icon which "saves" it. This will now be available in the left column above channels under "saved."
Thank you for the ways in which each of you have stepped up to the plate in this endeavor! I know you are each juggling working from home on top of managing your child's schedule and assignments. Please let us know if there are ways we can make this process smoother for you or support your family more. I pray you have a wonderful and relaxing weekend.